seafocus meets digital

insights and learnings from the digital hub workshop at the seafocus AGM 2016

Could we have imagined 15 years ago that one day we would have one device which helps us to tackle almost all our problems? Communicating with our families via whats app and other instant messages, alarm clock, calculator, newspaper, browser, booking engine and numerous more applications.

And that this device could also be used  for business purposes, invoicing, digitalisation of documents, sales teams and other, identifying locations, particularly where remote workers are concerned? Video conferences costing nothing but just requiring internet access, allowing to manage remote software development teams, remote control eg warehouses and container transport, etc Navigation, often mote reliable than the one integrated in the car - or the vessel? Storing huge amounts of data in the cloud and recuperating it within seconds, still from a mobile device.

Could you imagine going back in time and living without it? The internet and Google, Amazon and Facebook changed our perception of the world and put us in control. 

Yet the most important business issue seems to be that people are not motivated to change. This was expressed as THE key issue by the attendants of the digital hub workshop at the seafocus conference in June 2016, onboard the Viking Lines boat between Stockholm and Turku. Other main pain points and areas of concern for people include manual paper processes and documentation and subsequent inefficiencies, from licensing for seamen to seaway bills and data exchange with the vessels, big data and how to manage them, seemingly simple things such as control over website updates, and more.

Motivating people to change starts by creating some benefits for them, an understanding of "what's in it for me". Quite of the the opposite is the case. People are afraid that digitalisation in particular will take away their jobs, and that they do not have the skills to really manage this. And companies start change programs with lots of consultants, but without working with their own people to build best in class processes and to automate where it adds value - efficiency, security, competitive advantage. An internal marketing campaign with a clear communication strategy needs to be built to achieve enthusiasm, support and real change. Honesty, transparency - even with bad messages - and measurable results should become part of this campaign, with the target to create a culture that embraces change and a spirit of "aways getting better". 

In order to achieve change, successes should be made very visible and celebrated together. We all meed reasons to believe. For example, build the first centre to show case and to create  reasons to believe and reduce skepticism. Ensure that the change program is an integral part of the strategy and include benchmarks for the team to aspire to. By involving your customers and see how their satisfaction increases, or their feedback is taking into account, this creates a large satisfaction. For management and team members it is crucial to go to the port, talk to customers and colleagues and learn from their feedback. 

Using videos and modern means of communication also underlines the dynamics and adds more credibility. Videos and regular  Facebook chat sessions or whats app questions and answers visible to a whole group of remote workers for internal communication when the team is too big and spread to communicate directly are great means of engagement. Get speakers from other companies to tell staff what they have done and achieved, leading to inspiration and support. Create also a lot of external communication messages. If Friends and neighbours read about the successes and tell you about them, it will make you feel proud and confirmed that this s the right approach.

We often think that we alone cannot change anything. It is not true. If everyone starts with what ey can influence, this will be a domino effect. Different departments start to talk and make things happen.


paper and manual processes

Another key pain point seems to be all around the traditional - often manual and bureaucratic - processes around cargo and sea freight, from paper formats to outdated regulations and norms. Pretext is often that some documents meed to be original - yet aviation for example found ways of ensuring that original documents can be created in a digital way.

The electronic cockpit is one example. When we have smart containers and smart chips then the rest should also be simplified. The concern that often internet might not be available offshore was raised. It means that processes need to be created in a way that they are available offline, other communication channels need to remain available as a bck up or means for specific regions. Again this is a parallel to aviation. When Delta's and Southwest's systems broke down recently it created a chaos as documents such as passenger lists and seat plans as well as crew plans were not available offline, and check in staff did mot manage manual processes.

Control over processes such as website updates should be possible to achieve in simple terms. Content management systems have improved drastically in recent years and give much more control to the user. We are happy to share our experiences. 

It might be worthwhile to start conversations between maritime and aviation experts for the specific areas so that learnings can be exchanged and change can be initiated. Sometimes we trust more that something is possible if we have seen that it works elsewhere. This is what happened to some Apple staff in early days. They thought they had seen the split screen with a competitor and therefore did not give in until he had found a solution to make it work. It might also be useful to bring members of ICS and IATA together to have an exchange and get more confidence and use potential synergies for fair roadmaps.

Last not least, big data was a key subject - it is trendy in other industries including aviation as well. A lot of data is available, but quite often not brought together and not analysed and used. Here the magic approach is "think big, start small" to make things happen. Start data crunching at the vessel and the transfer it to other devices. It is also crucial to include customers as well as engineers. Here again the customer satisfaction measurement and feedback from eg nps can help. It would be worthwhile to establish a workshop for an exchange between companies of various industries regarding big data solutions. 

Big data also relates to market watch, understanding what is happening and what it means for your business. There are different cycles for this, and it is crucial to be clear about what you want to achieve before embarking on this. And the subject cyber security is of course a key one, it was mentioned as well yet not as top priority.

For all of the above, a Hackathon could help to strectch our minds and create some new and innovative ideas how to tackle the problems.


We would be delighted to help. We can get you in touch with people who have worked in the various areas mentioned aboce, so that you can establish a dialogue and take away some learnings from it. We can make recommendations which website tools to use. We could also organise workshops to cover these topics specifically by bringing those people together, OCS and IATA members should for sure be present. Or we could help you directly in your organisational environment to tackle these problems and achieve change.

Last not least the Hamburg Aviation Conference could  be a forum to join. It brings aviation together with other industries and science to learn from each other and to develop innovative ideas how to solve the current problems and challenges.

Please do not hesitate to contact me for any questions, contacts you would like me to establish or any other issues. 

Ursula Silling, ursulasilling@xxlsolutions.u