Hiding in Plain Sight – the Hidden Efficiencies of E-mail for Teams

It’s amazing what can hide in plain sight as demonstrated when people try to draw logos that they see everyday.  Familiarity with something does not correlate to understanding it. Seriously – if you doubt it, try and recall which letter is which colour in the Google logo without looking at it!

Trying to look for business efficiencies can follow a similar dynamic. Things we use everyday become taken for granted, and fade in the background.

This is what happened when our founder, Bill Dobie, started to examine the use of software used by shipowners, charterers, and agents around the world.

“Everywhere we went, we continued to see our systems being deployed or other software systems being deployed, but we also saw most of the commerce happening in e-mail.”

Nobody was actually asking whether the tools they were using for e-mail were up to the job. This was despite the fact that, in other areas, every aspect of shipping was being analyzed and digital tools were being introduced to optimize and streamline. However, e-mail escaped scrutiny.

“What we saw again and again, is that everyone was looking at new initiatives but nobody actually looked at the e-mail itself as a starting point as a way to work better.”

Ship building was a prime example of how an overwhelming volume of e-mail was starting to impact productivity. Bill noted how at Seaspan, “During one project, there were about 30,000 e-mails going back and forth. And, while we continue to build and deploy software for shipping companies, we realized that all of the ‘good stuff’ was actually contained in an e-mail.”

The main issue here was that the ubiquitous Outlook was designed for individuals, rather than teams. A typical transaction in shipping might generate over a thousand e-mails, of which individual copies are sent to each team member. Not only does this overwhelm servers – causing issues when users need to search for old e-mails – it causes vital information, such as who has seen what, to be missed. It also wastes the time of the high value, income-generating human assets of these organizations – such as traders, brokers, ship agents, and ship owners, who in some instances would spend two hours per day filing e-mails.

Going back to basics, SEDNA has redesigned business transactions from the ground up, focusing on what made sense for team use of e-mail, which is the norm throughout most of shipping. Users can search our cloud-based platform instantaneously and see exactly who has responded when, and what actions can be taken. SEDNA also automatically tags e-mails as they come in, allowing users to sort e-mails at a glance by vessel, voyage, or transaction.

We believe this helps people focus on doing their jobs, rather than wrestling with outdated software. In doing so, far more than simply being a tool of communication, we hope that SEDNA is helping organizations be more effective in building ships, monitoring their performance of those ships and better manage the transactions that underpin the seaborne transport of 90 percent of the world’s trade that happens on board a ship.

Leading shippers, owners and brokers such as Glencore and Seaspan – not coincidentally both SEDNA clients – are already using this technology to drive new levels of efficiency into their operations.

To read more about SEDNA’s inception and how shipping companies around the world are using it to reclaim their time, download the March/April edition of Maritime Logistics Professional article here.