Update May 2003


With new developments in ship technology, strict procedures for safety and security as well as endless checklists, forms and certificates, there are plenty of reasons to send mariners on training courses. So why add to their already heavy workload training on using complicated software?

Continuous internal transparent record keeping, effective dissemination of information and improved efficiency are some of the key factors ship operators look for when making a software purchase. However ship management software that is too complicated for mariners to understand not only requires costly training programmes but also is unlikely to be used effectively anyway.

Software training is additionally unjustifiable given the high staff turnover within the industry. It often exceeds the cost of the software investment and can wipe out the anticipated value of the entire software purchase exercise! Marine software should be logical enough for any user to understand assuming they have a very basic knowledge of computers.

The key is to make software user-literate rather than training users to be computer-literate. Successful software simplifies tasks and removes the need for users to understand the computer’s language. Tasks such as booking a holiday involve a complicated set of procedures, but many web sites use innovative software programmes to enable anyone surfing the Internet to book a holiday.

In the same way, Ulysses Systems designed Task Assistant™ in order to make the user interface so logical that it can be used intuitively by the vast variety of computer users. Designed specifically for the users of the marine industry Task Assistant™ addresses the need for clear functionality. The system becomes a valuable tool.
Only when the flow of functions follows the real-world processes the user expects.
Good indexing is crucial for the system to be actually used. It is pointless for an organisation to invest in a large scale purchasing system if mariners only use it as a ‘simple’ form to requisition a spare part. For any system to be valuable it must be used throughout the ordering process, so that the software must take the user through all the necessary steps intuitively.

In this way, mariners can find out whether the part they are seeking is already in stock and if it is a part of upcoming maintenance or if it is already on order. While a record will be held throughout the process. Any user would ignore a poorly indexed system - and the cost of the software, the training and the effort to deploy it is wasted.

A system specifically designed to provide good indexing and clear functionality, such as Task Assistant™, makes a mariner's job easier and will more than pay for itself with savings in the region of $90,000 per vessel per year.

The money that's saved could then be used to provide mariners with training that will make a real difference to the job they are paid to do and further enhance the efficiency of a vessel.