The cloud is radically changing how software is developed and delivered. Today, most new software solution providers such as Ankeri build their product offering from the ground up and make it available to their customers as SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) in the cloud while other providers are gradually moving their existing offering into the same model. Cloud computing, with its increased flexibility, opens up the possibility to offer services where companies can easily collaborate and manage their data with ease. The SaaS model also aligns the long term interests of service providers to provide relevant and competitive software, with the interest of customers to have the latest updates of applications at all times. Other important benefits of SaaS include speed of implementation, easier customisations, integrations with other systems and last but not least lower costs and improved competitiveness.
The rising of cloud based systems using the SaaS models has started the age of the API economy. But what is it and why does it matter in merchant shipping?
The modern digital economy and digital transformations are built on APIs (application programming interfaces), enabling businesses to create ecosystems around their services. An API allows one piece of software to talk to another. These pieces can be internal within the same software platform, but it also allows external and unconnected software platforms to talk to each other in a standard way without the tedious friction caused by the intervention of humans. APIs can connect different software applications and allow 3rd party developers to build on top of existing products and services.
This opens up the possibility to create an ecosystem of extendable platforms that enhance offerings for companies at minimal cost. Instead of waiting for one provider to deliver everything, the API economy gives companies access to multiple providers, each with its own strengths. As technologies mature, companies will find their niche within their domain and deliver value based on their expertises instead of relying on their corporate strength. When a single provider unlocks its proprietary systems and allows others to benefit from its expertise via API, a value is created. When a whole network of such expert systems, along with systems exchanging the data needed, combine their forces - that is when the magic happens.
This is what makes the API economy so powerful.
Information exchange in merchant shipping
As with many other innovations in the digital spectrum, the international shipping industry hasn't been very quick on its feet when it comes to adapting to this new API economy. The tendency to solve problems with in-house solutions (spreadsheets ... we're looking at you) and to keep information close to chest has made companies skeptic towards this new trend, resulting in slow adaptation compared to what is happening in other industries. This lack of standardised, reliable and frictionless information exchange between ship owners and charterers does not only eat up a lot of valuable time from employees, but it can also create misunderstanding and even misaligned incentives when it comes to overall operational performance of the ships in question.
Although the shipping industry has lagged behind other industries in making use of digitisation, we can expect great improvements in the next years since there are already a lot of companies realising the importance of building good APIs around shipping products.
How Ankeri can fast-track your digital journey
Ankeri embraces API interoperability and is ready for full participation in the API economy, where the objective of each player should be to provide value to their customers by enhancing their own knowledge with support from other solution providers within the API economy. Rather than building the API economy around few core providers, it should be built with participation from everyone who is ready to bring value to the table.
Ankeri has already started co-operating with other solution providers to support the API economy for merchant shipping, both by consuming data and knowledge from external expert systems as well as by providing information to external expert systems. The objective behind those integrations is not to promote or push other products but simply to increase the value provided to our customers.
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