14 April 2021
Marking two years of AIS
In celebration of James Fisher Asset Information Services' (JF AIS) second birthday, we spoke with Sean Huff, group digital director, to discuss the digitalisation company's achievements to date.
Tell us about your time with James Fisher?
Three years ago, I was asked by the CEO to create a new position called the group digital director. This chief digital role was designed to put some energy behind digital and data within our businesses as we deliver services in our James Fisher markets. The goal was to look across our businesses and to highlight those areas where we thought new digital technology could help us better serve our clients - either by creating efficiencies in our delivery, or providing newly-created value out of data we capture as a consequence of doing a service we already provided. This effort resulted in the creation of AIS two years ago.
How did AIS come about and why?
The point of this new business was to create a market-facing James Fisher business that could sell software and data solutions to clients directly - and to begin to build a centre of expertise on these themes. That meant a sales team was required that understood how to license software to clients in a consultative-style process - solving client problems that had no clear solutions. The expertise was also built to properly product manage revenue-earning software solutions, which required a very organised approach to conceiving, designing, prototyping, developing, productising, launching, and maintaining software for very large clients like BP, ExxonMobil and Pemex.
It required a great deal of teamwork to pull together our existing people with key skills and capabilities, and to hire new employees with expertise in data science and innovation practices. The result - which still remains a work in progress - is a growing team that professionally develops and licenses software to big clients - and works collaboratively with them to jointly solve complex issues with large data sets.
What has AIS achieved in the last two years?
Even amidst a global pandemic we have pulled together a high-quality team, structured that team to focus on the core elements of a software / data company, and started to land some significant contracts and clients which will allow us to continue our growth.
In particular, we have secured major contracts with a variety of large oil and gas operators, successfully acquired four new global geographies in Angola, Trinidad, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, and are now working in an entirely new offshore wind industry.
We have also managed to build two distinct supplemental teams in and around our software products - namely Data Science and Design Thinking - which both increase our offering and improve our consultative approach to the market. These skills are quite unique to the James Fisher family, so we have worked to tell the story of data, products, and design thinking from the very departments themselves captured in the videos provided below.
What is AIS’ role within the wider PLC?
AIS’ role is one of a catalyst. We are small in comparison to the rest of the Group, but while that is the case, we do represent a different way of working in the same underlying industrial markets. It’s a luxury for all parts of James Fisher to learn from each other - the software / data part of the business learning from the challenges and opportunities in the more traditional engineering-oriented business, and vice versa. For large engineering-style businesses to have a front row seat to essentially a start-up industrial software / data business in AIS can be very valuable. Leaders from the James Fisher group companies will see our client’s direction of travel and see (before others) where these clients are driving efficiencies, and what new digital business models they are introducing into their ways of working that will have an impact on other service providers.
What does the future hold for AIS?
The future for AIS is about scaling and growing our offering in our core markets. Now that we have secured our foundational clients and deployed our technology to over 5,000 users and over 150 industrial assets, we are ready to take the next steps of investing in additional value-adding services for our clients. This will involve adding on capability via partnerships, expanding our team geographically, and helping our clients drive their digital transformation processes. It’s an exciting time developing this technology inside a well-established industrial services company. As the James Fisher group helps to service the growth of the blue ocean economy with work in offshore wind, marine, offshore oil and gas, aquaculture, and other challenging areas, AIS will lead the way on the digital front, staying at the cutting edge of the digital revolution.
Trends which I see emerging in our industrial markets are autonomy, just-in-time service and digital twins. These concepts are very important to our markets and clients because they represent methods to drive efficiencies - cost savings - and change entire work patterns.