By Steffani Cameron
Culture, necessity, and technology often converge to change how we live and work, like how the smartphone changed life as we know it since 2006. Today, another revolution is underway – that of remote working.
In the decade before COVID-19, remote working had increased by 400%, but the pandemic made working remotely necessary to save lives and keep businesses humming. For some offices, the transition was easier than for others. Where roles routinely involved travel, adapting was easier than in traditional offices, where the back-office team kept companies functioning via hands-on tasks like receiving courier deliveries and printing contracts.
As part of our Global Executive Thought Leader Web Panel, we Zoomed in with four leaders in the global shipping industry for their thoughts on how SEDNA has kept them sailing steadily in the pandemic’s early days.
“It’s a change in mindset from an ‘office space’ work ethic to, now, it’s a deliverable KPI-based work ethic.”
— TRACY LEAH, Divisional Executive, Sturrock Grindrod Maritime
Mindset: The First Step
Like most shipping companies, Sturrock Grindrod Maritime is spread out, boasting 53 offices in 15 countries around the Indian Ocean. Their cloud-based transition began two years ago. Eight months before the pandemic spurred global business changes, nearly all their staff had successfully embraced remote working.
SGM Divisional Executive Tracy Leah found that much of the success, and some challenges, in working remotely depended on their team’s mindset. As she explained, “It’s a change in mindset from an ‘office space’ work ethic to, now, it’s a deliverable KPI-based work ethic.”
Leah identified some struggles as coming from a certain style of manager, who feels workers must be seen and heard for overseeing workflow, versus other managers who set benchmarks for workers. Then there’s also staff, whose work-from-home mindset can generate guilt over setting boundaries around work time or distractions.
Leah says SGM navigated through mindset challenges by setting guidelines, mapping processes, and using cloud-based tools like SEDNA and video conferencing for collaboration and enhancing communication.
“If you’re working as a team and have that culture of helping one another, it will create a feeling that ‘we are all in it together and there is help when I need it’.”
— ALAN ONG, Head of Shipping Operations, Clearlake Shipping
Fostering Work Culture Remotely
As one of the world’s largest charterers of tanking vessels, much of Clearlake Gunvor’s team had been remote for some time, making their work-from-home pandemic pivot simpler.
Working from home should not mean “working alone,” according to Clearlake’s Head of Shipping Operations, Alan Ong. “If you’re working as a team and have that culture of helping one another, it will create a feeling that ‘we are all in it together and there is help when I need it’,” he explains.
Fostering teamwork is done by design through SEDNA, where the conversations and messages are so complete that it’s easy to see what’s going on. As Ong states, “If I need to jump in to look at somebody else’s work, I can easily see the correspondences because all the emails are in SEDNA .”
Ong says their remote shift long ago began by adopting SEDNA to replace their traditional email system, because of its ability to deliver the “continuity and communication” they needed. Simply put, says Ong, “SEDNA is one of the main tools we use for communicating with the world and collaborating with one another… it is our internal messaging system.”
In fact, they’re so SEDNA-reliant that their IT division used its built-in APIs to create a proprietary filing system integrating SEDNA’s messaging, so one tap now files any attached documents for global team-wide access.
“Having staff working remotely isn’t really compromising the collaboration. In terms of our customers, they’re not really seeing that we have staff in a whole bunch of locations instead of a coherent team sitting in the office. It should be as if two people are still sitting side by side.”
— ROD STEELE, Head of IT, Wallem Group
SEDNA Means Collaboration
At Wallem Group, they know all about camaraderie and communication. It’s why the 118-year-old firm won 2018’s “Shipping Company of the Year” award. As their head of IT, Rod Steele’s job is to keep the tech-forward company sailing smoothly wherever they are.
Steele believes what makes SEDNA so powerful is that “having staff working remotely isn’t really compromising the collaboration. In terms of our customers, they’re not really seeing that we have staff in a whole bunch of locations instead of a coherent team sitting in the office. It should be as if two people are still sitting side by side.”
“The difference in the new hires’ progress that we have seen, from people who are on SEDNA to who are not on SEDNA, is night and day.
— HA EUN RUPPELT, Commercial Project Manager, Ardmore Shipping
That “side-by-side” element of work is often thought critical when training new hires, but Ardmore Shipping’s leader of Commercial Performance Management, Ha Eun Ruppelt, faced the struggle of training three new hires while simultaneously getting slammed by the pandemic and having to transition to remote working. As one of the world’s youngest shipping fleets, Ardmore constantly adopts new technology in their quest for improving efficiencies, which is why they turned to SEDNA.
Despite the challenges, Ruppelt was surprised how quickly her new hires got into a groove without handholding. “The difference in the new hires’ progress that we have seen, from people who are on SEDNA to who are not on SEDNA, is night and day,” said Ruppelt. She chalks that success up to two things; one, the conversational messaging within SEDNA and how it stays attached to specific messages and tasks, and two, the ease and speed of SEDNA’s search function. On that, Alan Ong agrees. “SEDNA is a very powerful search engine,” he says, explaining how a colleague took mere seconds to dig up an email from Ong that was a decade old.
She explains, “One of our new hires in Singapore mentioned, ‘it’s so easy to search in SEDNA. If I don’t know something, I’ll first search and then if I can’t find it, or if I don’t understand it, then I will raise my hand and contact my manager,’ which also makes it very efficient way of learning, because you’re not just being told what to do and regurgitating. You’re researching, to comprehend the issue to try to come up with the solution yourself before you go asking for help.”
Trust + Transparency = Teamwork
In discussing how to make working from home successful for whole teams, all four of our panelists drove home how critical trust is for success. Employees must trust that they can balance a work-life routine at home without feeling like they’re abandoning work. At the same time, management must trust their team to do their jobs in an expedient, competent manner.
Trust comes with time, so it’s tricky to build in this era of forced remote working. But with the pandemic putting companies on uncertain grounds for what some predict could be years of rolling waves of transmission, time is a luxury companies don’t have.
When asked how to know if employees are being productive, all four of our panelists lauded SEDNA for benchmarking, because of its inherent transparency. They know when someone hasn’t acted on a message or task, thanks to the Activity Panel. Ultimately, companies need to adopt KPIs and deliverables with deadlines, so employees demonstrate productivity. Meeting those, day in and day out, builds trust both ways.
Staying Connected Shouldn’t Be Complicated
When building SEDNA, speed and efficiency were always the goal in making it a more-than-email solution for the fast-moving complexities of the shipping industry. Our team didn’t anticipate that making a product to harness the limited bandwidth at sea would translate to a data-saver in countries or regions where internet infrastructure needs improvement.
For Tracy Leah’s remote-working team positioned around the Indian Ocean, the reduced bandwidth used by SEDNA improves their bottom line in every way. She says, “The cost of data and connectivity can be quite exorbitant, and if we had to try and do things as quickly or effectively in [our previous email service]Outlook, we would never have survived, because our data costs would be astronomical.”
SEDNA – Smarter, Not Harder
With the deluge of email she receives daily, Ruppelt agrees. With their previous system, she deleted emails each morning just to keep her laptop functioning, but SEDNA ended that routine. In fact, she says the “wholeness of data” is SEDNA’s most valuable feature, since she finds whatever data she needs, fast, all attached to the parent message in SEDNA. She explains, “SEDNA has given us that transparency, the wholeness of data, and the flexibility that you almost don’t think about when you’re in an office, but you definitely notice a lot more when you’re working remote.”
“If you never had an issue with searching, if you never had an issue with the volume of your inbox and mail size, then you don’t understand the benefits of SEDNA,” says Ruppelt.
People talk about the impending demise of email, but we never thought email needed to die; it just needed to evolve. That’s what SEDNA is about, and that’s why SEDNA is the most important tool for your remote team.
That data wholeness, the historical record of each email and its related conversations, all easily searchable, with low bandwidth needs – these all translate to time, cost, and revenue saved.
Working from home can be a struggle for some, but SEDNA keeps your team’s collaboration, continuity, and communication efforts as simple and clear as they can be. In a time of crisis, SEDNA is key for your team’s success.