How we use concepts from aviation to deliver quality CRM projects

Gayan Perera, 14 September 2020

Aviation is dangerous! We strap ourselves into a huge steel tube with a couple of engines and wings with millions of moving parts, trusting that the people operating these machines will get us to where we need to get to.

IT projects, especially CRM projects are very similar. The biggest difference is that aviation has been around for a very long time. All the dangerous and complex aspects of aviation have been made safer by the use of clever principals learnt over time by examining failures. If you’re interested, have a look at Air Crash Investigations.


The biggest similarity between aviation and a Dynamics CRM/IT project is getting from A to B safely and on time.

In aviation, to get from A to B, you first need to make sure you actually want to get from A to B, then you need to figure out the distance, fuel required, weather on departure, weather on arrival, weather along the way, alternate airports should B not be reachable, monitoring as you’re flying along, making decisions when new variables arise and a whole raft of other things.

In a CRM/IT project, you need to know what success looks like, then figure out what’s required to make that a reality, what’s going to get in the way in the form of challenges, risks, unknowns, and work through issues as they arise.

Here are couple of high-level concepts that we’ve applied to Dynamics 365 CRM / Power Platform projects based on the aviation industry.

Pre-flight planning and inspection

This is by far the most important aspect that’s getting everyone to their destination safely.

Before undertaking any flight, huge amount of upfront effort goes into flight planning. To ensure the aircraft, its systems and pilots are up to par. One critical item is fuel, taking off without the correct type and amount of fuel to land at the destination or an alternative will be a disaster. The best you can hope for is that the pilots realise the mistake and land as quickly as possible. Similarly, before diving into a CRM / Power Platform project, survey the current landscape. Office 365 setup? Correct licenses purchased and allocated? Security all ok? Starting without these pre-requisites will frustrate everyone involved!


One other critical aspect is the pilot himself. In aviation, one of the biggest causes of accidents is due to human/pilot error. To avoid this, airline pilots are checked by a training captain every 6 months to ensure they meet the standards. If not, they don’t take part in the flight until the captain is satisfied.

In IT, for some reason, the human doesn’t seem to come into the picture at all. RFPs, initial sales meetings and proposals seem to only care about the technology and its capabilities; nothing about the people behind the tech. To avoid this costly mistake, we ensure our people are given 10% of paid time for professional development, sit and pass an exam every quarter, take part in soft-skill training every second week, explore new technology as ‘mini’ projects and share learning in the way of writing a blog per month. All of this ensures the people are ready to make good decisions.


Staying ahead of the airplane

Flying an airplane involves a heavy workload. The last phase of flight is approaching to land. This phase is where the workload becomes heavy. To reduce the workload, pilots are trained to stay ahead of the airplane by being keeping good situational awareness, thinking a couple of steps ahead of where they are now and completing tasks earlier (if possible).

For example, preparing aerodrome plates/charts days before the flight instead of trying to flip through a massive book 10 minutes before approaching the airfield. Thinking through the arrival procedure or using a simulator to carry out the arrival procedure to familiarise yourself even before stepping foot into the aircraft.

In a IT/Dynamics 365 CRM project, go-live is similar to approaching to land. It’s a busy time, heavy workload and tensions are high. To reduce all these aspects, they can be practiced or run through during a deployment to system test, then refined during multiple rounds of UAT deployments.

Project managers, consultants, technical leads, developers and testers can stay ahead of what’s happening and being more situationally aware by thinking to themselves, where are we at right now? where will we be in the next few days, weeks, months? what do we need to get there? Is there something we’re missing? Something we haven’t completed?

Doing the planning upfront and always staying ahead of the project will ensure a successful outcome!