Face Value

spread_face_valuePlatforms like Facebook have been considered a distraction at best and dangerous at worst by the shipping industry until now, but that may be about to change, says Amy Berry.

Many in shipping and maritime will use LinkedIn but generally speaking the attitude to social networking has been lukewarm. Whereas LinkedIn can be seen to deliver some business value for the time that people spend on it due to the type of connections they make and influence and the kind of topics and content they may find through their network, for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, the view is not so favourable.

By and large those less professional networks are seen to be a distraction at best and dangerous at worst. There are many cautionary tales from ship operators about how crew aboard are using platforms like Facebook to spread news and information that the company might prefer them not to.

But as K D Adamson has pointed out on many occasions, the principles underpinning social networking can deliver significant value to businesses, if it used in the correct way. “In every corner of the enterprise technology is beginning to underpin and enable cross-business interaction in what is a massive shift in emphasis and practice to that which has gone before,” she says.

Enterprise Social Networks are the evidence of that, and to underline that massive shift last month Facebook launched Facebook Workplace—an ad-free, productivity platform for businesses which is aimed at helping employees to “connect, communicate and collaborate.”

The interface looks very similar to Facebook and the application was originally created by Facebook as its own productivity tool to help the company run itself. Many of the features of Workplace have been included from standard Facebook, such as news feeds, groups, chat and the ability to organise events, plus employees can also make voice and video calls too and additional features will also be added over the coming weeks, which will include an analytics dashboard.

As this is an enterprise network you don’t need a Facebook account to use Workplace, and there is no overlap between the two systems so accounts are totally separate, but the system does offer a way to interact outside the company. The multi-company group function allows people from different organisations to work together on shared projects and gives users unlimited storage for files photos and videos. Because the interface is so similar to normal Facebook it also means that training users on the system takes very little time.

Companies can access Workplace online or via apps for Android and iOS and in terms of pricing it costs US$3 per user for up to 1,000 monthly active users, $2 per user for 1,001 to 10,000 and $1 per user for 10,001 and above. For non-profits and educational institutions the license is free.

Considering that the maritime industry is considered so conservative and Workplace only launched in October, you may be surprised to learn that at least one shipping company has already embraced the application.

 

The interface looks very similar to Facebook and the application was originally created by Facebook as its own productivity tool to help the company run itself

The interface looks very similar to Facebook and the application was originally created by Facebook as its own productivity tool to help the company run itself

 

Eimskipafélag Íslands (The Icelandic Steamship Company), known as Eimskip, was founded on January 17th 1914, making it the oldest shipping company in Iceland, and now operates out of 19 countries. Although it may be the oldest shipping company in Iceland it is one of the first to use the Workplace application. “It’s providing a way for us to be more efficient. We are operating globally and the bonus is that we are closer to each other then we have ever been before,” says Gylfi Sigfússon, President and CEO of Eimskip.

According to Sigfússon the inspiration to change was around keeping teams aligned. “Ensuring teams around the world had the same information at the same time was a challenge, especially when consistency was important, planning and preparing events, exchanging ideas across the company in a fast way,” he explains.

“We have been using other communications platforms but at the same time most of our staff used Facebook for communications. Therefore the obvious step would be to find a way to use Facebook in our business.” Gylfi Sigfusson, President and CEO, Eimskip

It may seem surprising that Eimskip should look at a social networking platform which isn’t seen by shipping by and large as a professional tool, but Sigfússon explains that it made more sense than getting a separate enterprise social network platform.

“We have been using other communications platforms but at the same time most of our staff used Facebook for communications,” he says in a Facebook interview. “Therefore the obvious step would be to find a way to use Facebook in our business.”

Citing the challenges of communicating and cooperating in large companies Sigfússon points to being connected via mobile devices as a crucial part of the picture. Using Workplace, with a user interface so similar to the Facebook interface everyone was used to meant that “The learning curve was basically zero. For the first time all the employees from the crews of vessels, global offices, dockworkers and corporate office could connect and communicate in a way that is simple and effective.”

Sigfússon says that operations have been made easier. “Captains and truck drivers are using groups to inform each other and the rest of the company on issues that are important to get the right information to our customers on time. For example “The Vessel Operations group” is used to communicate ship movements more easily than their old system.”

Even the traditional fear of Facebook held by shipping companies—that it provides a way for the media and news organisations to access information about the company and its ships—has been used by Eimskip as a benefit. Faster response to the media enquiries has been another positive outcome.

“As one of Iceland’s largest companies it is important to get the correct information to the media when needed,” says Sigfússon. “Facebook provides a way to do that.”

 

Images courtesy © Getty Images

This article appeared in the October 2016 issue of Futurenautics.

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