While most in the shipbuilding technology industry focus on one or more of the phases of shipbuilding – designing, engineering, building, or maintaining vessels – SSI has also focused on developing a solution that makes the connection of those phases possible. Throughout all of the company’s 30 years, from the Founder Rolf Oetter’s initial prototypes and products, a clear shipbuilding specific development vision has persisted.
That initial vision uniquely focused on empowering shipbuilders to concentrate on the business of shipbuilding and it persists to this day. Seeing first-hand such a close connection with a specific industry made me curious to understand the subtleties that are behind developing a product for the shipbuilding industry.
This post is part of a series that celebrates SSI’s 30th Anniversary. Click here to see the entire series.
What defines a product vision?
In the Agile sense, the product vision “describes a future state of the Product and what problems it tries to resolve or what ambitions it tries to fulfill.” We intrinsically know that, even in our everyday life, that even the existence of a goal helps motivate us to achieve it. For something that is as dynamic and enduring as an organization, it becomes necessary to abstract that vision; however, the end result of that vision remains the same. Ultimately, it fosters focus and accountability.
What characterizes a clear vision?
While it’s easy to say that the guiding principles of an overarching vision are important, where does one come from? Does SSI really have one? For SSI, the origin of the company came from a desire to democratize the power of modern computing to shipbuilders. Throughout the company’s history, that goal has evolved in lock-step with the requirements of shipbuilders worldwide.
The focus on making it easier for those in our industry to concentrate on shipbuilding has particularly become refined through the leadership of SSI’s co-CEOs Darren Larkins and Denis Morais. Since 1999 and 2002 respectively, the two now-executives harnessed a combination of the technical aspect of the software, kept a finger on the pulse of the shipbuilding industry, and worked with the founder to find a way to combine the two.
SSI Origin Story
In the early 1990s, Rolf worked closely with shipbuilders in the US to understand what they expected from ShipCAM. He saw early on that the introduction of any new technology was going to have to play within the realities of shipbuilding, and not the other way around. Any disruption to project timelines or workflows as a result of implementation would need to be kept at a minimum or the value would not be there. The focus had to be on the impact on today as well as the future. This was a unique approach at the time and to this day SSI’s approach remains the only approach truly specific to shipbuilding.
Rolf knew connection with other platforms would be essential and from the start ensured his engineering software was compatible with other leading tools in the shipbuilding industry (AutoCAD and SQL servers). Over the past three decades we’ve continued to expand on that vision, focusing on how a Platform of Platform’s ecosystem and an open architecture allows shipbuilders to implement the best technology available, while minimizing disruption and making connections easy.
How does product development for shipbuilding really happen?
The development of many of the products we use every day can often seem like a black hole. Many organizations just use the features they use without much interaction with the vendor, if any, beyond purchase or renewal. But this reality has never been the case for SSI clients. Early on, when ShipConstructor was still an emerging platform, new feature requests were a way of life. Legend has it that in the early 2000s ShipConstructor users received 10 releases in a single 24 hour period. Now, with programs like the Client Council and Subscription Advantage Pack, our clients continue to have a direct line of feedback on the future of our products.
By working so closely with shipbuilders from around the world, across different disciplines, SSI’s leaders have gained an understanding of the industry from a wider perspective than many shipbuilding companies. Fundamentally, this is the difference between being reactive and proactive. That wider perspective, captured in posts on the Waveform and Crow’s Nest blogs, is what allows SSI to see the evolution of the industry before it happens on a large scale. Consistently observing what is happening in the industry makes it possible for us to adapt to a change before it is needed. This cutting edge knowledge is showcased throughout conferences and events around the world, which also provide just one opportunity to connect first-hand with other leaders in our industry.
What does that really mean?
Striving to understand the problems shipbuilders face, and looking ahead toward those they will face in the future, will always be central to the direction of our company. From day one and for the following 30 years our dedication to the business of shipbuilding industry as uniquely positioned SSI as the ONLY approach that allows our partners to be agile enough to adapt to the technical innovations of today. Without that clear thread linking our past, present, and future, it would be near impossible to effectively empower shipbuilders around the world to focus on the business of shipbuilding. As it stands, SSI has a clear vision for the future of shipbuilding, software, and our company.