Initial data input of your AIXM 5.1 database from an external source sounds like a great idea to jump start it until you realize you will spend more time cleaning it than what would have taken by doing it yourself so instead of this I would propose the following as practical tips (If you want to load external source be advised, it almost certainly wont work out of the box, so plan to do it with a lot of checks between stages)
1. Prepare a team for the transition
This is really important because even though in an ideal world you will want to cut clean and start with the new system, reality is for most you will need to consider that for at least a few months there will be a need to maintain both systems. You will get request to do some SUP, AIC or Chart as the user requests wont stop because you are in the transition to a new system. Also the team you select for the transition will become acquainted with the new system and will need to learn it faster to be able to perform.
What if you can’t afford to have a specific team for doing the transition? Not enough people? Well in that case you need to prepare to do a clean cut and rip off the bandaid, forget about your old system and just move into your shiny new one. If you don’t you risk never doing the transition. This is where I see most complaining it was the systems fault, the tender was not well made, we didn’t have enough training etc. Of course careful planning of the transition should have been made and probably considering item 5 External help would have made things easier.
2. Training for the staff that would be doing the Data Input
This seems to be a no brainer right? You should get trained to be able to perform the new functions you will be doing but for some reason when doing a tender and buying new software there are two things that always seem to be cut off in order to reduce costs, one being the maintenance/guarantee and the second one is ….you guessed it…staff training.
If there is not enough training on what you are supposed to do then the outcome isn’t going to be so good. Now on which topics should you be trained? Most of vendors say you really don’t need any AIXM training as the complexity will be hidden from the end user by the UI/UX, however in my experience this is not the case, not providing a fundamental AIXM understanding to staff because it may be to difficult is not effective because at the end many of the errors, warning and validations the software does are based on the schema, business rules, data types, etc of the model.
Now what other training besides AIXM should you get? Of course vendor specific training on how to use their software, always ask to do it with your own data as there is nothing worst that doing exercises with data from other countries and then when you need to do your own things look impossible as you don’t have the same data, possibly not complete and with errors.
QMS should be part of your training, some computational skills, aeronautical publication knowledge, charting. You see modelling of the data in the database means you need more in depth knowledge of how things work and are related. Maybe I need to expand on this!
3. Do your transition in Phases
One of the things that I learnt during our implementation is the importance of working in phases, it is sometimes very difficult as most of the time is the All or Nothing mentality. Let me explain. During a tender you may feel you need to ask for all the components you need for your migration to AIM, the whole package. FPL, AIXM Database, eAIP, Charting, PANS OPS! This is due to the fact the you feel and maybe you are right that this will be the only time the management will invest in the AIM unit. Unfortunately this is a reality in most of the world where AIS/AIM are seen not as a priority.
There is an advantage in buying everything, you get all the things you need right! However think of this, if you don’t have the staff, the skills etc then you will be buying for things you actually don’t need or in practice wont be able to handle. It is a much better strategy to be able to prepare your bid and installments in phases. This will allow your staff to make a progression from one phase to the other without being overwhelmed by doing to much things at once that may break at the end the enthusiasm you may feel at the start and be replaced by total despair. You don’t seem to advance in any direction, you got a lot of systems aging and probably your support/maintenance will expire before you even start working on the system. Also there is big change people will forget what they learnt months or years ago and that together with the fact you will most certainly not have money to bring experts again to do training is a waste of resources.
So the question is how to phase things? Well it depends of your implementation and vendor of the system. Most probably the AIS part (FPL, MET, TAM) is separated from the eAIP, AIXM, Charting, etc. At some level they will integrate through some sort of exchange either automatically or manual.
Anyway first things first, usually to have an eAIP you need a centralized database. Once you got the data in the centralized database you are good to go with filling up the XML files for the eAIP. You can manage both at the same time. The goal = eAIP. Notice I didn’t talked about charting, charting is not easy. Actually charting is hard and good charting needs good data. Once you feel certain the eAIP combo is working then you can start thinking about going into charting. The charting part will depend mostly on how good the data is in the database.
Garbage In = Garbage Out
4. QA/QC everything
One of the pillars of AIM and its actually in the initial phase of transitioning from AIS to AIM is the implementation of a QMS. Quality Management is a very important step to be able to work in a better way. ICAO recommendation is to have implemented a quality system under ISO standards. I would say you should be certified by an ISO certification body.
Having this sort of QMS in place will ensure you have all the documentation, processes, workflows and how to deal with non-conformant products. It also provides insight through the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that you establish. It is a given that those things that you can’t measure you can’t control.
So if you don’t know what is wrong with your processes, then how can you deal with them? How can you improve them and have a safer more efficient operation? Central idea also is to be able to comply with the requirements of all users/clients/stakeholders and to be able to satisfy their needs. Having all of this in place will provide you with a robust framework to be able to build your AIM unit.
5. External help if needed is ok
Finally, sometimes is ok to admit that we can’t do all things within the organisation. We might have the people but not enough time to do the work before a certain deadline. We might have some skill gaps, we might have shortage of staff, etc.
The key takeaway from this is sometimes you need an external consultan/help that can really accelerate your transition by providing the know-how and expertise, while mentoring your own staff and training them to be able to together complete the transition to AIM through your centralized database.
Be careful with this step, you don’t want to bring a consultancy that becomes part of the operation forever, you actually want the know how transfer to happen at some point, if not you are essentially outsourcing without actually doing it. You may find that you can handle the actual database input and maybe eAIP management but the charting part proves difficult, so you can get help in that. Or you need to review your procedure designs but can’t do that in-house so you get advice on that or you can even outsource that specific part.
The idea here is that sometimes you need to complement your own operation with some outside help and in some cases you may find that will benefit you and your team to be able to fast track into a new adventure called ‘Aeronautical Information Management’
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