The global port operating environment is constantly changing as it strives to meet sustainability objectives and address bottlenecks in the port–hinterland interface. With new trends like ‘just in time arrival’ and ‘emissions reduction tracking’ increasingly being prioritised, the rate of change can be felt profoundly at all levels of an organisation. Even ports that are less adventurous with their modernisation efforts, can find themselves grappling with significant disruption from supply chain system or sea transport advances.
Saab Managing Director Pavel Skournik says regardless of a company’s appetite for innovation, these external forces mean a strong change management process is essential for any port operator. All the more so for those looking to turn their back on decades-old systems and embrace new, more sustainable, ways of working.
He says this human aspect of innovating is of equal importance to technology planning but is rarely credited with the same attention.
“When it comes to digital transformations, technology planning is only half of the equation – and, in my view, it’s the easy half,” he said. “The human side of the strategy – change management – needs just as much focus for any transformative, port-wide technology to succeed. Unless your people are on board and up to speed with new ways of working, you can expect resistance, delays and errors. Ultimately, this means less happy customers, staff, and stakeholders.”
So, what constitutes a good change management strategy, according to Saab?
No stone unturned
Organisational change affects everyone, so naturally, a good change management strategy will factor in everyone too. With this in mind, leaders should brainstorm with their vendor team about how new systems and processes might affect the day-to-day lives of staff within all pockets of the organisation. From operations to communications, no stone should be left unturned, Pavel advises.
“Innovations of any kind – no matter how small – can have a large impact on people’s daily routines. This should not be underestimated,” he said.
“A new software that is designed to help maximise throughput won’t just affect the operations team. It will mean that communications teams need to adjust their messaging; and customer services will need to handle new, more sophisticated, requests.
“The impact can be profound and far-reaching, which is the actual goal and the way to maximize the value of the change.”
An effective change management strategy will bring everyone ‘on board’ and keep everyone ‘up to speed’ with new technologies or processes. In both of these tasks, early and regular communication is critical.
“Leaders that understand the value of the technology will inspire teams to embrace new ways of working. Those that articulate goals and value clearly will succeed – not only in training, but in having their teams drive and own the process. For this reason, communication should be a key area of attention of any change management strategy,” Pavel said.
Plan well ahead
While effective project planning is crucial, even the most thoughtfully-curated program will fall short if not timed and resourced appropriately during the digital transformation process, Pavel said.
“Ensuring your people are available and managing their workload during the innovation project is crucial. This applies for planning your communication, training, design sessions and other project activities.
“There are many little things that should be taken into consideration. For this reason, it is important to have an internal project champion that will oversee the duration of the project – from requirements clarification all the way to live operation,” he added.
Tailor your approach
Each port is unique in terms of geography, rules, and work processes. This means that custom software that has been installed successfully in one or two locations worldwide may encounter difficulties in another location.
Pavel advises leaders to consider the unique requirements of their port and select a solution that can be configured to fit the needs.
“Ports have different levels of complexity and needs for automation, so software, for example, will need to be configured accordingly. A niche port that deals mostly with oil will have very different requirements than a port with more diverse cargoes. It could be that something that has worked really well in one port experiences teething problems in another.
“I recommend building project teams that work together with the vendor to create a perfect mix of both best industry practices and local knowledge. Also seek out other clients of the vendor. A good vendor will always be able to connect a new client to a seasoned client for tips and mentoring.”
Clearly defined goals and metrics
Ports that pay attention to change management can experience smoother project implementation and better adoption. To this end, Pavel encourages leaders to clearly define their transformation goals from the outset.
“It’s not enough to just hope for the best when you begin your technology journey. Understanding how each facet is working, regularly reviewing progress, and celebrating milestones with your team are essential to success.
“Clients tell us that investing in technology can pay for itself, often within the first year of implementation, so doing it right – and taking human factors into consideration – is well worth it,” he concluded.
Pavel Skournik has over 25 years’ experience in global management, strategy, business development, and operations. With his history in software development, business analysis, product management and customer relations, he has a unique combination of skills and experiences to bring value to clients. He is well recognized for creative problem solving and providing leadership in various areas. He has a long history of success in managing complex maritime projects around the world.
Hear more from Pavel at the 2022 IHMA Congress on 27-30 June. This year’s event will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.