16 Aug 2018
Peter Rowand
Marketing and Business Development


When creating a new piece of software, we love to engage our customers in the development process, starting with the feature request.  Building software from the ground up can be risky business: tremendous effort and expense goes in to designing, creating, and deploying a product that could completely miss the market need.  Before taking a beautiful, polished product to market, dozens of our clients have touched, tested, and critiqued the budding prototypes, providing ample time to course-correct.  By the time we get to market, we know that we have the hottest new product that our clients will be anxious to start using.

This is exactly the process we have followed with our Helm Analytics functionality.

Client Feature Request

A common feature request is a better method to report on the data in Helm CONNECT, and a simple manner to visualize the data.  Although build-your-own-BI-solution functionality has existed for some time, it has not proven to be adequate for our customers.

We needed to evolve.

Due to the significance and urgency of making data in Helm CONNECT fully accessible to all users, be they operational managers, port captains, or CEOs, we decided to tackle the challenge as completely as possible.

Initial Prototypes

First, we created a set of rough, initial prototypes.  We are going to focus on the evolution of a Maintenance dashboard.

KPI DashboardThe initial dashboard hit the key performance indicator (KPI) highlights: how many maintenance items were being complete on time, how many items are still open, and what percentage are completed on time.  We also broke out how many items are associated with critical systems, and how many items are routine.  These early prototype dashboards were shown to clients at opportune moments, to see if there was any interest in pursuing this line of inquiry, and we started to hear similar feedback.

The critical feedback we received on this dashboard included:

  • How are the KPIs changing over time?
  • Which boats have the most overdue and open items?

Focus Group

During the Inland Marine Expo 2018, we pulled together a small group of individuals.  The focus group spanned the gambit, from some of the longest standing Helm CONNECT users, to interested prospective clients.  Encompassing many different perspectives allowed us to build on each others ideas, each individual bringing a unique set of experiences and requirements.  We discussed where they were not getting the data and reporting they needed, bouncing ideas off each other and comparing priorities.  The combined effort resulted in the creation of a far more powerful set of requirements than would have been achieved had the conversations been held independently.

Maintenance KPIThe second incarnation of Maintenance KPI dashboard breaks the KPIs into ‘Planned’ and ‘Unplanned’ Maintenance.  There are also the number of maintenance items that were completed on time and past due, per vessel (bottom left), as well as the percentage of items that were completed on time (bottom right).

Among many other nuggets of wisdom and insight provided by the focus group participants, the critical feedback we received on the dashboard included:

  • What items are open and coming due, so I can take action before they are overdue?
  • Who is completing all the work, and who is falling behind?

Dashboard User Groups

Feeling confident that people were very keen on the Dashboards, we started a deep dive into what our clients really want from their dashboards.  To this end, we assembled a group of 8 users who were actively using Helm CONNECT.  We spoke with these users every week, and would either roll out a new set of dashboards connected to their data or would discuss their reporting requirements.  We quickly moved through six design iterations, in which we tested over 10 individual dashboards. Each user could then use the dashboards during their day-to-day operations so they could provide insightful, practical feedback.  By testing the dashboards in real-world operations, we were able to tease out many of the initial limitations of the dashboards.  It was also incredibly valuable to be working with a range of clients, because while some clients had specific requests and priorities, many common themes emerged, such as reporting on specific components, inspiring healthy competition by broadcasting individual vessel performance and trending audit results against specific topics.  Eventually, we converged on a set of powerful and poignant dashboards that we feel confident are of immediate interest to the maritime industry.

Fleet Health Dashboard

The third incarnation of the Maintenance KPI dashboard was renamed to Fleet Health Dashboard because it encompassed so much more than maintenance.  We can filter the dashboard by date range, division, asset name, or ‘Action Type’.  This means you can dial in on a combination of Audits, Corrective Actions, Inspections, Unplanned Maintenance, and Maintenance Routines.  The data in the dashboard will automatically filter to the applicable information.  The number of Action Items that have been completed on time, completed past due, deleted, or open are displayed, as well as the percentage completed on time and past due.  The time series on the left shows how many items were completed ontime and overdue each month.  The horizontal blue bars compare the number of action items and the relative percentage on time, boat by boat.  You can also see the breakdown of task severity, and who has been completing the action items.

What is the next step?

With our great set of prototype dashboards, our next step is to build them into a product that we can provide to you, our customers!

Now that our first User Group is wrapping up successfully, we are planing to launch additional user groups that focus on Operations from both a Maintenance & Compliance stand point as well as a Jobs stand point.

Please get in touch if you are interested in participating in one of these groups.  There are limited spaces and specific validation criteria.