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Taking a systems perspective on maritime technology

Updated: May 30

The maritime industry has always been a vital sector in the global economy, and it continues to evolve as new technologies and innovations emerge. In today's increasingly complex and competitive landscape, shipping companies need to embrace digital transformation and implement a robust systems approach to manage their data and operations effectively.

In this blog, I will explore the systems perspective on maritime technology, including systems of record (SoR), systems of differentiation (SoD), and systems of insight (SoI), as well as the three key approaches to managing the data and interaction of these systems.

The Primary Technology Landscape

1. Systems of Record (SoRs):

A System of Record (SoR) is the primary source of truth for an organisation's data. It is responsible for collecting, storing, and maintaining accurate and consistent information. In the maritime industry, SoRs form the digital backbone of a company, managing the structured master data and critical business transactions. Often based upon traditional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, SoRs encompass various aspects such as fleet management, maintenance, crew management, financial, and more.

These systems are often supplemented by unstructured systems like email, messaging, and document storage.

Companies may choose to utilise multiple SoRs, including commercial Voyage Management Systems, Fleet Management Systems, Financial Systems, and collaboration systems. Alternatively, some organisations may opt for a single monolithic ERP solution like which includes many of these features in a single system.

2. Systems of Differentiation (SoDs):

Systems of Differentiation (SoD) are designed to provide a competitive advantage by delivering unique and innovative functionality, processes, or experiences. These systems differentiate an organisation from its competitors, helping it to stand out in the market.

In maritime, SoDs often address specific functional gaps that are not covered by existing SoRs, enabling companies to enhance or expand their operational capabilities. SoDs can include voyage optimisation tools, vessel performance monitoring systems, high-frequency data systems (IoT), MRV/DCS/CII reporting tools, passage planning software, weather routing solutions, and even custom in-house applications. By adding SoDs to their system landscape, companies can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and gain a competitive edge in the industry.

3. Systems of Insight (SoIs):

Systems of Insight (SoI) are a category of information systems that focus on analysing data from various sources, to generate actionable insights, support decision-making, and facilitate proactive responses. Systems of insight encompass various tools and platforms, such as business intelligence (BI) tools, data lakes, advanced analytics, and data visualisation software.

Alerting is an important component of systems of insight, as it enables organisations to be notified about critical events, changes, or patterns in their data in real-time or near real-time. In maritime, SoIs can monitor, predict, and optimise various aspects of a shipping company's operations. SoIs enable trend analysis, the creation of KPI dashboards, exception management, and the generation of actionable insights to drive continuous improvement.

Managing Data and Interactions

Effectively managing data and interactions between these maritime technology systems is crucial for seamless communication and efficient business workflows. There are three main approaches to handling data among the various systems: the Isolated Approach, the Integrated Approach, and the Platform Approach. Each method presents distinct advantages and challenges that companies must weigh to optimise operations and remain competitive.

1. Isolated Approach:

The Isolated Approach to managing data and interactions involves each system operating independently, which leads to duplicated and conflicting master data, departmental silos, and poor information sharing. This method can hinder collaboration, slow decision-making, and result in inefficient workflows. Although it is still commonly used, it is becoming less viable as the need for data integration and collaboration increases.

2. Integrated Approach:

The Integrated Approach aims to create a single source of truth for master data and enables the sharing of key data across systems. By connecting disparate systems, companies can improve collaboration, streamline workflows, and reduce data inconsistencies. However, this approach presents challenges such as the need for additional technologies and skilled IT teams to build and maintain integrations, as well as a high training demand and reduced productivity due to users constantly switching between systems .

3. Platform Approach:

The Platform Approach offers core modules that can replace or integrate with existing systems, while also providing seamless connectivity with other systems and legacy applications. By presenting users with an intuitive, common interface for their workflows, platforms can reduce training demands and streamline processes. Early platform solutions focused on replacing core SoR features with a modern interface, whilst exposing the underlying data to third-party SoIs like BI dashboards and analytics tools. Advanced platforms now offer seamless connectivity with a growing ecosystem of SoD solutions and include core SoI capabilities like event management, alerting, dashboards, and embedded intelligence (AI and machine learning), providing customers with more choice and flexibility. The platform approach allows employees to work in an efficient and unified manner.

Embracing a comprehensive systems approach, which includes SoRs, SoDs, and SoIs, offers numerous benefits for maritime businesses seeking to adapt to an ever-changing industry landscape. One of the most significant advantages is the ability to streamline operations by integrating core processes and data across the organisation. By fostering seamless communication between various systems, businesses can break down silos, reduce inefficiencies, and improve overall decision-making.

Moreover, adopting a platform approach within this systems framework enables companies to scale their operations more effectively. As platforms provide a unified interface and seamless connectivity with multiple systems, they allow organisations to easily integrate new solutions or expand existing ones to meet evolving business needs. This adaptability is crucial for staying competitive and keeping up with industry trends, regulations, and technological advancements.

In addition to enhanced operational efficiency, the platform approach also promotes a more data-driven and informed decision-making process. By consolidating data from SoRs and SoDs, and utilising the analytical capabilities of SoIs, companies can derive valuable insights that drive continuous improvement. This includes identifying cost-saving opportunities, optimising routes, monitoring vessel performance, and meeting sustainability goals.

In summary, embracing a comprehensive systems approach, incorporating SoRs, SoDs, SoIs, and adopting a platform approach can yield significant benefits for shipping companies. By streamlining operations, promoting data-driven decision-making, and supporting sustainability efforts, maritime businesses can successfully navigate the challenges of the modern industry landscape and chart a course towards a prosperous future.

How OpenOcean STUDIO can help

OpenOcean STUDIO is a comprehensive solution that addresses the challenges faced by shipping companies by offering a cloud-based, modular software platform that combines the best aspects of Systems of Record (SoRs), Systems of Differentiation (SoDs), and Systems of Insight (SoIs). By embracing a platform approach, OpenOcean STUDIO provides maritime companies with the digital intelligence to optimise their operations, adapt to increasing regulations, and focus on sustainability.

One of the key strengths of OpenOcean STUDIO is its ability to integrate seamlessly with customers' existing legacy systems and third-party solutions. The platform's API-driven architecture allows it to connect and synchronise data across a range of applications, creating a single source of truth for the company's operations. This ensures that data-driven insights are generated from a complete and accurate dataset, resulting in more informed decision-making and streamlined processes.

Furthermore, OpenOcean STUDIO enables shipping companies to leverage advanced technology that was previously available only to larger enterprises. By offering a suite of easy-to-use, intuitive modules and unique capabilities such as onRADAR, embedded dashboards, and vessel digital twins (virtualVESSEL), OpenOcean STUDIO helps to ensure that companies can remain compliant and competitive within the industry. The platform's focus on real-time data, analytics, and insights equips maritime businesses with the tools they need to be proactive and agile in a rapidly changing landscape.

In summary, OpenOcean STUDIO is a game-changer for the maritime industry, offering a systems approach that not only addresses the existing gaps in legacy solutions but also provides advanced capabilities to drive efficiency, compliance, and sustainability. By adopting OpenOcean STUDIO's platform approach, shipping companies of all sizes can benefit from a connected and integrated technology ecosystem that empowers them to make better decisions, streamline operations, and ultimately thrive in a competitive market.


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