The role of IT in a modern shipping organisation

The role of IT is something that is constantly evolving with the new generations growing up. The way young people communicate and how they make friends have changed a lot with the online generations. How they consume products is already affecting us. And how they will make business when they become business owners, managers, directors, is something we already can see signs of.

Travel planning

How will the online generations find their ways to travel is already seen in many ways in the airline and hotel industries, as well as in the ferry industry. But with the more globalised community the younger generation is growing up in, travel will not just be a holiday-thing, it will be a part of daily life. Spending hours to research the best prices from hundreds of low-cost airline portals and hotel bed-banks and individual operator sites will not the preferred method for travel planning.

You will instead use your preferred travel app and rely on the guidance, user reviews, and best prices for all your travel segments. By managing your travel like a dynamic schedule which includes your flights, your ferries, your hotels, trains, buses, you will get an easy and useful overview of all your options, and can instantly change and add events and services to your travel plan.

Transportation planning

Online shopping and JIT (Just-In-Time) store deliveries will continue to evolve in the near future, which will all put even more pressure on the freight infrastructure being online. A shopper would like to have up-to-date information on expected delivery times of his goods, even if they are packed for him in China and delivered to his door, or a high-street retail shop with limited stock, who will replenish small quantities every day to keep as little as possible in his store and still all items available for his clients every day.

These business types will rely on a very interactive and informative transportation network. The system should immediately know when a certain box was loaded on a lorry in the factory to be taken to a central warehouse to be loaded in a container, shipped by train to the port, loaded on a container vessel, back on a lorry, on a ferry and via a central warehouse to the store.

Also more local transports will require a higher transparency to keep the receiver informed on delays and track-and-trace events on the way.

On-board experience

Crew and passengers will expect, not just to have WiFi on-board, but also to be able to interact with the ship system and services while they are on-board from their cabins and from their phones.

For the crew, the connectivity and fleet-wide solutions makes it possible to get a both professional and colleague communication that makes the shipping company one consolidated employer. The on-board crew can feel more at home with the office and will be able to cooperate and share with colleagues on the other ships in a way that has not been practical before.

For passengers the on-board experience is just a continuation of the relationship with the ferry operator. All services on-board can be consumed and paid for using the travel and shopping apps that the passengers will be used to ashore. And while on-board they will be able to plan their onward journey, exploring alternatives and options.

IT Management in Companies

All these continuously changing challenges which all heavily rely on each and every companies IT infrastructure will also imply changes on how companies are organised. The IT infrastructure organisation of a company is something that has changed dramatically over the last decade, from just being a support function under the Finance department (for some reason) to being an executive role in itself.

Different types of outsourcing, in-sourcing other types of service setups have been tested over the years, but quite clearly the future IT organisations in shipping will have to be experts in buying the right solutions, combining the right technologies and being experts in what their users and clients expect from them. Earlier the marketing team and the operations teams were the ones to bring in all the new ideas, that the IT team just had to provide the solutions for this. Now, it is the IT team which will have to take the lead in visualising the new opportunities that all new modes of communication can offer the business.

Presentation by John Bertell at the Åland Maritime Day 12 May 2016