It’s hard to imagine a shipping business without an IT department nowadays. As technology becomes more and more advanced, carriers keep up by taking advantage of the latest innovations and best practices in the industry in order to remain competitive. Forward thinking operators have taken advantage of the rapidly changing technology by using advanced shipping software solutions to enhance their competitive advantage. However, when it comes to choosing the right software solution, the shipping industry is divided between in-house and packaged solutions. Shipping companies need to analyze their unique requirements to determine the type of business solution that will bring more advantage to their daily operations.
Global operators seem to have conflicting views with regard to the cost-effectiveness of building in-house IT systems compared with buying ready-made, customizable platforms. Both have their own advantage when it comes to streamlining operations that have direct effect on the cost-efficiency of a shipping business. Understanding the specific differences between these two systems can help operators make more informed decisions in using their resources.
Many operators prefer hiring programmers and software developers, and build customized software to fit their specific business requirements. Doing this gives them full control of software development. However, bespoke or in-house systems will require time until they are working live, which will delay the positive impact of automation sometimes up to 3-4 years as seen for bigger implementations. It will also consume resources on the carrier side not only from the IT but also from the involved departments.
In addition, the fact that technology evolves rapidly, software solutions that have been custom-tailored to support a specific function may date quickly and not work on newer platforms, necessitating a painful upgrade that may include an expensive migration process. For the same reason, in-house systems require skilled IT staff which results in increased operational expenses – something that does not sound interesting in a slumping economy.
Generally, ready-made shipping software are a lot cheaper and easier to implement when compared with in-house systems. In fact, buying off-the-shelf solution can be 10 to 50 times cheaper than developing a bespoke system. In addition, modern packaged software incorporates a switching capability, which allows the user to customize each application to handle specific requirements without any expensive re-programming. Once customized, packaged software have the capability to automate time-consuming and resource-intrusive business processes.
Modern packages solutions are flexible enough to work for almost any carrier, regardless of size, specialization, or local requirements. This capability makes it even more appealing for vessel operators to buy off-the-shelf instead of commissioning expensive in-house solutions.
Packaged software solutions are widely available in the software market and can be purchased at very reasonable prices. In addition, many software companies offer excellent guarantee periods for their products during which any software issues are fixed without extra cost.
Change can be Painful
Despite the impressive features of packaged shipping software solutions, many carriers are still stuck with bespoke systems because of perceived difficulties that accompany a change in IT infrastructure. In most cases, these difficulties have something to do with legacy systems which often control key areas of a shipping business. Change in this case must be managed properly using correct methodologies avoid common problems that usually come with the process of implementing a new business system.
Shipping goods involves too many complicated processes that require focus and expertise in all aspects. To be more productive, operators must focus on their core business which is operating ships. They should not divert large amounts of resources to other activities outside their expertise to avoid uncontrolled expenses that can hurt their business in the long run.