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Identifying the ‘art of the possible’ through data

This week’s Virtual Innovation Hub event discussed Data Strategy and how organisations in the maritime industry can begin to collaborate and share their data for improved decision-making. It’s a highly relevant topic for the Port of Tyne, as we continue to work towards the key deliverables in our Tyne 2050 strategy.

Thank you to all our guests from industry and academia, plus our two fantastic speakers from Connected Places Catapult—Louise Fildes and Tamar Loach. Both Louise and Tamar have supported countless organisations to realise very tangible benefits from sharing strategic data, which was evident in the housing management and smart energy case studies they shared.

What data could ports and the wider maritime industry ecosystem be sharing? Today, our delegates considered the mutual benefits of access to data concerning maintenance history, weather reports and environmental emissions data, joint customer satisfaction ratings and road transport movements amongst others. These are just a few of the potential data applications, as we start to open up our many siloes of information and collaborate around shared data.

At the Port of Tyne, we are in the early stages of our own data strategy project. It is one of 35 strategic transformation initiatives underway as part of our Tyne 2050 vision.  Specifically by taking a ‘microservices approach’ to our own data strategy, we hope to pinpoint exactly which individual data sets, when brought together, will most contribute to fuelling real innovation. In doing this, we believe the potential exists to influence a snowball effect—an ‘innovation snowball’ within the maritime industry. When we achieve this, we will all benefit from the multiplier effect that a collaborative, data driven approach will bring.

Our overall aim is to push the boundaries of common practice and challenge the status quo, going beyond what is common practice in the maritime industry now. For example, we intend to introduce AI and machine learning, with a view to becoming a test bed for new technology. This will not only help to transform the Port of Tyne and make it more successful, but to create a new industry benchmark for the way other ports, and also the wider maritime industries around the world can be embracing data sharing.

The first task in realising this vision is to identify the data we hold within our infrastructure—spanning operations, finance, HR and the local community. Not all this data will be pertinent to achieving our future strategy goals, and understanding its relative importance is our first task.  Part of this initial data mapping exercise also includes mapping our key internal and external stakeholders and prioritising them—both in terms of relevance to our data strategy vision and how we might share connected data and collaborate. As COVID-19 has made us all keenly aware, the people and processes we rely on are changing all the time, so we need to identify which data sets are most important now and also for our future business.

Having highly efficient, real time, integrated operations to be able to allow our systems to inform us of where to direct incoming vessels into a berth provides a great example of what we would like to achieve within Operations Management. One day, we hope our engineers will be able to shout out “Alexa, pick my berth!” with total confidence. To that end, ‘how to use data to optimise berth selection’ is one of many questions we are now asking ourselves.  This is what the team at Connected Places Catapult describe as identifying the ‘art of the possible’ through a ‘problem first’ approach.

Along with the expected ethics, governance and legal considerations, one of the unforeseen challenges when it comes to implementing a collaborative data strategy is changing mindsets and building the trust needed to enable external stakeholders to feel confident about releasing their data. Many organisations, both inside and external to the maritime industry, don’t yet see this vision. Over the coming months, we hope to work together with them to define what this should look like and think through non-conventional ways we can use and benefit from shared data.

Mindset towards data sharing is a barrier to change that needs to be driven from the very top of an organisation by its senior leadership. And linked to mindset change is the need for organisations to re-learn some of their entrenched behaviours. They need to start using data to guide their decision-making rather than leaning on ‘experience’ and following gut instinct.

It cannot be emphasised enough that mindset change is critical, especially where an organisation needs to share sensitive data. However, as our 2050 Innovation Hub Partners and colleagues at Connected Places Catapult indicated, they are seeing real change in this area. COVID-19 brought with it the need for many organisations to collaborate and share information for the first time, and we all hope it will continue.

Further information 

For more information about the applications of a collaborative data strategy in industry, download the Connected Places Catapult toolkit: https://cp.catapult.org.uk/case-studies/city-data-sharing-toolkit/

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