Interview with Mr. Thomas Z., Benefit Software Managing Director
ELNAVI Magazine, February 2021, “IT in Shipping” Special Report
What are the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in your company’s functions & operations?
Despite the pandemic’s profound effect on all aspects of modern economy, 2020 was indeed an extremely fruitful year for BENEFIT SOFTWARE, experiencing a significant increase of new installations while welcoming a great number of new users. Substantial investment made in the past towards the full digitalization of the Company’s core-operations allowed us to enjoy zero, or close to zero disruptions. Thanks to the available, hi-tech infrastructure as well as to the digital maturity of the organization, BENEFIT SOFTWARE was able to on-time utilize a fully remote working environment, where Implementation, Support and Developing could run in a “business as usual” model. All workplace tools and resources (telephone extensions, workspace environment, applications, etc) were maintained at 100% operational readiness, providing an unprecedented delivery of completed projects and uninterrupted continuous support, yet fully preserving the company’s reputation as the most reliable partner in support-related issues.
Describe your company’s business model in order to meet your clients’ needs and requirements.
Having supplied the shipping industry for over 30 years with awarded ERP, Business Analytics & Communication Management solutions, BENEFIT SOFTWARE is known as the leading provider of the most functional and efficiently integrated Office and Vessel applications in the market. It is exactly this vast experience in integrated frames, in customized work-flows, in data-analysis reports, analytics and KPIs derived exclusively from the shipping business, the in-depth knowledge of international regulations and protocols and the extensive managerial competence in achieving immediate user participation, that allow BENEFIT SOFTWARE to make the difference, acting as a valuable “digitalization” partner instead of just a reliable software provider. It is our Company’s commitment to guide the digital transformation of each partner via a “best practices” approach, always tailored to its special needs and requirements. Such commitment is backed up by exceptionally effective project-management, implementation & support teams, all involved in demanding, large-scale shipping projects, thus very experienced in developing collaborative frameworks, monitoring project flows in relation to time schedules, achieving company-milestones, while maintaining operations on the fly. On top of that, regular implementation reviews and tailored support after installation have led to successful integration of systems and processes as well as in their full utilization, maximizing the benefits.
Furthermore, the Company’s e-learning platform ensures significantly reduced training time, speed and ease of implementation, thereby ensuring greater user-command.
Describe the range of your company’s IT solutions in relation to the specific operational profiles of your customers.
With a view to the modern shipping company looking for business governance through a single digital solution, BENEFIT Software offers a comprehensive set of next generation, high performance, software technologies and services for ERP (bSuite), Communication Management (bTeam) & Business Analytics (bA+) that are far beyond the typical set of software modules: instead, altogether they form a holistic digital -management environment ready to serve as efficiently and effectively as ever before the operational and executive needs of the forward-thinking shipping enterprise.
In addition, we consider it of paramount importance to keep offering a single digital ecosystem that incorporates and preserves best business processes, yet built in an open, outgoing architecture, ready and eager to incorporate future developments. This is particularly apparent in our set of web and mobile apps, designed to support business on the go, as well as, our 3rd party integrations, indicative of continually building bridges with best-in-class partners for securing the availability of complete, consolidated information in a single, premium digital environment.
Have you diversified your services in cyber security, block chain technology, data analytics tools and other solutions?
In the Shipping industry, as in any highly competitive market, information has become an extremely valuable asset that may, sometimes, even define the company’s future. In accordance with the above, the expected further development of cloud services (due to the reduced cost of maintenance and the ease of access) will likely increase the vulnerability of companies to cyber threats unless certain security measures are undertaken.
For successfully responding to perceived security threats, we have implemented an advanced information-security management system that incorporates best-practices in controls & procedures, ensuring the full protection of data assets. Thanks to such a corporate commitment and continuous efforts, BENEFIT SOFTWARE has gained ISO 27001 by LR, the world’s leading provider of independent assessment in the shipping industry. Furthermore, from a technological aspect, our dedicated team deploys a set of well-defined security-technologies that deliver the highest levels of assurance. All our systems have been scrutinized by authoritative third-parties following penetration testing patterns while findings have been properly and fully handled so to ensure maximum security. In addition, our upgraded platform incorporates state-of-the-art security characteristics, while bCluster, a well-structured database service operating seamlessly in the background, is equipped with truly advanced antivirus security for diminishing data-loss risk.
Of course, all of our web-apps have also been developed following the “secure by design” model (eg. http protocols, password policies, continuous credential verification, session expiry etc.) and our partners can take advantage of a comprehensive range of encryption and authentication capabilities (such the SSL Certificate with 256-bit encryption used on our Messaging Application, similar to the banking-system security systems).
Despite the fact that AI and Blockchain are still not characterized as a dominant trend in the shipping industry, BENEFIT SOFTWARE, always at the forefront of innovation, has proactively been involved in discussions with prominent data-analytics organizations to thoroughly examine and evaluate the possibility of incorporating machine learning technologies, so that meaningful information could be extracted out of unstructured ERP data.
Moreover, our 30 years of solid and exclusive expertise in the shipping sector has fully equipped the company with the necessary know-how and general operational knowledge required for handling such sensitive data, mainly, but not solely, derived from vessel performance monitoring. Our existing cooperation with well-established sensor data providers allow us to integrate such knowledge into our ERP framework, thus building a rich portfolio of vessel and technical data -analysis options, using information from other critical areas (e.g. crewing, safety, maintenance or, even finance). Furthermore, we empower such interconnected information with bA+, our advanced Business Analytics tools and services so that our partners enjoy a better, deeper, more complete understanding of the vessels’ operational environment and receive all the necessary consolidated feedback so to reach sound, sophisticated strategic management decisions.
What are the new initiatives of your company and your future plans to expand your market share in shipping?
Shipping is rapidly turning into a data-driven industry where more and more decisions will soon be based on data analytics. It has been projected that shipping corporate data will grow by 800% in the next five years. Such huge amounts of data can reveal very important information about interrelationships that were previously very difficult or impossible to be determined. This is why we have developed bA+, the best-in class Business Analytics service which not only provides the traditional advantages of a typical Business Intelligence Suite (acceleration of decision-making time, automation of financial reports, quick and easy identification of risks, multiple real-scenarios investigation, etc) but also acts as a valuable partner for pointing out critical needs and establishing realistic targets, paving the digital path to business excellence.
In addition, advanced solutions for data forecasting and measurement services that will assist our partners with further guidance and elaborations are already in our project pipeline, for further empowering BENEFIT SOFTWARE’s leading position in the shipping industry.