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February 1, 2023

More products, more features, more innovation in 2023

Shipnet's John Wills talks about the future of product development, embracing the latest technologies and improving customer collaboration in 2023

Crew aboard a vessel working together

Shipnet and our customers in the year ahead

“Well: it’s 2023 and I'm not going to talk about road maps, I am not going to talk about shiny new products, and I am not going to talk full stack versus verticals. I’m going to talk about…"

... began the email from our Marketing Director, suggesting a starting line for a blog she was demanding at unfeasibly short notice. She concluded her note with: “that’s what I want it to say. It’s just the end bit of that sentence I am missing”

So, thanks Jenny… here you go!

What does one say at the start of a new year? A whole twelve months to move things forwards - perhaps by creating something entirely new for new markets, or cementing relationships with existing customers by building out the features that they request. Why not both? 


But simply restating business-as-usual seems a poor use of a once a year opportunity to speak of the future. (And, as an aside -this is our BAU: Shipnet have launched 7 new products in the last 18 months, and delivered around 400 feature improvements to existing ones).


Instead, I’ll talk a little about the past: two years ago, we completed a review of our products and set about creating a strategy to move forwards as a business.

That strategy focussed on three areas:

Web- we were to move to a web-first model for product development, whilst improving the underlying mechanics of our platform to support a future wholly web iteration of our product

• Mobile- we identified the areas where mobile apps would make a positive contribution to the end users lives, and started to develop the skills and technology to deliver those

• AI and Robotics-we decided to start using the (then new) AI driven services to automate and improve the user experience in our products.


Successes so far, and plans for 2023

So, as we move into 2023, we can report successes across all three fronts. On web and mobile we’ve reworked the back end of ShipnetOne to perform better in a web-centred environment, and we’ve launched Dry Docking, Documents Cloud, and Invoice Capture - all web first products. We also have a number of mobile apps, and will be launching ShipInspect (more soon!) in a few weeks. 


AI and Robotics is the space I want to talk about as, for the first time since the iPhone- we seem to have a technology that actually lives up to the hype (sorry NFT, sorry Blockchain, sorry Crypto….).


We’ve had a number of internal tech demos for AI for several years, but only one screamed at us to be productised - and that was Invoice Capture, which uses AI to learn invoices to extract data from them and insert it into our Accounting and Procurement systems. This is neat and is proving popular with the customers who are currently trialling it, but it’s not something that we felt was transformatory.


Which brings me to Chat-GPT.  

We cannot really talk about what we are trying with this now (for obvious reasons- we know who browses our website!), but it’s safe to say that Chat-GPT makes all previous iterations of Large Language Model AI look like the Wright Flyer parked next to an F35. I will say that we’ve got our commercial license request in, and are continuing to play with the tech, just exploring options and building use cases. But that’s getting very close to shiny new products, which I promised I wouldn’t talk about.


What I will say is this: we’ve collaborated on what we classify as innovation projects with around 22% of our customers in the last year, and we have outstanding requests for further collaborations around everything from environmental monitoring, RPI, AI, analytics, safety management, vessel valuations, and far more sitting in our inboxes and quarterly plans, and for me, that’s where the real magic lies. 

Shiny tech is all well and good, but if you cannot find a real-world use for it, you may as well not have it, and software vendors are the worst people in the world to try to find a real world use for tech. So - if you are a user of software, please drop me a line, and maybe we can talk chatGPT together in the very near future.

John Wills
VP Product
John Wills VP Product at Shipnet

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