ICT and Change Management in the Shipping Industry

Information and communication technology ICT has played a significant role in keeping businesses operational during the pandemic, especially the shipping and logistics industries.

Global Technology Strategist and Consultant, Glaister Leslie shares why the need to adapt new ICT, the major challenges businesses face during implementation and how they can manage the ICT change process.

Why the need to adapt new ICT?

According to Leslie there are at least three main reasons that come to mind:

  1. This global pandemic has shown us that companies that were able to keep operating, despite staff being forced to stay home, came out as winners. But that resilience was in large part because they had the technology that enabled their staff to remain productive, even while not in the office. For example, even before the pandemic, the ADVANTUM team had already invested in online productivity platforms like Microsoft Teams, and Azure DevOps, a tool which can be integrated with Microsoft Teams which is used to manage the software development cycle. Therefore, when the pandemic hit, the operational impact was minimal because everyone was already working in the cloud
  2. One of the biggest challenges that companies faced over the past 18 months has been “How can we plan?”. Whether planning their supply chains, annual budgets, or sales forecasts, companies often took weeks and required full teams to complete this exercise. But in the past 18 months, the operational environment changed so rapidly that plans became outdated quickly. However, companies that invested in technology that allowed them to rapidly adjust their forecasts (sometimes in a matter of hours) across their entire enterprise, were able to course-correct in near-real-time and make business decisions that helped them survive. The right technology can help companies stay agile when agility is the difference between survival and closure.
  3. The reality continues to be that automation is happening at a relentless pace. The good news is that utilizing automation applications such as the ADVANTUM software suite often leads to lower costs, and increased productivity. But the bad news is that if your competitors are automating and you are not, then you risk being squeezed out of your market. Clients often want products and services as cheaply as possible, and as quickly as possible. Automation helps companies do that, and if your competitor is able to do what you do, but faster and cheaper, you’ll struggle to survive.

Challenges when implementing new ICT

One of the biggest mistakes that companies make when implementing new technology, says Leslie, is forgetting that they aren’t just implementing a technology project, but a change management project. New technologies often change how business processes are executed, they change the roles and responsibility that staff have, as well as the perceived value that staff feel they add in their role. With that comes tremendous insecurity on the part of staff. “Will I be able to learn this new technology? Is my role necessary anymore now that this new technology is doing 50% of it? Do they need me, or will I be let go?” Introducing new software is never just about introducing new technology, it’s also about introducing change. And managing change involves managing people.

The other mistake companies make is that they assume that investing in technology should come at the expense of investing in their people. “We’ve got this software now, so whether or not our people keep improving, or remain high-caliber, is less important.” Companies often forget that your technology is only as good as the people who use it. I’ve been on enough projects across the years and across countries that failed in large part because of this. They underestimate how important the people still are, even after the technology has been fully implemented. Investing in technology can’t be divorced from investing in people.

The most successful companies are the ones that see technology to help make their people become more, and not just their operational costs become less. You’d be surprised how many people don’t want to do mundane work each day – they want to be challenged; they want to do work that helps them grow and develop. Companies that communicate to their staff “We’re investing in this technology to help YOU do your job better” have far more traction with their staff when implementing projects, than companies that don’t.

Managing the ICT change process

Constant and open communication is often overlooked but is critical to the success of technology implementation projects. Leslie emphasizes that every person and team that is going to be impacted by the new technology needs to be updated frequently. Communication needs to answer questions like “How will this new technology impact me? When will I start to see this impact? How will I better off for this technology? Does my company still care about me as an employee?”

Making sure that all parties involved feel heard is also important. The more engaged staff/teams/departments feel in the new technology project, is the more ownership they’ll take of the outcomes of the project. And the more ownership they take is the less likely they’ll want to see the project fail. And the less likely they want to see the project fail is the more likely they are to support you and remove obstacles from your way.

Another more overarching step companies can make is to realize that technology will not magically solve their problems. Companies sometimes decide to implement new technology without first understanding what the specific problem is that they are trying to solve. Defining the problem properly helps companies understand the root causes – and sometimes those root causes are also people-related, not just technology/process related. Only then can you create a comprehensive solution, (e.g., staff training, restructuring, goal setting, etc.) besides just purchasing software.

ADVANTUM ICT Solutions for Shipping Industry

The ADVANTUM Software allows seamless connections with all areas of business operations, so all departments can share and process information simultaneously. Our software modules can be used separately, or together to give you full management control. For example, Shipping Line Agents can interface the ADVANTUM Logistics, ADVANTUM Payroll and ADVANTUM Financials solutions to fully manage and automate their Cargo, Vessels, Accounting and Financial operations on one platform.

ADVANTUM also offers ICT services including requirements management/need assessment; implementation coordination/support and software change management to guide you through the implementation process.

You can request a free consultation or demo today email: contact@advantumpcs.com.

Originally published in Caribbean Maritime Magazine Issue 44

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