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Mind the gap - challenges that prevent us from reaching the full potential of digitalisation


In the maritime industry, there is a gap between the potential of data and the way it is currently being used. Why does that gap still exist and confuse us?


Digitalisation is about data-driven value propositions or where data can further enhance a product, service or a process. This in turn creates a series of requirements to consider.

Whether we are searching for those value-creating use cases, organising your data structure, ensuring high data quality, or engaging in your cultural challenges, we are mostly still talking about issues one can manage from inside the organisation (even a customer-centric use case identification can be driven and coordinated from within).

Many times the big future potential of digitalisation comes from tying together data from multiple sources. Whether we talk about optimising an asset performance, vessel carrying capacity, port efficiency, sailing efficiency - or any other major maritime or non-maritime digital uses cases for that matter - if you really pursue these possibilities to the very end, they all include data from multiple sources with multiple ownership, control and agendas.

Most of these topics are being addressed today, but almost none are fulfilling their full potential. They contain unreliable manual input, build on too many assumptions, or - by the absence of central data - altogether lack a substantial part of their potential value.

This is the area where we know multiple source data needs to come more efficiently together. We all know this area exists; we know it is full of potential. But we simply do not know how to efficiently navigate it in a larger perspective.

In brief, there is a gap in our business charts between the potential of data and the way to utilise it. The gap confuses us for the following reasons:

  • It requires a liberation of data. For this, the interaction between organisations needs to be heavily increased, often in new and unfamiliar ways
  • It is a system of a system on the vessel side, with no one part clearly responsible for integrating all relevant data. The overarching system integrator role, with all its technical and political challenges, is still in play
  • It is blurring our business boundaries, making digital business opportunities seamlessly available. This is of course both an opportunity and a threat
  • It contains opportunities that we are not creatively tuned or organisationally prepared to pursuit. As mature companies we may not even consider those as opportunities.

The good news is that, in time, the gap of course will be “solved”. But like in all groundbreaking work, there will be pitfalls. The two major ones are easy to see.

Think beyond your organisation

If you aim to truly unleash the power of digitalisation, the streamlining must take place with the whole industry in mind – not only the individual companies. Let’s take an example.

A large company “A” is fragmented when it comes to data and processes. However, it is undergoing a digital transformation. In this transformation, it is caring for its data structure, data quality and finding use cases supporting and enhancing its product and service portfolio.

In brief, it is streamlining its digital offerings.

Meanwhile, companies “B” and “C” are also going through identical transformations, streamlining their respective digital offerings as well.

The irony here is that the fragmented local starting point for company A actually leads to a more streamlined result for the company isolated. BUT, if we zoom out, once companies A, B and C all have their own streamlined solutions, the industry as a whole is still fragmented and sub-optimised.

Greed is not good

Gordon Gekko, the classic Michael Douglas character in the iconic 80s movie Wall Street, proclaimed that “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

When solving the mentioned gap, this is not true. Greed is a dead end.

Tunnel vision greed will create static fronts, when what we need is dialog and collaboration on how to solve questions concerning topics such as why, when and how to share relevant access to data, and related issues of ownership, security, ethics and commercial interests.

These are questions that require an open, solution-oriented mind. Even though changing to new ways of thinking is tough, we are maturing together with our technology, and thus our perspectives change. Additionally, even more new perspectives are added to traditional management, through younger forces coming in.

So all in all, I still choose to be an optimist - we will solve this somehow. Therefore, my main concern remaining from this is rather; how much time will we be losing because of greed?

Here I share common ground with Mr. Gordon Gekko; time is money.

When solving this challenge, a large part of the solution comes from a stronger holistic thinking, and from the creative people working with the problem. Thus, future holds more collaboration, more partnerships, more dialogs, and many fresh new management perspectives for us. In that sense, the gap is just another exciting challenge for us to solve together!

Do you agree/disagree? - comment!
Do you also feel confused about how all the data we have can be used? Have you already solved the data problem - if yes, how? Share your thoughts and ideas on the comment field below, or on Twitter with #smarterbettertogether.

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