Using a crystal ball, let's look ahead to the year 2025 and see what will be going on…
Will self-driving cars, delivery drones or unmanned ships have made a major breakthrough? Will the switch to carbon neutral energy sources be in full swing? Will virtual and augmented reality or robot assistants and brain computers be part of every day life?
Possibly not yet.
But at least we can safely say that the world will be more interconnected and that the conventional chartering questionnaire will have been retired for a few years now. Yes, it was no longer needed.
Still, it used to do a job back in the day (around 5 years ago) - when there was no alternative. But then the alternative arrived and swept it away.
To appreciate how this alternative completely changed things, let’s start at the beginning.
Good decisions are the cornerstone of every company. To make those decisions companies need information and the best information is gathered from data.
Charterers need data from owners on their ships to make decisions on what ships are suitable candidates for chartering.
To do this the chartering questionnaire used to be employed.
The charterer would collect all the particulars they required information on, typically in an Excel or PDF document and then send it in the form of a questionnaire to the owner or management company to respond to.
The owner would answer it and send it back as an email attachment along with files, such as general arrangement plan and trim and stability booklets.
Simple and efficient, right?
On the face of it, the questionnaire was a reasonably robust way to gather data. The interface of an Excel file, PDF document or a web form is pretty familiar for most people to use. Creating a document with fields in Excel is a skill most people have and even the most computer challenged persons can complete the task of responding to a questionnaire upon receiving it. Attaching an answered questionnaire document to an email also works most of the time - except when you forget to attach it of course.
Still, not until the new way to do things emerged, did we fully understand that the conventional way of working was fraught with errors and inconsistencies.
Here follows a brief reminder of why:
Data that is manually inputted WILL ALWAYS contain errors
It is estimated that 3% of all manually inputted data has input errors, that’s 6 errors in a 200 field questionnaire on average. Which means that when you ask a human to become an intermediary between one data storage system - a document management system at the owner for example - to another - the questionnaire document which is forwarded to the charterer - input errors will occur.
Often small but sometimes big - and with consequences.
Manually inputting data is boring
The human condition is to procrastinate so we will always postpone the act inputting data manually, even though it seems pretty important to respond promptly to a request. This results in increased response time to questionnaires and perhaps lost opportunities on both sides.
Manually inputting data is costly
Having someone transport information from one system to another takes time. It is therefore more costly than you think because first of all you need to pay the person tasked with this and the person can’t be doing anything else in the meantime which represents an opportunity cost that you will not get back. Also tracing input errors can cost you.
An Excel or PDF document is not designed to be a data interface layer
Excel is a spreadsheet calculation tool with benefits while a PDF document is first and foremost designed to present text and images independent of the application software, hardware or operating system.
The bottom line is that these tools are not data interface layers.
Files have to be locked with a password and it is easy to ‘damage’ the document unintentionally so that it is becomes unusable to the receiver.
The sender also has to rely on the receiver to actually have the necessary application software installed to open and edit the questionnaire document.
There are inherit security and traceability risks
When answering a more elaborate Excel questionnaire document the receiver often has to allow macros, which are a piece of code with elevated privileges, to run in the document on the computer that the receiver is using. This can be risky if the macro contains dangerous code.
Documents that are passed via email are also more vulnerable to hacks since the email standard is not secure by design.
Submitting the Excel or PDF file via a web interface alleviates some of the security risks involved but still has the drawback that the receiver has to log into a site to upload a document that needs to be edited and managed on their computer in the first place.
Using a web form for the questionnaire is a step forward in security
However, web forms are still exposed to input errors and subject to delays because of procrastination at the receiver end, as well as the added administration burden of maintaining a user and password on a seemingly non-important web site.
Now, back to the future.
New technology to replace the questionnaire emerges
So when software services using master data management in the cloud started to emerge, gain acceptance and wide spread use, the days of the conventional way of asking for data through the chartering questionnaires were numbered.
Chartering questionnaires became obsolete and old-fashioned, and finally disappeared.
The owner could now store their master data on their ship particulars in one master data system in the cloud ready to be shared with every charterer (or other interested parties) that needed the data, at the click of a button.
Data would be shared using Application Program Interfaces (APIs) harnessing the power of the API economy.
And for the few charterers still set in their old way of using chartering questionnaires, data would simply be automatically exported by the cloud system to the template required by the charterer in question.
Gone were the days of repetitive manual input and the unavoidable input errors (the 3%)
Response to data requests became faster and in most cases automatic and instant.
Businesses were be able to unlock new value through better data, more information and faster and better decisions. Everybody won - except the dinosaurs. 🦖
But how did we get here?
First of all, by not accepting the seemingly easy and conventional way of the questionnaires-through-email-attachments workflow and realising that there was a better way to do things, even though it might have some upfront cost to begin with.
Secondly, by finding technology partners that had the vision and competence to deliver these solutions in the cloud.
Ankeri can help
Ankeri is one of those technology partners. The Ankeri Platform is a data driven digital platform for merchant shipping that provides master data management and controlled information sharing between shipping companies.
Now in 2020 the Ankeri Platform can help you, as a charterer or owner, to take the necessary steps to arrive safely in 2025, instead of being left behind.
So stop waiting for the future to arrive. We are ready to set up your free trial of Ankeri now.
More information at www.ankeri.net