If digitalisation is to be fully embraced, a clear financial case needs to be made to demonstrate why a technology is needed
Digitalisation is a fact in every aspect of our lives. Many of the solutions our sector is just starting to get excited about now have been embraced for quite some time by other sectors such as aerospace, automotive and energy.
Many proponents of digital solutions in a range of areas including data analytics, connectivity, unmanned and autonomous technology and more, have expressed frustration about this – why is maritime so reluctant to adopt what for them are clearly better ways of doing things?
For me, the answer lies not just in the messages that proponents of digitalisation are sending but to whom they are sending them.
Whatever the technology -- autonomous, cloud computing, data analytics – one thing a lot of digital solutions have in common is this: their backers are great at demonstrating what they can do and how. Where they fall down is in explaining why it is important.
As the warden in the classic Paul Newman prison movie Cool Hand Luke said "What we’ve got here is failure to communicate."
I’m attending the Maritime Digitalisation Summit in Singapore this week and while there I got chatting with the founder of an unmanned technology company. He said to me there are only two things that can force shipowners to change: regulation and competition.
You may be able to win over the CDO or CTO easily, but there are other members of the C-suite you need to pay attention to, as well.
With budgets still tight across the sector, if you want to promote your service or product, you need to demonstrate how it will help the bottom line and give a tangible competitive advantage.
At a recent industry event, I spoke to a business development manager for a major machinery firm’s data analytics arm who seems to be on the right track. He said he is not so interested in talking to the technical people who will be using the product day-to-day to boost operational efficiency – these people are still important, yes, but even more important are the finance directors and accountants whose job it is to keep costs as low as possible.
It is not enough to tack on a vague boilerplate about how (for example) your condition monitoring system will "cut fuel costs" – the people who make budget decisions need concrete evidence of the savings they can make. Firm facts and figures are needed.
The current market is not a place to promote digital solutions as optional extras. Whether you are a supplier or in charge of digital technology for a shipowner or operator, your challenge is making a strong business case that a given technology is not just beneficial but necessary to beat the competition.