Independent Review of Argus Prism & SMS Pro - 2016

This following aviation safety software review does not come from a current SMS Pro user, but an Argus Prism user. Company names have been removed. The reviewer had previously worked at a larger airline in Southeast Asia. To learn more about these two popular aviation safety database products, see:

Safety Manager Review of Argus Prism Compared to SMS Pro

 Jeez Chris, what’dya guys got NSA connections? <grin>. I thought I could slip in under the wire and be gone without leaving any tracks. I guess that’s the price we pay for dealing with an SMS software provider that has good programmers. You guys own any Predator drones, yet? <ggg>.

Yes, I do need help but it’s not going to be an easy fix. When I first needed to purchase an SMS program five+ years ago at (SE airline), I looked at most all of the programs. I looked at ALL the advertising and tried online simulations with several. Remember, I was evaluating all these programs – including SMS Pro – without a good idea of what I needed.

My greatest fear was having to tell the (SE airline) owner that we should purchase xxx software and then, eight months and thousands of dollars later, have to tell her the program was a dog. (emphasis added) My SMS Admin days would’ve been over.

One program I looked at back then was Argus’  PRISM. All I remember about that one at the time, including its online demo, was that the program just looked “clunky”. The web pages were not intuitive and because I knew nothing about SMS software, intuition was a large part of my selection criteria.

Then I ran across SMS Pro.  I can’t say I knew anything more about SMS Pro but, despite it appearing confusing to me/us then, at least it seemed tighter and more like it was made for aviation. The fact that it had a free trial (for six users) back then convinced me one hundred percent. At one (SE airline) meeting months later I made points when the (SE airline) owner asked me if our SMS software was working. With the safety mgr. shaking his head in agreement, I said it’s coming along and it’s also free, so we can try it  until we’re sure. Her face beamed and she said, “Free, huh?”.

So now I’ve come full circle. After luckily having the fickle finger of fate and destiny put me together with SMS Pro, now I’m burdened in my new position with Argus Prism.

Man, it’s even worse than I thought years ago. It seems to have been made by programmers for the programmers themselves with little consideration for the users - aviation people.

In fact, Argus with its many products looks like an opportunist who jumped on the need for aviation safety support of all kinds, software, audits, due-diligence certification certificates, etc. that they’re almost a traveling carnival  show selling snake oil. They do lots of different things and none of them are done really well.

Unfortunately, I’m still considered new here at this job. Worse than that Argus PRISM was purchased years back by a few managers who are still here. They’re not so safety smart so they’d consider any change in software to be a personal affront to them. I checked and we pay about $xxx/- a year for the PRISM program. Then I sneaked into the SMS Pro website to see what you guys were charging these days. I didn’t figure I’d get caught <grin>.

Seeing that the prices of SMS Pro and PRISM are so far apart, I did realize I wouldn’t be able to offer my current CEO a move to a newer program at anything near the same price as PRISM. Too bad. Believe me, no one is more disappointed than me.  

From the get-go, PRISM looked like a dog. For example: the most essential thing about any SMS program – making a hazard report – in PRISM is loaded with problems. It’s confusing and – if I don’t stop now I’m going to be using expletives soon <g>. However, a 50-year old French bizjet pilot here (flying the 3-engine Dassault Falcon, so not a dummy himself) told me when he went to PRISM the first time to make a hazrep he felt like he’d run into a wall of confusion. That’s what I thought, too, the first time I looked.

The overly complicated interface, poor word choice and bad design (compared to you-know-who in Alaska) makes using PRISM bad for the safety business - especially when most users are non-native English speakers. If I’m confused is it any wonder we’re not getting hazard reports from the local folks?

So again, I don’t think this problem is going away. Especially right now when my company is in a cost-saving mode. Too bad, because if business does pick up here, our SMS program is going to slow down our (my!) safety efforts. Bummer, for sure.

Thanks for writing (reference to SMS Pro blog articles). I continue to use reference materials from SMS Pro that you guys generously provide the industry. And that might be the big difference between you and Argus: while both of you look at this as a way to make money, only you also understand it’s good if you can help improve “the breed” – that is, our work/safety situation in aviation. I think they still call that “doing the right thing” <g>.

Good to hear from you and don’t worry about me. I’ll keep plugging away with PRISM until either it breaks or I break <g>. You can probably get some grim satisfaction from knowing that SMS Pro ruins its users forever from using any other safety software <Big Grin>.

Yeah, I guess I needed a vent <Big Grin>. But no kidding, this Argus is really a poor program. It’s got several “divisions” like for example, Hazard Reporting, User management, Safety lockers (a dump for saving company info and not well planned at that) and other functions. When you sign on initially, you must still sign on again for each change in function. What kind of &*t% is that? As I’ve told the VP there, his software is supposed to make MY  SMS Admin job easier not be just a means for Argus to make money. It’s a lame scene and I’m stuck with it.
I’ll see what happens with any change with my employer but honestly I don’t think it’s going to happen soon. Managers here are in their  comfort zones and I’ve got much to do before pulling them out of their zones, screaming and kicking the whole way. Wait a minute, that sounds like creating a “safety culture”, doesn’t it? <grin>.
Sure, you’re welcome to use bits of what I said.... I meant them; SMS Pro caused us at (SE Airline) some confusion, too, but at least we recognized that the software was built for speed. That is, you’ve designed it with as little fat as possible on it so it’s more intuitive. That’s the way people in aviation think so it felt like SMS Pro was built for the user instead of making the user fit into the program’s mentality. I think PRISM was one of the first SMS software programs on the market and it shows its age. When I use it, I feel like I’m back in the 1990s.  

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Safety manager review of SMS Pro and Argus Prism safety management database software

For those making it to the bottom...if you are interested in SMS Pro, see these current product offerings.

Hazard Reporting Solution

Hazard Reporting Solution offers basic and advanced hazard reporting tools. Risk management functionality tracks corrective actions and conducts investigations using the same powerful Issue Manager available in all the SMS solutions. Online and offline hazard reporting functionality available.





Risk Management Solution

Risk Management Solution contains all elements of Hazard Reporting Solution, plus more advanced risk management modules. Significant additions include Proactive Hazard Analysis Tool (PHAT) and the Hazard Register. Also included is Risk Assessment Tool, commonly known as FRAT or Flight Risk Assessment Tool. FRAT, which can be used for many types of operations, and not just Flight Ops.





Safety-Quality Assurance Solution

Safety-Quality Assurance Solution has all the features of Hazard Reporting and Risk Management Solution. Online and offline auditing tools come with access to more advanced charting and analytical tools.