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9 time-saving characteristics to look for in an ICT solution in shipping

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In the modern-day workplace, every minute counts. The way we manage our time is critical to yielding value to our organisation. Our customers’ expectations are bound to grow as our competition fiercely advances.

The greatest asset any business has is its workforce, and making sure all employees are in the condition to do their best is pivotal to the company’s success.

For any shipping company striving to be more profitable, technology is a key enabler to enhance operating performance and harvest business value from a digital strategy. To that end, finding ways to reduce your IT staff's workload and enable them to be as productive as ever before makes very much sense.

Here are nine characteristics you should look for in your evaluation process for ICT tools, so that you can help your employees manage their workload and succeed in delivering the best value to your organisation.

 

1. Choose a solution that is made for maritime

This is a biggie. Off-the-shelf solutions are often not designed to withstand the maritime domain. The challenges are both environmental (i.e. a ship cannot exactly be compared to your office environment) and technological (i.e. there are clear limitations given by the communication means available at sea that must be accounted for).

So choose wisely when investing in an ICT solution to work optimally onboard your vessels. The software must...

  • Be designed to work with the limitations in bandwidth capacity inherent in satellite communications. Generic solutions, designed with no regards for infrastructure constraints, may not be suitable for the maritime sector, because of the particularities of ship connectivity.
  • Have powerful compression and data optimisation features
  • Correspond with the way your business runs, not the other way around. Meaning it should work with both shore and vessel side.

By now, you may wonder, how exactly will the above criteria save time for your employees? Well, choosing a solution that ticks all these boxes will minimise the time and attention required to adapt the service to your maritime organisation. A vendor specialising in maritime-optimised ICT solutions has extensive experience implementing their software in shipboard infrastructures just like yours, and they can foresee common time-consuming issues that similar shipping companies have dealt with before.

Besides, if your chosen vendor knows the environment your team works in, they will be more empathic, understanding of your needs, and willing to go the extra (nautical) mile for you.

 

2. Cybersecure by design

Ships are not easily reachable, neither physically nor from an IT support perspective. Moreover, your ships must comply with maritime authorities and class societies regulations in order to operate safely. It is therefore essential to implement a solution that has multilayered cybersecurity at its foundation. By doing so, you will...

  • Spend less time monitoring attacks
  • Have alerts and proactive tools that work for you
  • Have an easier way to detect anomalies
  • Get thorough reporting, useful to tweak and improve your cybersecurity posture

Less time spent looking at user-unfriendly reports, or worse, doing manual checks on your ships, will free up more time to maintain and develop your cybersecurity strategy.

 

3. Strong support capability

Michelangelo purportedly said that “There is no greater harm than that of time wasted.” If he lived today, he might have revised his word of wisdom slightly: There is no greater time-waster than that of bad support.

If your team on shore or crew at sea need help using the software, they must get it right then and there, no matter what time of day.

So, make sure your software vendor offers the level of support you need. A strong support team will also help educate your team to spot and ultimately avoid recurring or repeat problems. This way, your staff will steer clear of those stealthy time thieves before they can get in the door and cause valuable work hours to slip away.

 

4. Easy to deploy

Very often, new services must be deployed either on a tight schedule while the ship is in port or at anchorage, or remotely through an unstable connection. Either way, the key to success is to choose a software that is easy to deploy.

The time-saving factor here? In many cases, crew can be great contributors to commissioning new software on board, saving your shore staff several hours that they can dedicate to more pressing matters. Many solutions also offer “silent installations” that can be triggered and be completed with no human interaction.

 

5. Simple to use

Ultimately, your software has to be a tool that helps your staff accomplish their tasks in a way that saves them time. If the system isn’t user-friendly or requires your team to develop additional skills to use it, it’s not going to be used efficiently. Instead, users might bypass the system altogether and do things the “old way”.

To allow your team to work as efficiently and seamlessly as possible, the solution should make it easy to...

  • Navigate and complete different tasks. A UI in correspondence with a human-centred design approach is key to maximising productivity and delivering a great user experience
  • Organise your fleet into groups that can be managed across different services, e.g. data transfer and cybersecurity solutions
  • Create rules for data traffic on various carriers and implement these rules across the entire fleet or group of vessels

You will achieve a considerable amount of saved hours during the onboarding and training of new users.

 

6. Scalable and easy to add or remove vessels

Shipping is a volatile and dynamic business. Vessels are bought and sold on a regular basis. The ICT solution should be able to scale to fit the current needs of your business easily, as well as future needs.

Make sure your solution can be easily commissioned and that the onboarding phase for each ship does not create any friction in your process. You probably have a standard policy or settings that apply equally to all your ships. Your software must allow you to adopt your common templates in a couple of clicks, saving you hours of tweaking and customisation.

 

7. Centrally managed alerts

Once again, you want technology to work for you, rather than the opposite. The solution should proactively notify you in case something out of the ordinary occurs. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence can streamline your processes further, providing the extra insights and automated follow ups to enhance your monitoring ecosystem.

Make sure you implement a solution that can provide a central overview of system status, or that can feed your corporate BI with relevant information.

A software solution that provides you with centrally managed alerts will ensure peace of mind for you and your team. No more sleepless nights wondering whether something wrong might be happening that will hamper your ship operations!

 

8. Easy to keep software up-to-date

We all know how fast technology evolves. And the same applies to cyber threats. Keeping the software always up-to-date goes for both your vendor and you as an organisation.

The vendor must show a solid track record of updates and enhancements. The last thing you want is to have software that will look the same in 2 or 5 years! The commitment to delivering improved features, as well as tighter security posture, must be a definite requirement for you as a customer. Finally, the version update process must be as seamless as possible. For instance, having the possibility to trigger client updates directly from your desk is a huge advantage!

As a customer, it is important that you take advantage of the update frequency to ensure secure and reliable performances on board.

Having an updated software will certainly minimise the support time required to address problems that were already fixed by the vendor.

 

9. Integration, please!

We know! You run dozens of different software from dozens of vendors. Each comes with its flashy interface and great features. And each vendor will tell you it is the only solution you need. In reality? Not entirely so. You need your systems to talk to each other, because, frankly, they are specialists in their respective domains, and you are responsible for the complete IT infrastructure to fit with your company's needs, not the other way around.

Enter the integrations! Integration allows organisations to create a central software architecture that's able to connect and exchange data between systems and software seamlessly. This essentially eliminates bottlenecks (such as data transmission and conversion) and cuts down on the inefficiencies of dealing with multiple software solutions within a company. For example, choosing a solution that can easily integrate with your crewing system to activate and deactivate users as well as grant and revoke access will make your life and job more manageable. Want an API to integrate your favourite social platform? Sure thing.

By providing a central pipeline through which both old and new systems can communicate, integration allows you to save costs, keep using your existing infrastructure and add functionality incrementally. And in turn, you will not have to spend time creating manual or costly fixes to make the system work for you.

 

Conclusion

In today’s shipping environment, your employees are being asked to work on increasingly sophisticated equipment, against increasingly complex regulatory demands. Competition is fierce, and the companies that are able to move fast and leverage maritime-optimised digital solutions to automate and streamline their operations are more likely to gain a competitive advantage.

The best way to make sure your teams save time – both in your offices and on your vessels – is to invest in enabling tech that eliminates typical time-wasters such as lack of automation and efficient processes.

Enable your employees to work smarter and be more productive – select a purpose-built, high-quality ICT solution delivered by a reputable vendor with strong support.

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9 time-saving characteristics to look for in an ICT solution in shipping
Written by Andrea Giglietti, Customer Experience Manager

Andrea is a passionate Customer Service Manager with 10 years of experience in maritime technology and digital disruption. With a combination of academic background in IT and Innovation and a capacity to empathize with clients of all levels, Andrea has helped numerous customers to succeed in their digital transformation journey. After spending 8 years in the Arctic, working at Dualog’s HQ in Tromsø, Norway, Andrea relocated to Singapore in 2016 together with his wife and two daughters.

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