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April 21, 2014
ShipConstructor

ClientCouncil

I have always put a lot of emphasis on listening to our clients to help steer our product and service offerings. I am always looking at new ways to improve the way to incorporate our clients in the development of ShipConstructor. We started a new initiative a few years back called the Quality Assurance Program where we worked very closely with clients to validate and improve the quality of our releases. Just this year we started a new program called the Client Council which is focused on SSI to work very closely with our elite clients to determine which improvements SSI should implement to ensure SSI is working on the right things.

SSI development has always had our roots connected to the clients we serve. Rolf  (SSI’s president and founder) started SSI (initially Albacore Research Ltd ARL) by spending countless of hours with clients before developing any feature. This understanding that clients are an especial part of building a successful product is still a strong part of who SSI is today. This belief is why many of our existing clients and new clients often say “ShipConstructor thinks like a shipbuilder.”

SSI has had significant growth since its conception over 25 years ago but we consistently look at ways where we can involve our clients‘ inputs. As a company I think we have been relatively good at getting information from our clients and then translating their suggestions and feedback into tangible products and features. But, just because we are good at something does not mean we should stop looking at ways of improving.

This is why we have started the Client Council initiative.

What is a Client Council?

The main focus of the Client Council is to streamline receiving feedback directly from our clients to improve ShipConstructor and produce a releasable ShipConstructor product in a short time period. This will allow ShipConstructor users to use the improvements in a timely manner. 

The Client Council will be created for a purpose/program/initiative and therefore will not always consist of the exact same clients. The reason for having multiple Client Councils and to modify the clients involved is simply because we have several type of clients each requiring unique areas to be improved.

For example:

  • A client who focuses on repair & retrofit has different needs as a client who is mainly dealing in new construction.
  • A client working on vessels has different requirements than a client working on an offshore structures.
  • A design agent has different requirements than a shipyard.
  • A client working with aluminum has different priorities than a client working with steel.
  • Etc.

I want to mention that even though we have a diverse set of clients, many of the improvements will be used by all clients. It is simply that different clients would prioritize them differently.

The key ingredient of the Client Council is that there will be a ShipConstructor release available a few weeks after the Client Council which will contain the enhancements which were selected by the group. This relates to one of my previous posts regarding releasing more often and will be extremely beneficial for all members of the Client Council as well as all ShipConstructor users.

What are the benefits of the Client Council?

Some of the benefits of having a client council will be:

  1. Clients have a direct impact in respect to where SSI allocates its development resources.
  2. A very efficient way for clients to provide feedback directly to the SSI team.
  3. Have actual clients test and provide feedback on prototypes or technical previews of selected improvements.
  4. Clients selected for each Client Council will be like minded and be ShipConstructor elite users. These councils will allow our top clients to network and learn from one another.
  5. Our Product Management team has a direct link to our clients which are committed to provide feedback and have an avenue to do so.
  6. SSI’s Development and Quality Assurance teams have the opportunity to hear the challenges and recommendations from the client’s mouth.
  7. Provide a way for clients to see what other elite clients are requesting as well as see how other clients prioritized the improvements they want in ShipConstructor. This will help the situation: We do not know what we do not know.
  8. SSI’s team does not have to interpret what clients wants .
  9. SSI is focusing their efforts on improvements that clients need.
  10. Clients will be the industry experts to ensure the solution solves the actual problem.  
  11. Etc.

 I want to know more details about this program!

This program will evolve as we adapt to what actually works from our clients and SSI perspective.

 Some of the high level characteristics of the program will be:

  • Improvements selected needs to follow ShipConstructor’s trajectory. Any enhancements to ShipConstructor needs to align with the products overall goals.
  • The Client Council will have a dedicated team of Developers, Product Management and Quality Assurance Engineers solely focused on working on the improvements the council selects.
  • The duration of each Client Council will be 2-3 months.
  • The development effort will need to be completed within 6 weeks (~9 man months of development)
    • This is to allow for a quick turnaround  
  • Development effort includes
    • Actual development (Design / Coding / Quality Control)
    • Regression testing
    • Quality Assurance
    • Creation of an installer
    • Documentation including whitepaper, manuals and video’s 

Closing Remarks

I am very excited about this project and I have high hopes for this program but I do anticipate it will come with a lot of challenges. Each Client Council will be a learning opportunity and we will continue to make adjustments as needed. 

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