The bureaucracy involved in the day-to-day running of a superyacht is extensive and there is a growing need to manage the endless amounts of paperwork. In theory, a management software solution could help captains and managers to create better organisation, efficiency and communication between the key parties. However, as different providers compete for market share, providing different technologies for different purposes without an established set of standards, the end user can be easily confused.
Ian Hornsby, director of Hub-Ware, formerly Techman, believes the main issue regarding management software in the yachting industry is that corporate solutions seldom address yachting needs while the yacht-industry applications are, for the most part, insufficient in their functionality. “The corporate heavyweight solutions such as Salesforce, SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics are too intimidating and require strong commitment and heavy investment to deploy them in a way that improves the bottom line, but the recent, lighter yachting apps do not integrate with anything else,” he explains. “This means mainly one-trick ponies, little integration and that data is scattered into small silos and, therefore, inefficient.”
This is frustrating for captains and managers who want a comprehensive solution that addresses all departments on board a vessel. According to Tobias Allebrodt, executive director at SpecTec, creator of IDEA yacht management software, however, creating a management software solution that does everything is unrealistic in the superyacht industry. “If you think about each individual superyacht, with a complete set-up, own crew responsibilities, tasks and structure, but, on the other hand, with similarities within safety management, it is difficult to have a one-size-fits-all solution,” he says.
For Scott Strand, president of Great Circle Systems, creator of the Triton Administrator yacht management software, yachting is surprisingly behind the curve in terms of this technology. “We have seen great advances in AV, lighting, security, navigation and communications, but a slower adoption of IT for business systems to manage and run the logistics of our industry. Couple this with the niche market where the end user is not ultimately driven by the bottom line as a key metric, and this adoption is even slower,” he explains. “Having said that, yachting has a highly generational workforce and this helps drive expectations.”
Most modern crew expect mobile-first technology – specifically purpose-built apps that run in the bring-your-own-device environment. According to Strand, these apps must be simple to use, fast and include features such as push notifications, access from any device and network, and be gesture-enabled as opposed to keyboard or mouse navigation. At the same time, they must be able to function offline due to the persistent challenges faced by the superyacht industry regarding Internet access.
Cloud-based software, combined with apps and on-board servers, has allowed yachts and management companies to move gradually into the digital world, often with only a small paper folder of emergency procedures held on board as a backup. “We see apps as the future for on-board users,” says David Voyce, director of operations at Manage My Vessel. “And with the advent of fingerprint scanners, and the potential of mass-market facial recognition on the horizon, alongside existing technology such as barcode scanners and push notifications, we see most users on board being able to carry out any task with only a couple of clicks on their phone or tablet. This will then flawlessly integrate with the Cloud to allow targeted interrogation by management companies, allowing everyone to focus on the more demanding aspects of yacht management.”
Cloud-based software has also been pivotal in providing a low-cost, secure mechanism to deploy yacht maintenance software, and this in turn has fueled the use of hand-held devices on board, each now becoming as powerful as a traditional ship’s computer. “We have users who rely on iPads to access critical component information, maintenance histories and ships’ schematics to troubleshoot on the move,” says Sam Wheaton, co-founder of Hunter Oceanic, creator of maintenance software Seahub. “Greater accessibility provides more freedom and promotes collaboration between users: engineering departments on large yachts are now sharing information in real time while captains and chief engineers are enjoying visibility into all aspects of engineering and management activities on board.”
Looking to the future, the team at Hunter Oceanic foresees that on-board maintenance procedures will benefit from advancements in the integration and automation of management platforms. “Software platforms will talk directly to components and extract information from running hours, error codes and diagnostics,” predicts Wheaton. “Inventory control and reordering processes will become instantaneous and will be dependent on automatic reordering thresholds.”
Wheaton adds that manufacturers of the equipment installed on yachts will also begin to understand the value of the information captured on yacht maintenance programmes. Manufacturers will likely form alliances with software providers and the sharing of information will result in the improved quality and design of products. It is possible that, in the end, all new builds will be sold with management software attached, which will contain digital libraries of vessel-related documents, start-up procedures and maintenance schedules.
Voyce also sees the management-software market becoming more intelligent in the future to meet industry demands. “As more regulations come into force, and as flag states expect ever more cohesiveness and forward planning from management companies, the amount of statistical analysis required by software packages will increase to provide management companies with easily identifiable trends that they can then mitigate against in future,” he advises. “For example, instead of a DPA running reports and actively searching, a software package will notify them that incidents involving equipment malfunction have increased 40 per cent since last year, with the main increase among private yachts under 500gt from a specific flag.”
Another change Voyce foresees is that of systems moving into a more complex area, involving workflow management and integration between other systems and processes. “If you compare with the advanced accountancy packages on the market, they are systems that are very complex, drawing data from multiple sources, but they utilise the data in a simple way,” he concludes. “We see a move away from the basic document-control type systems that flood the market currently to a much more professional set-up that can seamlessly integrate with accountancy packages, CRM systems, Sat-C vessel tracking and others to provide all the data a manager or captain could ever need, but that shows it in a way that makes it very simple to operate.”
Issue 182 of The Superyacht Report features an in-depth look into the evolution of the management software market. Apply for a VIP subscription to the magazine here.