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How to Choose a SMS Software Supplier for Your Airline

Sep 14th 2018
Vistair share some tips on how to choose your SMS software supplier carefully

The importance of selecting the right SMS software supplier should not be underestimated. A number of key thoughts should underpin any selection process. For instanceat the very outset the selected supplier should understand that an effective organisational safety management system needs to support the four key ICAO Annex 19 safety components:

  1. Policy - Defining the airline’s commitment to safety that lays the foundation for a safer, more open operation. This is the airline’s statement of their dedication to make safety their number one priority. Included in this requirement is the establishment of management commitment to the safety policy and the identification of all managers with a safety remit including an Accountable Manager. The policy will also define what is unacceptable behaviour and what actions will not result in disciplinary proceedings; often referred to as “Just Culture”

  2. Risk Management - The process of identifying, reporting and analysing hazards and mitigating (controlling) any associated risks. These processes apply to Safety Issue Risk Assessments and also the Management of Change. Systems include reactive and proactive approaches for greater overall risk management effectiveness

  3. Assurance - Having a system that can monitor and benchmark the airline’s performance against set objectives. This is the process by which an airline can demonstrate that its safety objectives are being met. It is usual to demonstrate this requirement by use of Safety Performance Indicators (SPI)

  4. Promotion - To ensure clear and effective communication channels throughout the organisation

Each aviation safety management software is unique. However, when it comes to choosing a SMS software supplier for your airline, the software they supply must be compatible with the above four main principles to provide your airline with the framework to become a more proactive, if not predictive, organisation that is safer and promotes a “just culture”, compliance based philosophy.

To complement the ICAO components, supplier selection should also review seven other key qualities:


1. Was the SMS solution specifically developed for the aviation industry and is the supplier an aviation sector specialist?

Talking to a supplier already working in the aviation sector ensures there is understanding of requirements from day one and the questions then revolve around process and bespoke organisational aspects.

2. Does the SMS supplier already have a fully implemented SMS software solution in the sector, and which clients and markets does it cover?

Is the supplier happy for you to contact existing clients? It is worth reviewing this as aviation SMS suppliers have not only experience of multiple airlines but also are able to assist in the design, development and build of an effective SMS software solution. Equally, with access to other operators, the SMS supplier can provide useful benchmarking to your operation.

3. Does the SMS Supplier provide service and development support?

The safety environment is evolving constantly and is subject to improvement and regulatory change (Annex 19, revision 1 is extant from November 2019) so it is important that your selected supplier is able to grow and support your SMS software requirements.

4. Is your SMS solution both scalable and customisable?

An aviation SMS supplier understands that service and product suppliers are often subject to change and growth so it is important to understand whether your supplier has experience in such change.

5. Does your SMS supplier have both an offline and online capability alongside the ability to implement globally?

Can the solution be accessed from both the desktop and mobile environments and is it intuitive and easy to use? Accessibility and ease of use will enhance the reporting culture within your organisation. SMS software is subject to enhancement and change so it is worth understanding how your supplier implements software updates and also whether aviation safety personnel are still able to work during such change. A good SMS solution works offline and talks ‘online’ when within connected environments.

6. Does your supplier understand aviation terminology?

With a range of terms from hazard identification, occurrence reporting and event risk classification through to safety performance indicators and regulation 376 it is important that your SMS supplier is on the same page. Your supplier must understand the requirements of ICAO Document 9859 which is now in its fourth revision.

7. Does your supplier understand the needs for confidentiality?

Are their security protocols / credentials strong enough to ensure that your data is protected?


How choosing the right SMS supplier benefits your organisation

  • Improves likelihood of a successful implementation
  • Provides for more informed decision-making based on your supplier’s past experience with other operators
  • Underpins and improves an organisation’s SMS implementation
  • Will result in reduced effort to gain regulatory approvals
  • Will ensure that you remain compliant with emerging requirements / regulatory changes
  • An ability to network and benchmark with other customers


Choosing the right SMS software supplier means that they are able to work alongside you in helping your airline achieve its safety goals whilst ensuring that they help improve risk and hazard reporting thereby improving the safety culture of the organisation. This should be done through a dedicated and long-term partnership, as SMS software implementation is often just the start of the safety management journey.

How Vistair’s SMS software can support your safety management approach:

  • Immediate direct access for submission of reports via web and mobile device
  • Multiple report types available in a common format for ease of use
  • User access controlled using our unique UserNet product
  • Consistent format reporting creates common classification and dataset for clear investigation and analysis
  • Automatically collates and manages reports for individuals or teams of investigators
  • Confidentiality for all reporters, and reporters can track the progress of their incident
  • SafetyNet provides full visibility of all reports and incidents at various stages of progress
  • Full recommendations workflow process
  • All action requirements backed up by automatic e-mail including feedback to reporters
  • A simple process for Safety Issue Risk Assessments with direct access to the risk register
  • An in-built project management capability for more complex management of change evolutions
  • Bow Tie visualisation
  • A register of controls which is an important aspect of risk management
  • Your data is secure. Vistair hosting is accredited by the UK MoD

Learn how implementing Vistair's SafetyNet could improve and increase your incident reporting by 60%. Read the case study to find out how easyJet achieved this.


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