It’s time to talk about how, not why

Flemming Bo Larsen describes himself as someone with  highly structured strategic maritime methodology coursing through his veins. After spending 20 years working with AP Moller Maersk he is taking his drive for innovation, coupling it with an open minded curiosity and intuition for the industry to form his own business.  We invited him to come to Fleet Transformation: The Event to offer his thoughts on the changes going on in the industry. It was less a question of why or what (there’s plenty of people offering their thoughts on that). It’s now, more than ever, to talk about How.

The prerequisites to successful digital transformation

In my mind, while we’re currently fascinated with what new technologies might do for our industry, we mustn’t lose sight of what will be at the core of digital transformation’s success — TECHNOLOGY (obviously) — PROCESSES and PEOPLE.

It is crystal clear to me that while technology has the potential to revolutionise the shipping industry as we know it today, it can only do so if it is driven by people and by processes.

The success of digital transformation in my mind will be down to a whole range of people in our industry challenging their perspectives and constructively questioning their view of what has gone before. Only by looking at the processes we’re working with and taking ownership for change can that change succeed.

Transformation calls for sound and effective change management. In this process, nothing will remain untouched. Roughly speaking: regulatory affairs will stipulate the boundaries/framework within which opportunities and threats will raise their heads. And from strength/weakness analysis of companies’ individual operating/business model, options and limitations will be derived. Getting all of this right will call for strong leadership and a clear vision.

The problem/the pain/the need

Technological innovation has had, and is having a powerful impact across all sectors. In shipping, like in most other industries, technology is often developed because it can be; because it’s cool. To me, the secret of achieving digital transformation as we deserve it to be, is allowing the problem, the pain or the need that we have in the industry to drive the technological development. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be drawn in by technological solutions that have been developed without clear vision, strategic need or an evident business case. We must start to make our voices heard by the innovative techies that supply our industry. Only by working together can the outcome be significant.

Customer responsibility

To date, suppliers have to a large extent driven technological transformation in shipping. In too many cases, they’ve applied their focus, resources and bright minds on “stuff” that’s not really in demand by us, their customers. That isn’t necessarily their fault. They’ve done what they think is right and then turned to the customers to buy their vision.

Imagine how powerful it would be if the customers were the driving force behind the solutions being developed? Imagine if these bright minds set to work to solve the actual problems we face? To soothe the actual pains our industry suffers from? And to address our real needs? Yes. That would be incredibly powerful. But for this to happen, there needs to be cooperation. Real cooperation between customer and technology suppliers. And for this to happen, there is a requirement for the customer to get closer to the supplier and share their problems, pains and needs. Once again, in my mind, by working together, the outcome could be significant.

The reality

As I see it right now, the main focus is on technology. This is understandable and is great. But what about processes? What about people? I believe that the hopes and dreams we have for digital transformation can only come true if the high focus we have on technology right now is allowed to spill over into critically examining our processes and really caring about both the people on board and the people ashore.

The magic trilogy

For me, the nirvana we’re anticipating digital transformation will bring can only become reality if the magic trilogy of TECHNOLOGY — PROCESSES and PEOPLE is allowed to drive the solution. Put all of these ingredients together and come up with a needs-driven technology solution and you’re on to a winner. ASIDE: And as those of you who were at my presentation will know, I think I may just have done that…there’s more to come later — but if you can’t wait — reach out and let’s chat.


FB Larsen

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