With ten months having passed since our last catchup, now seems a good time to revisit, along with a short summary, some of the articles published since then, in a format to help you decide quickly which ones might be worth another look.
1 Outlook or industry specific?
Rather than just considering the downside to a change in your familiar software, those challenges that come with any changes you might make in your business, the chances are you will be surprised at the scale of the upside that industry specific software can bring. The value that can be released can be significant, for some it can make the difference between a good and a great year.
In this article we look first at the pros and cons of using Outlook. Why Outlook? The reason is that it is the most used generic software that we see in the maritime sector (along with Excel, see 2 below). We then do the same for industry specific, in particular referring to our own CompassAir software.
When considering changing to industry specific software and having compiled a supplier shortlist we recommend the following steps be taken:
• STEP 1 – look closely at your business, analyse its strengths and weaknesses and focus on the areas that any new solution will help and improve
• STEP 2 – decide which areas need immediate attention and determine whether the new solution can address those without the need for special training or resources
• STEP 3 – when choosing, look at who is currently using the solution, select those most similar to your own situation, and ask to be introduced in order to get a current user insight into how good the software actually is on a day to day basis
• STEP 4 – having shortlisted a number of vendors, have demos and make comparisons of benefits, costs, features and importantly the value likely to be derived from each
• STEP 5 – finally, establish the criteria to be used in evaluating possible solutions, these might include the following:
• Pricing – establish the price and determine as best you can if there are any hidden costs, such as necessary customisation, upgrading of hardware, etc. (see 7 below).
• Functionality – do you need more features or will a limited number be adequate for your current situation and the foreseeable future?
• Flexibility – your business is constantly developing and any new software solution needs to accommodate change. Make sure the software will also be developed and updated to allow for changes to your sector outside of the organisation itself
2 If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Being in regular contact with owners, managers, chartering and SnP brokers around the world, we probably have as good an insight as any into how the maritime sector as a whole manages it business. Maybe surprisingly, still by far the most popular software combination being used tends to be Outlook for emails with Excel to store data.
If you currently use an Excel/Outlook combination, we are not recommending in this article that you change if it works for you. Instead, when time allows, by investigating the alternatives we feel sure you will be surprised as to what is now available and what benefits there are, brought about by continuous technological advances, such as the use of AI.
Not only do the alternatives have a valuable upside, the Excel/Outlook combination has a number of shortcomings, including for Excel:
• scalability and insufficient memory
• it is much easier to search for information using a database
• data errors and consistency can regularly occur
• time consuming to create and maintain
• lack of an audit trail
• connected data and duplication
• security issues
So what are the alternatives? Given the multitude of applications that could replace Excel and Outlook individually, it can be a daunting challenge to know where to start your search. To narrow the field of investigation, making it more manageable, it would be advisable to first look at software that combines the advantages of each in one place, and second, to look at industry specific software (see 1 above).
3 Maritime, and specifically SnP, meets AI
In this four part series we start by looking at AI generally then how it is impacting the shipping sector, specifically SnP. We then return to consider a more widely discussed subject, namely singularity, before returning to our own AI suite of products, CompassPulse for SnP.
Part 1 – Maritime meets AI serves as an introduction to Artificial Intelligence, including terminology commonly used. A necessarily brief overview on artificial neural networks follows, together with an explanation of the terms “weak” and “strong” AI.
Having understood the basics, SnP meets AI – Part 2 considers the impact Artificial Intelligence is likely to have on the work of an SnP broker. We can say with some confidence that the SnP broker will be around for a long time yet. However, his or her focus will change with routine tasks gradually but surely being undertaken by machines, and where comprehensive information on which key decisions can be made is aggregated, processed and presented to the broker in real time. Essentially, facilitating these goals is the rationale for CompassPulse.
Will technological singularity affect me? – is the next question posed in Part 3, attempting to see where the explosive growth in the development of AI might possible lead. Having defined singularity, we then look at the historical background together with recent thoughts from such luminaries as Professor Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates. Will we have a hard or a soft take-off? That is the big question; singularity seems likely, and whether or not it can be controlled is a hard enough challenge on its own. Getting nations to agree on goals and processes – especially given the current state of world affairs – unfortunately would appear to make it infinitely more difficult.
In Part 4 we consider CompassPulse – Artificial Intelligence for SnP. With the launch of the CompassPulse suite of products designed exclusively for SnP, Sale & Purchase brokers now have available a range of Artificial Intelligence tools that are set to revolutionise the global S&P market. We look at the benefits such advances bring, such as speed of response, instant recommendations, better use of resources and competitive edge. In addition we also explain what each product in the CompassPulse range does, how each makes the life of an SnP broker a little easier.
4 Cyber threats: 2021 a year of unprecedented growth
2021 showed a “meteoric rise” in the number of cyberattacks across all threat types. In this article, we look at the statistics and, more importantly, some of the steps that can be taken in order to protect your business.
As well as considering the different types of cyber attacks most common in 2021, importantly we look at how to reduce the risk of becoming another cyberattack victim.
Our recommendation is that a plan be devised adopting a risk based approach, prepared on the basis that (realistically) not everything can be protected. Priorities will need to be established, summarised in the following steps:
1. Conduct an audit of key digital assets critical to the business
2. Assess the risks associated with those critical digital assets
3. Consider the controls and security currently in place for each potential threat
4. Highlight weaknesses and then define and implement controls to protect those assets, then
5. Formulate Cyber Incidence Response (CIR) plans
The threat to every organisation, regardless of size, should not be underestimated. Now more than ever, it is essential that organisations and their staff are aware of the threats and that systems and procedures are in place to protect them from damage and losses that have the potential to bring about the complete destruction of a business.
5 Email: still the most popular way for organisations to communicate
Even after 50 years. and with all the alternatives now available, email remains as popular as ever and, what’s more, is expected to grow for the foreseeable future.
As well as a look at the alternatives, we ask the question why do we still choose emails, given all these other options? The reasons include
1. Asynchronicity – the relay of information is instantaneous
2. Using it as a type of online filing system
3. An email address is a means of identification
4. Often it is free to use, and finally with smartphones it provides a
5. Mobile solution
Email still remains the go-to way of communicating with people outside of an organisation, a critical way for businesses to communicate with each other. When communicating with people you do not know, there is almost no alternative. Far from being replaced, its use is growing and will do so for many years to come.
6 Should we be moving our software to the cloud?
When looking at investing in a new software solution, often an important factor to consider is whether it should be hosted on-premise or on the cloud. In this article we look at the history of the cloud, the different types of cloud services, comparing them to on-premise solutions, and how to choose between the alternatives.
According to Fortune Business Insights, the global cloud computing market size was US$219bn in 2020, showing growth of 13.7% compared to the average year-on-year revenue growth during 2017-19. They project it to reach US$791bn in 2028, a compound annual growth rate of 17.9% during the 2021-28 period.
The drivers for cloud adoption include the following:
• growth and scalability
• efficiency, and the streamlining of processes to increase productivity
• IT agility, allowing organisations to be more responsive to business needs and market changes
• cost – both reduction in costs and being able to spread them over time
• security – solutions are maintained by providers who have focussed on such competencies when building their businesses
Cloud computing shifts IT expenditure to a pay-as-you-go model, with control, security and ease of deployment being the distinguishing factors between the two alternatives of cloud and on-premise. In some sectors there may be one more important consideration, namely compliance requiring an on-premise solution or a hybrid alternative.
There are many reasons why a move to the cloud can make sense. When investigating, compare different service providers and what they offer in order to make the right choice. That choice will determine your experience and ability to take advantage of the benefits available from cloud computing.
7 Beware the hidden costs of switching software providers
Never an easy decision to make, switching software provider should only be undertaken if you are sure it will benefit your business, for example through an increase in revenue or a reduction in costs, or possibly a combination of the two.