This is the original version I intended but was too long for the IFAIMA newsletter, decided to add it as a blog post here
I have been trying to write about this topic for quite a while, it is something that I am very passionate about an I would like to provide a few lines to make us reflect on it, what is the current situation according to how I see it, and most importantly how could we improve things.
When we talk about AIM challenges we usually think in terms of systems, with hardware and software requirements. We might also get a bit frustrated that most of the time Senior Management has little knowledge of the importance of the Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) office and its inner workings. Staff training are also of a big concern because it is a complex issue involving different systems and disciplines. In the end, we could say that all those challenges come down to resourcing issues but there is also a wider challenge in accessing experience and information from the wider community to ensure best practice and make good decisions.
IFAIMA has been doing a great job of making our Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) profession visible to all the actors in the aviation community.
I remember when I just started out in the aviation world about twelve years ago in 2008, the same year that IFAIMA was created, that Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) seemed not that important or much taken into account. For the most part it was just a secondary thing that you needed, a support service that was to be provided under ICAO Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) but it seemed to me that it was perceived as not really giving any additional value. Everything was focused on other areas of the operation mainly Air Traffic Control (ATC). That perception is supposed to be changing, however if the services provided do not upgrade quickly, the AIM provision may be removed from the AIS back into ATM closer to ATC. It is up to the community to maintain the push for change and keep on top the operational imperative.
Building a community takes time. It is very important that we can continue to expand and foster a community where we feel safe to come and discuss what are the issues that are happening within our profession and how we can deal with them. To build a community where we are able to share the different experiences we have encountered over the years and how we have overcome different situations and how we can apply the to my operation and to be able to share that operational experience with my AIM neighbors and even with AIM colleagues from other regions .
The Global AIM Conference is of course an exceptionally good platform and it accomplishes very well what it is intended. It is a place where we can meet, discuss, and have some fun also sightseeing the beautiful cities where they are hosted. It is a place where we can get new information on what is happening within our profession, we can hear back from the industry through the vendor exhibitions and presentations but ultimately, it just happens once a year. It is like visiting your family only two to three days in a complete year while the rest of the year it seems like we are disconnected for the most part until we gather again which might not happen yearly due to budget and travel restrictions.
There are very few places outside the Global AIM Conference where people may interact and keep building relationship of this community that we all are part of. From quite some time EUROCONTROL AIS agora forum has gone a little bit quiet and for the most part you see mostly data warehouse personnel asking why this document has not reached my office or I cannot contact this particular ANSP and so forth. It has effectively become one less place where people can interact. Regionally the ICAO AIM working groups are another place where you can meet and keep building relationships. I can say it is really a nice experiencing since I have been invited to be part of the ICAO South American (SAM) AIM group where they meet through different ways of communication although I think most would want to be able to share that face-to-face interaction that allows to have lunch or dinner with a colleague, a friend from another country. The ICAO SAM AIM working group have been using online platforms due to the travel restrictions for 2020, including messaging platforms; however, it is still not a continuous flow of information from one side to the other. I think I might be still wanting to see the same sort of interaction that I have experienced in the software development and the GIS community where you can post questions, read blogposts, go to a forum, etc.
There are still two more places I am aware of where you might go and try to reach the community and be part of it which are Facebook and Linkedin. The Facebook group called Global AIS/AIM Forum (not an official IFAIMA group if not mistaken)
It actually has 1200+ members yet the discussion is centered around few people that interact regularly and that provide most of feedback which is such a shame since there are more than 1200 persons which are part of the community gathered together there that could be creating bigger opportunities to exchange ideas, to learn different the reality of how the challenges and ways of working throughout the globe, that could be asking questions to colleagues and getting answers.
The other platform is the official IFAIMA forum group which is on LinkedIn through the official Aeronautical Information and Communications Staff and even though the group has more than 500 followers it still tremendously quiet which seems unusual for such a high volume of people that are part of it.
If you notice building a community is difficult, especially bringing engagement and providing content. It is not something that you can do easily as it takes time, effort and people willing to participate and be part of that community.
What are the challenges or what is preventing the participation of more people in the community?
Usually during this time, I have been receiving emails and messages through different platforms from colleagues that are far away from different parts of the world and they usually have questions. They want to know specific things. How to perform a specific task? How can they improve the current conditions? Are there any possibilities to enhance their workflows?
Most of the time what I what I have found is that people want to learn, they want to interact and to hear the experiences of other persons, they want to be part of a community. But sometimes it is not quite easy to do, for instance they may fear there they are asking a very simple question or they do not want to ask a question that might get people to think are not worthy of being in their current position (supervisor, manager, boss)
From my point of view the first problem is we need a safe space within the broad AIM community where people may go ask questions, seek for advice, trouble shoot issued and not feel like they cannot do it because they might be shamed or frowned upon. I have sometimes pondered if maybe having a way for anonymous questions to reach the community can be a good way to overcome this issue.
The second thing that I have found is that usually vendors try to make everything a sell and that is OK. Vendors and the industry in general are part of the AIM community, selling is in their DNA and there is nothing wrong to promote or offer services. I would think the AIM community is eager to hear about great products and services such as software and training to be presented, to be able to see and even try the latest technological advancements and if there is a possibility those can be integrated into their workflows.
What I am trying to say, is that I want us to build an AIM Community that is stronger and bigger, but most importantly that we are able to interact by sharing our experiences, maybe go on a web meeting and just chat for a while to get to know each other, keep in contact more than once a year, being able to understand what are some of the key difficulties that we might be experiencing and together as a real community providing solutions to those pain points and bringing them into the operational realm.
In a community you will certainly have different points of views and different ways of doing things. You might not agree on certain topics but at the end what makes a community rich, what allows it to grow and become more important and visible, what makes it stand out and provide a sense of being proud to be part of is the people that make part of that community and how they interact and help each other.
How can we build a better AIM community? That probably is the question to answer. I would like to see more participation by all members in different forums, they may be different platforms and sometimes we will have smaller groups at a regional level or a group of colleagues that share the same vision. It is time to start sharing our knowledge with those that might benefit from learning from us and I am sure we will learn together. The world is so big and diverse, sometimes the resources and training that some colleagues have due to many reasons are not equal and thus provide for different quality outcomes on the job being performed. However, we are now capable of streaming sessions live, we can go on meetings online, we can even see recorded sessions and sign up for online courses that I think there are no more excuses to not start building a better, stronger and resilient AIM community