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Update Jan 2007

Is Document Management the same in all industries?

A. A new law regarding the water ballast treatment is coming into force from July 01, 2007 in Washington State.
As of July 1, 2007, the discharge of improperly exchanged or treated ballast water into Washington State waters will be prohibited, thus invalidating current safety exemptions for exchange. Vessel operators must begin now to plan for implementing treatment alternatives to exchange.
By July 1, 2006, operators were required to submit a report to Local Authorities (WDFW) describing how they will meet the July 1, 2007 requirements. Prior to the July 1, 2007 deadline, vessels could have discharged ballast that had not been exchanged by declaring a safety exemption.
The new law will require that a series of documents and reports be submitted to local authorities twenty four hours in advance, and that a number of processes be completed. Each document scopes differently and also has different instructions for its completion.
Similar requirements are now being enforced in many areas around the world. However, each region requires different documents or reports to meet this new standard. Masters and operators need to be alerted to these different requirements as fines will be imposed in cases of non-compliance while even heavier fines will be imposed in cases where the process was incorrectly implemented.
This situation raises a number of concerns:

  • How will a Master will be able to recognize which form is most appropriate for the area, and which report procedure should he follow?
  • How can he select the proper form for the Washington State when it is similar, but not the same as other US States?
  • How will he be alerted to minor changes for which he has been warned by the office, if these warnings have been circulated to all ships via e-mail that records hundreds of other messages over e period of time - or alternatively via a DM system that does not recognize voyages, ports, processes etc.

It is important to remember that ballast is not the only item that must meet individual port specifications. For example bunker sulfur content requirements are also voyage and port specific, machinery warnings a machinery specific, training certification is rank and crew member specific etc.

In order to ensure that relevant warnings, alarms, notices, and coordinating information are delivered when the relevant action is being taken, they must all be indexed so that they are available to the user at the moment he needs them. Conventional document management systems will show you any warning when you consciously execute a search. However, faced with real world scenarios, can you rely on people to consciously look for these warnings, to know that any warnings exist to begin with, or even to know the document title? Clearly the answer is no, at which point a company must determine how to post these warnings so that they appear when needed. This is a very daunting task unless you have set up a system whereby all warnings related to a task are connected to the user at the time of need.

B. Is document management the same in all industries?
Yes. Putting aside minor issues like discontinuous communications in industries like the marine industry, documents and files are the same.

The same is true for e-mail. Documents and e-mail are separated by the difference between messaging and shared documents.

But enterprises do not want documents or e-mail. They want communication, co-ordination, and in a nutshell awareness at the time of need.

Companies want:

  • To recognize problems they know about, at just the right time.
  • To use systems for classic problem solving exercises which are process generic, especially in ship management.
  • To be aware of problems that they did not realize existed, just at the right time.
  • The answers to questions that will guide actions, when they are wondering what to do.
  • Issues to come to mind that they are not thinking about, that they should have been thinking about.
  • They want just in time help.
  • Employees to continue the work of their colleagues who left in the middle of a complex co-ordination exercise like stopping a large vessel to perform repairs or overhauls.
  • To avoid time consuming meetings and phone calls.
  • To make sure that the right people are involved in discussions and have an input in reaching conclusions.
  • To be able to retrieve specific documents, like contracts or certificates, at the time of need.
  • On board staff to provide the right information in the right format.
  • Reports tailored for the right person and decision level.
  • To save half an hour a day on filing and retrieving. Filing and retrieving in a content management system is a mental process so unnatural that it takes more concentration than the best problem solving exercise.

So what issues is the core of achieving awareness at the time of need?
The answer lies in the following:

1. Is the need for information goal and process specific?


2. Is the need for information in the enterprise a need for exactly the right information and no irrelevant information?

3. Is the need for the right information for the right goal and process needed instantaneously or is there time to devise searches and look through search results?
The reality is you can only search for what you are looking for, not what you might need and may not be looking for. Also if there are twenty or so areas of potential risk and interest in a task such as port arrival it is impractical to devise twenty searches.

At the core of the above three requirements is that information must be indexed to a fine degree that is tailored to the goals and processes of the enterprise.

Can this be done generically across industries? Some of it; yes. Some elements of enterprise modelling are common to all industries. Some elements are not.

So any system attempting to model all industries must do so one industry at a time.

So to conclude, document management and e-mail must be modelled for each industry if they are to achieve awareness at the time of need.

C. Why is Task Orientation central to achieving software that works in the maritime industry and software that offers process integration?
Task orientation presents users with objects that are exclusively relevant to the functionality of their role, responsibilities, and position. This is especially important when faced with the myriad of business processes in an enterprise. This frees a user from searching through hundreds of irrelevant functions for a specified sequence of functions in the software that he is required to complete. The system presents only the necessary functions, which it then presents in the sequence that the user requires to complete his job. It also represents the permissions related to the role and the tasks, it presents related messaging, related follow on functions etc. Moreover, it presents this functionality in a seamless fashion that avoids conscious entry and exit form different applications. The software also ensures one interface convention for all functionality in all applications.

Furthermore, the Task Assistant pre-empts the user with relevant information from other sources in the enterprise that could be relevant to the task at hand. Since the user may not be aware of information contained in the system that may be needed for the execution of as task, the task orientation presents the user with all relevant information at the right time in the execution of the task.

The TA model filters by BURTC (Business Unit, Role, Task, Context) which is essential to leveraging the predictive patters for all BURTC nodes. Without the TA you cannot avoid repeating entire predictive patters for one tiny contextual change.

In our example above, by selecting particular tasks like "Ballast Management" or "Prepare arrival in Port" and the relevant context port "Seattle WA", the necessary information for the selected port with respect to particular special requirements will appear, along with a history of previously relevant documents. Correspondence, previous reports, warnings, recommendations and actions will appear within three very familiar and intuitive mouse clicks. The completeness of this package of relevant information (minus the irrelevant information such as the information related to other ports or to port related cargo facilities) will play a role in guiding the Master of how to complete these special documents and reports in the best way possible. Since all information - both background and current - is instantly available, favorable results are easily attainable and easier to control. Reporting can be traced back and due diligence can be proved anytime.

Pure messaging would never achieve this type of information at the time of need.
Last but not least conventional document management systems and corporate portals were never designed as support tools to enhance peoples' performance in the organization. They were designed to overcome the distance and logistics of controlling documents and the password, access obstacles for many different systems in large organisations.

To support users in promoting consistency and continuous improvement, document management systems and corporate portals will need to be fitted with rich enterprise models tailored to each industry through intense modelling of the knowledge structures within each industry.