HiLo Maritime Risk Management CTO, Ryan Purvis, chats with Mio
HiLo is a not for profit organization founded from within the shipping industry, focused on improving the HSSE (Health, Safety, Security and Environment) implementation across the board.
Ryan Purvis is responsible for the end to end HiLo product development and all technology. Ryan’s key focus is to ensure a strong alignment of both product and technology to the business strategy and customer need. Mio spoke to Ryan about his current messaging and collaboration experiences, as well as how they differ to working at large corporate banking institutes such as JP Morgan Chase and UBS.
Mio: High level, what’s your messaging experience as you’ve rolled out new tech?
Ryan: At both banks, we rolled out collaboration platforms over virtual desktop infrastructure. We always had to consider what this would do the virtual infrastructure. We learned that some applications can create havoc on the infrastructure, such as various file sharing applications. We did have some good experiences with messaging platforms such as Skype for Business. When I left the last bank for HiLo, we were looking at Microsoft Teams vs Slack to offer a persistence chat option.
Here at HiLo, we’re rolling out on laptops so mobility is important and we’re trying to solve the same collaboration problem.
Mio: How has your messaging and collaboration stack evolved over the years?
Ryan: Before I moved to the UK in 2012, I always worked for a software vendor or an independent system integrator where you live in messaging apps like Webex. When I moved into a corporate environment, things like video conferencing were only really delivered over telepresence. These were mostly in-room and for the fortunate few with a unit in their office or on their desk. The way you had a conversation with someone outside your office has changed from that to the desktop. We introduced Microsoft Lync. That didn’t just change the video and meeting tools, but it changed the tools that people used every day.
Mio: How was your experience with Microsoft Lync?
Ryan: Lync was great for instant messaging but it wasn’t persistent chat. That was quite bizarre as products that we’d made before had persistent chat built in.
Mio: Do you think the market knew about persistent chat before the introduction of Slack?
Ryan: At Global 360, we worked with business flow systems. We built productivity enhancements into these. If someone made a note during the process, they would be associated with the cases. This made them accessible and searchable. Unlike Lync, where it wouldn’t save chats in the application, but they would be saved in Outlook. When someone new started, you had to sift through your emails to give them all the information they needed. This is why I like Microsoft Teams. I like how it’s crossed over with OneDrive, Planner and other tools (although some of the integrations still need some fine tuning). You can save files and have a Wiki. These things are a great help.
Mio: Is there a danger that we are over collaborating by adding more and more tools?
Ryan: Yes, I turn off all my notifications on all my devices. I try batching my communications and limiting my instant messaging.
“That’s the beauty of persistent chat. I can look at all my messages and catch up, as opposed to constantly being bombarded by notifications.”
Mio: So, do you set people’s expectations that it isn’t instant messaging?
Ryan: Yes, absolutely. Do yourself a favor and read the book, The Four Hour Work Week. It uses the example where people spend their lives talking about how many emails they’ve got in their inbox. That’s a sign of being important or busy. Expectations are important. If you write a 600-word email, don’t expect a 600-word email back instantly.
Channel of choice
Mio: If someone contacts you through one medium, is it important to stick that channel? If someone messages you, do you call them back to suit you or stay in messages to suit them?
Ryan: I reference the Getting Things Done workflow. David Allen has this process where if it can be done in 2 minutes or less, you do it. If it can’t, you delegate or defer it. So you have to put it in a slot where you can get it done. During that step, you decide when and where you respond. Maybe you need to put a slide together or a long email. But, if it’s quick, it’s usually a phone call or a Skype for Business whiteboard session.
Mio: How do you use the whiteboards? With a pen or a mouse or a mobile?
Ryan: Primarily on a tablet. That’s where I think some of these devices fail in the messaging strain. In the Unified Comms dream, some of these tools don’t work seamlessly between devices. You can start a call on a laptop then walk off and take it on your mobile. But instant messaging isn’t as great an experience on a tablet as it is on a laptop – unless you carry your keyboard everywhere.
Future of messaging
Mio: Moving to the future, where do you see your messaging stack moving in the next few years?
Ryan: Search capabilities need to improve. It’s difficult for people to get to information that they need as you’re typing into messaging platforms. We need something like a text expander capability – where you don’t need to search because the bot or AI knows what you need.
At HiLo, the messaging problem is quite different from what I had experienced in banking. The internet connectivity is quite limited so adoption of various mediums is in different stages of maturity. We need more functional usage over restricted connectivity. Embedding more video and collaboration into mobile versions of these apps is required.
Mio: Is it fair to say that, in your niche area, people with restricted connectivity need like a “Slack for basic devices”.
Ryan: Yes, with some level of edge compute on that side. You might have an AI on that ship that’s picking the right videos for the inspection that has to happen. That will stream off the internal WiFi, without having to fetch it from the cloud. That all needs to then reach the manufacturers and our end clients.
Mio: How do you communicate with the manufacturers and the outside world?
Ryan: That’s a good question. We have a good customer footprint so we need to find out how they want to chat and communicate in order to collaborate whilst protecting their commercial interests. We also need to find the right mechanism to use to connect. Sometimes its mix of Skype for Business, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
In messaging specifically, everybody has tried Slack and most people have got Microsoft Teams as it’s free with their Office license. So we use everything they have, to adapt to their needs and preferences.
“There is always someone still using emails or other messaging apps outside of what we are using.”
Mio: We talk a lot about shadow messaging. Is that an issue inside your organization?
Ryan: I’ve seen this in various organizations. With all the activity and without apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams, we didn’t have but we did need persistent real-time communication. The use of WhatsApp and iMessage was widely accepted.
Mio: What is the latest collaboration tool you’ve implemented?
Ryan: HiLo runs on Skype for Business. But, with some external vendors, we’ve started using Microsoft Teams. We’re also considering Zoom as it’s the easiest to get a call connected. I’ll be interested to see when Skype for Business is turned off as Teams is already at feature parity. The challenge I’ve had is that most people are more comfortable with Skype for Business. The biggest problem isn’t the technology, it’s the change.
Ryan drew us a diagram including what the business wants, what technology wants and what users would like, and he hit the spot with his final words. Technology is here and ready for use.
What are the major challenges in your business when it comes to app adoption? Are you still using Microsoft Lync or have you come full Slack/ Microsoft Teams / Cisco Webex Teams? Perhaps you’re using a challenger collaboration app? Either way, we’d love to hear from you. We’re always looking for interesting tech thought leaders. Reach out to @mio on twitter if you have messaging app stories to share.