Having the right people with the right attitude is at least as important as having the right technology, believes John Taxgaard, vice president for innovation and consulting at the satcomms and information services company SpeedCast.
In an exclusive interview with ShipInsight during Nor-Shipping last month, he said the industry has “forgotten that the human aspect needs to be included when you choose technologies.” He believes that the tendency to emphasise what he called “trendy words” such as ‘IoT’ and ‘digital transformation’ has had “the negative impact of focusing on technologies instead of trying to combine humans and technology.”
Instead, he described a process that he called ‘consultative engagement’ and recommended that if people are brought into decisions around new technology at an early stage, its introduction will be more successful. “Many companies forget this and then take it into account very late.”
A key reason for getting staff on board early is that processes will have to change and, with them, so will the ways that people work. “Change management needs to be accepted by the people that need to work with the latest technology,” he pointed out.
This might seem obvious, but Mr Taxgaard said that the failure rate for implementing new technologies is high. “Some of the big consulting companies [have reported] that between 60% and 80% of new technologies implemented by companies will fail and I believe that one of the biggest reasons is that they don’t take the human context into account.”
But a two-way assessment is needed: not only must the choice of technology take account of the people who will use it, but “tough decisions” may need to be taken about how those people will be involved in its use. Training for “the right key stakeholders” is very important and they must have the right skills, he said, but there could also be an impact on recruitment policies, with changes needed to the personnel profiles used to select candidates.
And some current staff may not have profiles best suited to the new technology “so you also need to have a plan [to] allocate the people you already have in your organisation” or even to “change out some of the profiles.”
Many installations of new technology on ships now rely on linked networks of equipment and sensors with sophisticated communications links between them and via satellite to the shore. This brings cyber security high up on the agenda in SpeedCast’s consultancy work, both for new installations and in relation to existing networks.
This will become increasingly important as control and communications becomes more digital, changing the way ships are operated from both a technical and a commercial viewpoint. Data will be vital for technical staff onboard and ashore, but it will also support commercial and strategic decision makers,” he said. “They need to see the value in the data that you’re collecting” and this must be taken into account when specifying the new technology that will be installed, he said.
So that decision should be based on “a combination of many elements” but companies should always use the latest technology available “when they create a strong solution.”