In recent years, the maritime industry has rallied behind digital technology.

As more and more industry participants recognize the commercial benefits that come from digitalization, the maritime space is increasingly adopting corporate strategies to better reap those benefits. As this continues, organizations that do not harness the momentum of technological advancements as part of business strategy will undoubtedly be left behind as the pace and efficiency of doing business grows in tandem with technology (for more on this, read this infographic on The Digital Transformation of Maritime Shipping).

As the industry has embraced digitalization, the number of digital tools available has grown exponentially; moving beyond data collection, management, and analysis, maritime organizations now have the option to pursue blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and more. Each of these tools is valuable when implemented with a strategy and an intent – but in a world with countless technology solutions available, how do you know which to choose?  How do you know that your approach to digitalization will remain effective in the face of volatile shipping markets and rapidly evolving technological advancements?

We find 3 considerations critical to success:

1. Pursue a Strategy, not a Technology

Leading-edge technologies like blockchain, AI, AR, and IoT have started to make their way into the maritime space. While these technologies are exciting and unlock new possibilities, it is essential that organizations who look to leverage these powerful tools do so in line with intentional strategies tied to business problems – not simply for the sake of the technology itself.

For example, instead of building a strategy around artificial intelligence, develop an algorithmic optimization strategy; instead of implementing blockchain, develop a strategy to bolster market transparency and implement more efficient contracts. This way, the technology itself is not at the core of your strategy, but rather is just a means to help you accomplish a larger set of business objectives. By aligning strategic and operational needs with digital technologies, you can ensure that you are deciding on the correct tools and implementing them effectively in your organization.

2. Ensure Effective Change Management

Change is inevitable, but it must be effectively managed. Employing a digital solution— and executing the implementation process well— empowers your organization to derive real value from its technology investments. Without proper business process mapping in place to adapt to a new system, it may not perform optimally – affecting your return on investment and negatively impacting performance.

Critical steps in the change management process include: a top-down communication and roll-out plan, properly training users, reviewing utilization of features and functionality to identify areas that require further training or development, continually optimizing the system, and sharing feedback with your vendor. Another key element for successful adoption is empowering super users throughout your enterprise to serve as internal subject matter experts that champion the system, resolve questions, and maximize adoption.

3. Future-Proof your Ecosystem

Finally, make sure the investments you are making in digitalization today will remain relevant as your business needs – and the technology available to address them – continue to change.

Solutions that provide automatic updates and have a rapid pace of innovation will keep your business ahead long into the future. Furthermore, solutions that feature open APIs will enable you to plug in new, best-of-breed capabilities over time; this robust integration functionality can help incorporate specific tools and data streams critical to your business, effectively customizing your digital ecosystem without the overhead of custom development.

The digital evolution of the maritime industry is only just beginning; new innovations and changing market realities will create new applications for technology for years to come. A truly successful approach to digitalization will focus on business problems that can be addressed by technology, not on the technology itself. This will enable a strategy that addresses business needs, is championed by your internal team, and can evolve with shifting market and technological developments.