In a recent post on his blog Denis Morais talked about how our clients see SSI as a strategic partner rather than just a software vendor. I certainly agree and have even noticed that potential clients are looking to us more and more as trusted advisers when we engage with them.
However what struck me the most on that same trip, and not for the first time, was another fairly unique attribute of our clients: community. Even amongst clients in the same market who directly compete on the same work there is a level of collaboration and sharing of best practices that is atypical. For much larger software companies, like Autodesk for example, it is easier to reach the critical mass required to achieve sustained end user collaboration. In a smaller and very competitive industry it isn’t as common.
Within the ShipConstructor eco-system in the Benelux, not limited to but perhaps centered around the same clients Denis mentioned (Vripack, Peters Shipyards, Royal Huisman), everyone has a high level of visibility into what is going on with everyone else. They also tend to share engineering resources and partner on many of their individual projects. Of course, there are a range of solid and pragmatic business reasons behind this phenomenon. They all use ShipConstructor which makes collaboration both more effective and more likely to occur. These companies are also aware of the power of a combined voice when dealing with those from whom they buy products. Despite the validity of each of those reasons, there is a quality to every action that I can’t help but call ‘community’.
This is not the first time we have seen this level of community develop around ShipConstructor. In between 2002 and 2008 SSI was involved in a number of National Shipbuilding Research Program projects including Practical Applications of Design for Producibility and Ship Design Tool Enhancement. The largest of these projects included as many as 17 members of the US industry including Austal USA Inc., Bollinger Shipyards, Marinette Marine, Ingalls Shipbuilding, VT Halter Marine, and Gibbs & Cox among others. There were enough competing shipyards on these projects that, even considering the obvious business advantages in being involved, they remain unique amongst NSRP projects. Looking back on these projects it is hard to see the boundaries between organizations. It was (and still is) very much a ShipConstructor community.
I like to think the phenomenon behind these examples is caused in no small part by the culture at SSI and how we project that culture into the market. As a clear strategic partner we, and frankly our extended team of resellers, create an environment of collaboration that spills over onto the interactions our clients have with each other. We’re lucky enough that those clients are forward thinking and innovative enough to not only accept but embrace that type of environment. It certainly beats the alternative!