Efficient Ship Management
Differentiation
Coordination
Cost Savings
Captain Decides

Benefits to Shipmanagement

Task Assistant was conceived in the quest to find the simplest solution to the most central causes of ship management problems.
Task Assistant was not a software tool that pre-existed and was later adapted to ship management, or a narrow process software solution looking for wider justification in shipping. Task Assistant was chosen as an underlying solution for the following core issues in management.

We found that all the below highlighted core issues had a common need that was missing.

The missing common need was information handling.

Task Assistant started with the quest to share information among many users, so as to get early and reliable indications of areas needing attention while also getting relevant information to people that need it, in a clear and timely way. The success of the design as a information handling tool comes from its highlighting the shipping goals in every aspect of its handling of information, so that all users can find what they need and also contribute to the shared information without effort or software training.

In the following we describe how we have found that Task Assistant specifically helps the managerial core issues mentioned above. We would welcome any feedback from you that may add value to our quest to really solve managerial problems with information technology as compared to putting products in front of customers.

Recognising changing priorities and allocating resources to priorities.
How do you use Task Assistant to recognise changing priorities and allocate resources to them?

  • The task tree of each role plus the task labelling associated with role related tasks, helps to keep priorities emphasised, and progress related to them, very transparent. The outstanding information dissemination of Task Assistant enables the clear highlighting of the status of work on any task relevant to a priority.
  • The information-indexing model of Task Assistant, in being goal based, is able to easily disseminate priority-related information since priorities are of course goals. Specifically task labelling enables some simplification in finding information relevant to priorities.
  • Co-ordination which is in most cases the most important aid to addressing priorities in multi member organisations, is one of the fundamental areas where Task Assistant provides unique value. Task Assistant aids co-ordination by capturing the result of people’s work and presenting it to others in the company in the most intuitive, lucent and efficient way.
  • Allocation of resources must often be changed to suit priorities. This of course requires a clear view of priorities, agreement from various stakeholders of the affected issues to reallocate resources, and often-considerable effort to create the circumstances to divert the resources. Following this there is the challenge of supervising the change so that it is sustained.

Task Assistant can help in the following ways: It makes it much easier to focus attention to matters of importance because it automatically disseminates information so efficiently that matters of growing importance have outstanding transparency as do all items of information in Task Assistant. A change of priorities from the management, for example, is so easily traceable that it is unlikely to lose emphasis among so many other communications. Task Assistant also helps in highlighting the tasks of individuals and departments so that a change in resource allocation is easily seen in light of all the other priorities of the people involved which may need to be de-emphasised or may call for additional backup resources. Furthermore Task Assistant helps to supervise any change in allocation of effort by nature of its transparent presentation of information relevant to the new priority.

For example in a cases where the destination port of a vessel has been changed just a day before arrival, all the tasks of re organising must be carefully orchestrated in a limited time. The task tree, and the goal based information indexing helps relevant departments within the organisation to co-ordinate actions, disseminate important information, avoid repeating or omitting communications, and in general emphasises goals and minimises wasting of time and effort. This is because the goal based information indexing is a guide to the right path of actions needed to achieve co-ordination, as well as an easy, familiar, transparent and well distributed collaborative action plan.

Understand the cause and effect of problems.
How do you use Task Assistant to understand the cause and effect of problems?

  • Regular reports from predetermined sources. To assess and diagnose problems, senior maritime staff must study records of previous data so as to eliminate potential causes. Task Assistant helps to maintain regularity by virtue of its intuitive ease of use and elimination of the complexity of establishing good reporting.
  • Customised reports from tasks and contexts relevant to a current problem. Task Assistant makes the introduction and establishment of new reports easier and more effective than any other system.
  • Regular documentation as a by product of people’s work that is so easy to provide consistently, that it is sufficiently reliable and consistent. Task Assistant collects many times more information than any other system because it is easy to use and adds convenience at every stage of information management.
  • Regular study of the cause and effect of problems in a corporate wide discussion.
  • Indexing of the concise resume of problems by task and context so as to create corporate procedures and warnings relevant to everyday work.

Task Assistant is unique in its ability to highlight valuable knowledge learned form solving problems and showing the results of such knowledge at the time when users will find it most useful, that is just before doing similar work.

For example the Ch. Engineer of a vessel is taking over in a ship. The special attention given by the chief engineer as to the maintenance and operation of the machinery should, to a great extent, be based in prior performance and incident records. Paying attention to the wrong issues can be fatal. Even more important and difficult to diagnose without good indicators, is the tracking of the causes and history leading to unnecessary delays to a vessel for repairs, and other such expensive losses of time.

Choose reliable indicators that are consistently available.
How do you use Task Assistant to Choose reliable indicators that are consistently available?

  • Experienced managers can pinpoint tasks and areas of the business, which carry significant intuitively relevant indicators. These indicators should be more than just regular reports known to be scrutinised for indications. This is because regular reports are often overzealously complied with to show a desired picture. Internal indicators should be sought in data that is regular, data that is a natural by product of work, and data stemming from a number of sources.
  • Study the correlation of these intuitive indicators with desired departmental or corporate results.

A classic example of such indicators is internal defect lists written on the vessel by the officers. These often show the crew’s emphasis on maintenance while external auditors often emphasise other defects and non-conformities. A good manager needs to know the trends within his company as regards the attention given to defects and indicators such as internal defects lists are very important.
A lucid system of information management can bring such internal indicators to light.

Assess risk rewards of main tasks.
How do you use Task Assistant to Assess risk rewards of main tasks?

  • By understanding enough about historic problems (company and industry wide) and their cause and effect.
  • By analysing risks and rewards through the analysis of the human factor. Task Assistant gives the most comprehensive template for analysing risks and rewards of maritime tasks and the contexts in which they are performed.
  • Indexing of key historic incidents so that they can easily be viewed with respect to a task, and having regular assessments of measures to avoid incidents for each high-risk task.

Assess the performance of personnel.
How do you use Task Assistant to assess the performance of personnel.

  • Task Assistant provides the means of assessing the output of individuals in specific tasks through its automatic indexing of work output to specific business tasks.
  • Task Assistant also provides the means of making highly efficient customised searches of data relevant to assessing performance of individuals.
  • This makes it easier to assess the output and compare it to desired output as a means to supporting other performance criteria.

Saving valuable time and unnecessary mental preoccupation.
When can the obvious advantages of Task Assistant help in saving time.

  • When we are building up the corporate information/co-ordination system and we need to make it simple easy to do correctly and above all to use the minimum amount of valuable time of the many members of the company staff.
  • Whenever we need to quickly and without dissemination refer to information prepared by others. (for example to make a crucial decision)
  • Whenever we need corporate knowledge especially if we don’t know exactly where it has been recorded.
  • Whenever we need quick reference to information before taking action.
  • Whenever time is limited.
  • Whenever comprehensive task familiarity needs to be improved.
  • Whenever documentation consistency needs to be helped.
  • Whenever a lot of internally generated material helps in the decision and execution.

There are many other aspects of information management that Task Assistant helps to shorten and save considerable time.
Maritime companies spend hours per employee per day processing information and being preoccupied with the process rather than the content. Task Assistant has been designed to minimise time and confusion in processing information.

The distribution of clear company instructions without undermining the initiative of individuals.
How does Task Assistant help to achieve consistency clarity and creativity?

Task Assistant has an in built document management system for distributing corporate policy and procedures. More importantly it combines procedures with the ability to distribute less structured but often much more powerful accounts of experience.

Task Assistant also provides the easiest possible guidance on finding and deploying company checklists and mandatory action templates.
These  factors help protect individuals in the field from the fear of unnecessary blame, they help to make concise instructions available and also promote diligence and common sense through the distribution of informal accounts of experience.

Why is Task Assistant suitable in all these cases;
Task Assistant addresses the fundamental problem of organising information so that not just one but many people can handle it intuitively. This is in contrast to any other commercially available software, which offers intuitive assistance only to experts or a narrow set of users. Like any good tool, Task Assistant addresses a human shortcoming with a very practical remedy. So having mitigated the effect of a human shortcoming in a practical and workable way, the practical applications can be many.
To draw a parallel with other similarly practical tools that solve human shortcomings, the Internet also has many more applications than normally anticipated because it practically and efficiently addresses a fundamental need of people to network and disseminate their information at low cost.
Similarly the application of using Task Assistant to solve problems such as improve management methods, is one of the many possible applications.