How to get your project to sail away quickly

Main visual : How to get your project to sail away quickly

“Work expands to fit the time available for its completion”, Cyril Parkinson famously wrote in the first sentence of an essay published in The Economist in 1955.

It’s a formula with revolutionary implications and one that is still reaping rewards for those organizations bold enough to follow radical logic and slash the time allocated to complex tasks.

Agile development has certainly helped slice digital transformation projects down to size. However, what about the steps before the development team is ready to start? How much time is still being lost defining what the project is actually for, what it needs to achieve and its delivery strategy?

In a project we have just implemented for maritime services company Kongsberg Digital, Fujitsu’s Human Centric Experience Design (HXD) methodology shrank these crucial steps down to just two days.

Over the course of two full-day workshops, a small, Kongsberg-Fujitsu co-creation team defined the project, scoped the objectives and worked out how to get them delivered.

Less than six months later, the first working solution has been implemented – the exciting new AI-powered vessel fuel optimization (VFO) web service we announced recently for ship owners to cut fuel costs, meet new low-sulfur fuel regulations and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Quite a package for such a quick delivery schedule!

Taming the time it takes to get started

Fujitsu and Kongsberg had been discussing two, apparently unrelated requirements. One was to find a fuel and route optimization solution, driven by the impending International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations to slash the use of polluting sulfur in shipping fuel. The other was to look at ways to capture and leverage rich data on board ships.

The desired solutions would have to be best-in-class, to meet Kongsberg’s sustainability goals and be attractive to crew and employees, to ensure they would actually be used. All this without requiring elaborate ship re-engineering or major expenditure by ship owners and operators.

Once, this would have resulted in protracted discussion about wish lists – politically balanced to meet everyone’s needs - and dominated by a ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ ethos that might have suited The Beach Boys back in the laid-back ‘60s, but no longer viable when over-long projects are plagued by time and budget over-runs.

There just isn’t the time for this sort of approach anymore. Delay, and either some precocious start-up will be eating into your revenue and margins, or you will have missed your only opportunity to disrupt your sector. In the worst-case scenario, both of these things happen.

 Human Centric Experience Design (HXD)

We proposed that Kongsberg should use the Fujitsu HXD methodology to generate the really quick, rapid thinking that was going to be needed here. HXD sits within the Fujitsu Co-creating Program, a unique approach we engineered to help customers accelerate digital transformation. It’s often (but not necessarily) delivered in Fujitsu’s global network of co-creation workspaces called ‘Digital Transformation Centers’ (DTCs).

Refined through multiple customer engagements, HXD makes the creative process faster and accelerates overall transformation. Workshops are carefully planned, with the right blend of participants divided into personas and groups to generate intense, creative thinking.

Fujitsu specialists and ecosystem partners come together with our customers, leveraging HXD, to imagine the future and develop transformational digital business architectures. This really helps customers better understand their business challenges, and allows them to combine their business expertise with Fujitsu’s technology know-how, to develop rapid outline concepts and joint working plans to take concepts to the next stage.

Getting straight to work

A key principle is that HXD co-creation workshops are undertaken at speed to really focus people’s minds. An essential hallmark is the clear intention to succeed. Everyone in the workshop has a purpose and is fired up by the challenge to deliver a successful outcome.

Kongsberg was highly attracted by the fast-track nature of the HXD approach. Its leadership grasped that putting key stakeholders in the room would help focus thinking and speed up initial decision-making.

In November 2018, we held a two-day workshop, comprising two one-day sessions, with day one devoted to the fuel and route optimization challenge. On day two, participants addressed creating the necessary satellite connections to ships and an on-board data center – an interactive ‘data brain’ – to collect and collate information from numerous sources into a single dashboard for ships’ captains and fleet owners to make more informed decisions.

Less than six months after the workshop, we have successfully developed and launched the new Fujitsu fuel optimization service. It’s an easy-to-use web service that generates immediate and substantial savings for customers, while putting them on course to meet the new IMO sulfur regulations, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

No sensor or software installation is required on vessels, as the service is a web-based application that can be deployed immediately. It uses AI to learn ship captains’ strategies and ships’ performances, combines this with meteorological and hydrographic forecasts, such as wind, waves and ocean currents, and recommends optimal routes to maximize energy-efficiency, safety and profitability.

This is what we scoped in a single day during workshop one. The beauty of Fujitsu’s HXD co-creation methodology is that it puts people at the core of the solution. Kongsberg picked up on this as key to the whole dynamic of the workshop and acknowledged that it would not have identified key ideas and approaches without this process and that the workshops achieved in a day what would otherwise have taken months.

Our experience tells us that there are three key reasons why working in the DTCs is so effective:

Firstly, we work hard with companies like Kongsberg to refine the outline challenge to a core problem that can be tackled with real focus. This squeezes out ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ thinking, as the participants can see it will jeopardize the outcomes being pursued, and ensures our co-creation activities are very results-focused.

Secondly, we use a range of digital tools that really help harness the creative talents of our participants and allow them to work rapidly. Finally, the process brings experts from business and technology together. We use HXD as a visual language to help these expert professionals communicate around a common goal. It doesn’t stop people from thinking the impossible, but it links everything back to tangible outcomes, for the best, most practical solution.