With companies increasingly shifting to remote working to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, Hamburg headquartered maritime software specialist Hanseaticsoft, a member of the Lloyd’s Register group, is offering some tips to help shipping companies keep their businesses and workforce agile and minimize business disruption. And while Hanseaticsoft’s advice is aimed primarily at shipowners much of it is valid for other marine industry businesses
“To help shipping companies prepare for the coming months we’ve gathered a collection of tools and best practices that could help reduce these risks and ensure it is business as usual, as far as possible,” says Hanseaticsoft managing director Alexander Buchman. “All these tools can help shipping companies move towards a digital workforce that can help them become more efficient now and in the future.”
1 Ramp up cybersecurity before giving employees laptops – Companies need to ensure they have adequate security for employees opening up laptops on unprotected home networks. It’s also essential to give employees training on security best practices and proper mobile device management for remote administration. Plus it’s best practice to ensure that all hard drives are encrypted in case of a loss and login credentials are not left on any sticky notes on devices.
2 Ensure employees have a good internet connection – Ensuring team members’ at home wifi setups are robust is essential. There is nothing worse than choppy wifi or constant drops during a conference call. One option is to cover the difference between low-cost wifi and upgraded speeds and invest in upgraded modems and wifi routers and expert installation for team members. Depending on the size of the workforce this could be a hefty upfront investment, but it will help keep the business running if employees are forced to work at home.
3 Messaging – Without regular face to face communications businesses could find information flow is much slower, so it’s important to establish good communication systems, using phone, email or messaging services like WhatsApp, iMessage, etc. We’d recommend setting up a channel for every department and every fleet team to replicate the physical office space, alongside some standard channels for general announcements and the water cooler gossip corner for casual chats.
4 Web Conference Software – A group chat however cannot always replace the efficiency of a face to face team meeting. In this case, tools like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Meet, LogMeIn GotoMeeting, or Zoom are available. Vendors like Google, LogMeln and Microsoft have started to offer special plans for their conferencing software solutions due to coronavirus.
5 Central File Storage – With physical filing cabinets out of reach and accessing a shared local file server not an option, it’s time to migrate to cloud-based data storage. While having shared Outlook folders may be an option, it doesn’t scale that well for every use case. Companies may want to take a more in-depth look at Microsoft OneDrive for Business, Dropbox for Business or Google Drive to utilize globally available secure file storage with fine-grained control and visibility settings to centralise team files.
6 Project Tracking – Set up a formal company-wide project tracking software system. For companies that rely on whiteboards and sticky notes, tools like Trello or Asana are good options. It’s important to establish some kind of traceable mechanism to enable everyone to see what others do to avoid duplication of work and to prevent manual questioning through the messaging service.
7 Rules, Regulations, and Expectations – Freedom needs restrictions. For employees working away from the usual office environment it’s important to have strict written policies around rules and regulations, and what is expected of them during work time. These policies will help everybody to know how to meet expectations and to sustain self-discipline.
8 Introduce industry-specific software – Hanseaticsoft’s Cloud Fleet Manager (CFM) is used by a growing number of shipping companies to streamline business and management processes to achieve greater efficiencies and profitability. CFM is improving collaboration between teams on shore and at sea and creating a connected workplace culture that supports strategic business goals.
EMBRACING DIGITAL WAYS OF WORKING
“Increasingly the shipping industry is embracing digital ways of working, which are helping employees work together more easily and efficiently,” says Buchman. “The digital workplace provides opportunities for a company’s employees to communicate, connect, and collaborate.”
“It also eliminates the risk of information silos and supports employees in keeping track of their tasks,” continues Buchman. “We recommend that shipping companies not already using digital tools introduce these so they can improve the way they work and ensure they remain competitive in a digital world.”
Hanseaticsoft is offering small to mid-sized shipping companies its “Cloud Fleet Manager – Efficiency Booster.” This bundle contains over 15 software tools designed for shipping companies to eliminate hidden information silos and share information, no matter where employees are located.
All applications for employees run natively in the browser, so no desktop applications or browser-plugins are required. Most functionality is also complemented by a free Android and iOS app called ‘CFM Go’ to enable untethered mobility.