Disruption. Revolution. Quantum leap. We’ve become accustomed to hearing some pretty alarming language in discussions around digitalisation and the way in which it will ‘transform’ our industry.
Digital tech specialists and geeks aside, such vocabulary can hardly spark joy, confidence or reassurance for businesses as they consider their next steps.
Digitalisation & Disruption
I really believe that people get the wrong end of the stick when they talk about ‘disruption’. Yes, one company might disrupt another – for example, if it starts selling a computer that is 20 times faster than its competitors.
However, in the mainstream, maritime businesses need certainty and real, practical information. They don’t want to create turmoil in the working environment. They certainly don’t want ‘revolution’.
My message to organisations big and small would be this:
There is nothing to fear from digitalisation. Companies looking for advice and support should be confident that they don’t have to change everything dramatically overnight – they can evolve.
We need to set aside the idea of ‘disruptive’ technology. This is all about evolution, not revolution – and that is key.
As sponsors of Maritime UK and Mersey Maritime, we at Donmac Data see our role as supporters and partners. We want to support fellow members in getting to the right place in most efficient way. Our focus is on practical solutions to deliver the aspirations of the maritime industry and the Maritime 2050 agenda.
As a result, we developed S.T.A.R.T, a five-step system approach for working through the various stages: Strategy, Tactics, Align, Renew, Transformation.
One of the most important aspects in all of this is the ‘people factor’. Businesses need to focus strongly on change management and rather than adopting a ‘big bang’ solution. Changes should be implemented in a carefully considered way, because it’s crucial that you bring everybody along with you. You can’t just drop things on hard-pressed staff, then wonder why things aren’t working. None of us should flick the switch on something until we know exactly where we are going.
In short, be cautious, careful and clear. Don’t sell a solution just for the sake of it – champion it because it helps your organisation.
There are technologies available today that meet every one of the Maritime 2050 goals. In every area there are modern technical solutions that can be implemented and controlled, rather than a source of disruption to your business. It’s also important to remember that over the next 30 years, these solutions will improve, evolve and get faster.
We have to get from here to there and of course there are a lot of challenges, from security to resilience to training – but none of them are insurmountable. The maritime sector is a strong one, and there are fantastic people working within it. From engineers to analysts, there is no shortage of smart people.
A Measured, Planned Approach
My own background is in technology. I spent 30 years working for tech companies in telecoms, personal computing, software development and mobile telephony. A lot of my work has been in very high growth areas, often working with companies at the start of something quite exciting.
Naturally, having to respond to a market that was changing rapidly was always very challenging – but, I should emphasise, I was at the sharp end because that was my choice!
I learned a lot in both operational and commercial roles. I have witnessed how, in the real world, change that looks extraordinary in hindsight does not happen overnight.
Consider the boom in mobile phones; they started small but now everyone is dependent on them. Consider Facebook, email, shopping and banking online – all of these were once breakthrough innovation but today they are taken for granted.
So, let’s get ready for transformation – with a measured, planned approach.