SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

How to Use Divisions in SMS-Pro's Aviation Safety Database Program

Posted by Tyler Britton on Dec 21, 2015 10:00:00 AM

What Are Divisions in SMS-Pro

Aviation safety database programs can have one or more divisions. See Division in an organization chart for SMS-pro

This is a question that comes up a lot.

Especially when we start throwing other words into the mix like:

  • Departments;
  • Portals; and
  • Management Portals.

It can get confusing quickly. Many people ask – what’s the difference?

Aviation safety database programs possess considerable flexibility and power. Scalable database programs can effectively serve either small, medium or large airlines and airports.

So What Is a Division in an Aviation SMS Database Program

The quick answer is that a division is a way of breaking up a business into distinct units. Depending on the complexity of a company/airline/airport/etc., this will be handled in different ways.

But this answer hardly clarifies things.

I think the most effective way to approach this question is to first tell you what it is not, then what it is, and give an example of how divisions are successfully used in the organizational structure.

What a Division Is NOT

There are three primary functions that Divisions are not used for:

  1. Separate child companies under one parent company

This is the job of a portal. Each company will have a single portal. Parent umbrella companies will have a Management Portal where they can manage each child Portal.

  1. Organize User Roles

Within a Division, any number of User Roles are delegated to various employees, and those same User Roles will, for the most part, be universal across all divisions. That being said, there may be the occasional User Roles that are specific to one Division, such as a Cabin Crew role as part of the Flight Ops Division.

  1. Divisions do not function the same as Departments

This is probably the source of the greatest confusion surrounding Divisions. At first glance they would seem to be very similar, however, as we shall see, Divisions and Department serve two distinct and different organizational functions.

What a Division IS

When we are talking about how to use Divisions in SMS-Pro, we are usually talking about using them to:

  1. Separates a company into its various functional units

For example, an aviation company would probably create different divisions for Flight Ops, Maintenance, Ground Handling, etc., because each of those units serves an entirely different purpose – i.e. function – for the company.

  1. Separate a company into various regional units by Division

This practice is much less common than using Divisions to separate functional units, though in certain cases it makes sense to use this route. An airline company that has bases in various continents may choose to use Divisions for its geographical units. A Division should be used in whatever ways a company feels is best to analyze its hazard risk data.

  1. Allows Users/Department of a Division have access to report issues that are only relevant to them

For example, the Safety Officer in the Flight Ops division will be most concerned with issues in – you guessed it – Flight Ops, and need not be distracted by all issues in other Divisions. This is an important point because it implies that:

For large, more complex systems, a company will need more Divisions to keep things organized, because the organization keeps things simple.

Without divisions in a larger company, the top level management could easily be overwhelmed by so many issues filtering to the top. This logically occurs because there are many more hazard issues to address in larger companies, especially those with healthy reporting cultures.

For smaller, more straightforward operations, it’s probably in the best interest financially and of their time to have fewer divisions so that things can filter to the top quickly.

How Are Departments and Divisions Different?

Here’s the rub. Fortunately, there is enough difference between the two that clarifying their use is fairly straightforward.

It works like this:

  • Divisions separate the functional/geographical units of a company – the point being that the different units’ purposes do not overlap with one another
  • Departments separate the various, overlapping and coinciding duties within a division
Segmenting employees and data in aviation safety database programs allows managers to focus risk management strategies more granularly

A good example would be inside a Ground Handling division.

A company may choose to have Departments for Baggage Handling and Baggage Cart Drivers.

Both Departments in this case work towards the same common goal of handling ground operations, but the goals of Ground Handling and Flight Ops are different.

So, a catchier way of answering the question is:

Different Divisions, Different Goals

Different Department, Common Whole

Example Uses of Divisions

Let’s take two fictional companies and see how they might use divisions differently.

#1 Aviation A is a small airliner that flies in a limited geographical area, say among the Hawaiian islands. Because they are small, it does not make sense financially or organizationally to take the time/money to:

  • Purchase additional Divisions
  • Configure the setup of those Divisions
  • Try and assign/manage users for each Division

because their issue volume would be fairly small.

#2 Aviation B is a medium sized airline that operates along the West Coast of the United States. They have around 150 employees, so it would probably make sense to have several divisions based on:

  • Airport if they are only flying between several airports
  • Function, such as Flight Ops, Ground Handling, and Maintenance

because it would be in their best interest both in terms of time and money to maintain organization by segmenting these groups.

Summary of What Divisions Are and How to Use Them

To make a long story short, a Division:

  • Segments and filters issues into functional/geographical units to be dealt with separately
  • Keep issues organized and maintains simplicity
  • Allows management to focus on business units to apply risk management strategies

As far as best practice, a company should use Division(s) in whatever way keeps the organization structure the simplest and most efficient.

Should you still have questions or concerns about how to use Divisions most appropriately in your set up, please contact us – we are happy to help.

Did this provide some insight into what Divisions are and how they are used in SMS-Pro? Let us know in the comments below.


Divisions play an important role in the risk management workflow. Users belong to only one division. Download the following risk management procedural workflow to see best practices in modern aviation risk management software programs.

Download Risk Management Procedural Workflows

Topics: Aviation SMS Database

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