Maritime business is transforming through the digitalization, and the process is inevitable. While everyone agrees that it is the way to move on, the companies currently are at the different digitization stages. Some have significantly invested in the research and implementation of the innovative digital platforms; the others are sceptically trying the water to see if the new approach would meet their development strategy.

The main challenge remains to be an internal friction to change within the organization, the ability to change the mindset and the company culture.

Another challenge is the variety of digital solutions in the market. While most of them are new, it takes time to build trust and achieve high-level reliability on the data provided by the systems. Almost every day we are reading news on the release of a new software and applications for the shipping industry, to add value, reduce costs and improve performance. While it is, in the most cases, the truth, the challenge to choose the right solution for the company, remains. We must admit, that some systems are coming to the market far from being fully functional, basically, at the pre-MVP stage. This early release is driven by the developing companies’ excitement to spread the news, or in most cases, by the competition.

So, from the perspective of the shipping company, how to make the right choice and not get into the “rush to digitize”? And for the developers, when is a good time to release the news about the new digital solution to the market?

Choice of digital systems

For ship owners and ship managers, it is crucial to build and retain long-term customer relationships, so the voice of customer will lead the way to strategically planned transformation. Adopting digital change culture from the top management, engagement with the customers and investment into IT are the key principles of the digitalization. Basically, you can apply the same principles as for marketing the service or product.

  • Specialization.
  • Differentiation.
  • Segmentation.
  • Concentration.

Specialization will tell you which areas of the company business processes are to be digitized. You might answer the following questions: what current processes are the most time and resources consuming? Which of the processes are critical for the company performance? If there is a lack of communication, internally between the departments and externally with vendors and clients? What are digital solutions available in the market?

Differentiation is all about understanding the unique selling proposition of the new digital systems and applications. How the chosen system is better from its competitors’? What features the system has that differentiate it from the same solutions?

Segmentation is to realize the customers’ needs and make sure that there is a need for the new digital solution, in other words, that your clients will benefit from your decision to implement it. If the company considers going to the new markets, it is a good idea to investigate the needs, pain-points, and wishes of prospective customers.

And finally, concentration is to make efforts and take actions for the transformation. Here may be the challenge mentioned before, the internal friction to change within the organization. Human factor. People are simply scared to lose their workplaces or the whole company departments, as automation of business processes goes forward. But the reality is that it is not about eliminating working places, it is about the transformation of employees’ skills and training of the personnel to acquire a new set of knowledge and expertise.

Many other concerns arise as digitalization era is moving forward, cyber-attacks risks, data transparency, and confidentiality of information. A lot to think about...

When is the right time to release the news about the new digital solution?

If your company is involved into the development of a new digital system or an application which will potentially add value to your customers or will assist you to spread into the new market, the marketing strategy and good marketing plan are required.

The marketing process will start with the setting up the objectives, identification of the competitive advantages of the digital product, and gathering information of the customers who will benefit from the product. When all this is done, the marketing action plan can be developed, specifying the timelines for each of the stages for the successful system release and distribution. Ideally, the marketing action plan to be in line with the IT development schedule and take into account the risks in development. The early release can have the negative effect rather than positive.

However, telling the story of the development, sharing the experience and pain-points resulted in the idea for the digital product, and giving your prospective users description of the product, can be quite beneficial and will assist in boosting the news about the release when the time comes.

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