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How a Robust Analytics Platform Became an Industry Groundbreaker

Learn how shipping services provider, SPI Marine, built and considered productizing a robust internal data analytics platform to expand its innovation in the market.

Skypoint and Johns Hopkins Carey Business School Students Position SPI Marine at the Forefront of Their Industry

SPI Marine is an independent provider of shipbroking, agency, logistics, and consultancy services, handling a multimillion-ton cargo portfolio annually. Its dedicated team focuses on the entire petrochemical and edible oils supply chain.

From highly complex chemical derivatives to simpler grades of biofuels, SPI’s experts have a proven track record in helping clients achieve their supply chain goals. SPI’s global office network and depth of intelligence allow it to offer unrivaled data-driven strategies to its customers.

Traditionally, SPI provided customers with basic analytics and KPIs as part of its shipbroking services via emails or phone calls. SPI Marine recently partnered with CSG (now Skypoint) to develop an analytics platform called “The Vault.”

The Vault offers self-service analytics—including voyage management and voyage analysis—to meet the fast-changing needs and digitalization trends in logistics and supply-chain management.

Cameron Amigo, the Global Head of Data and Digital Development at SPI Marine, was tasked with productizing this platform so SPI could optimize the value of The Vault and offer its analytics services to external customers and also expand market reach.

A Powerful Product That Gained Immediate Traction

Skypoint developed The Vault using Power BI Embedded and helped SPI build a robust data warehouse as well. Additionally, Skypoint leveraged .NET to present data analytics via a custom user-friendly interface to make seamless customer self-service possible. The Vault stores pertinent facts, such as data from past and current voyages, to provide insightful analytics at every level to SPI’s customers. By combining The Vault with its team’s extensive experience in the specialty shipping market, SPI Marine helps customers optimize their solutions, implement changes, track progress with real-time metrics, and present insights in a way that’s useful for the customers. This new analytics platform and suite of advanced technologies positioned SPI at the forefront of the shipbroking industry. SPI now offers self-service analytics to clients with the aid of natural language processing technology. Real-time data that is accessible to customers at all times brings transparency to the contract negotiation process—a groundbreaking concept in the industry. This analytics-as-a-service platform is poised to become a hub for shipbrokers and clients, fusing data, intelligence, and advance communication across the industry. The rapid adoption and success of The Vault with internal shipbrokers prompted SPI Marine to consider productizing the solution.

"CSG (now Skypoint) has developed a powerful and agile product that can be used in many different ways."

Developing a Macro Perspective About the Market

To monetize The Vault, Cameron needed a 360-degree understanding of the market. For example, he needed an objective analysis of supply and demand for such data analytics services and the competitive landscape.

While Cameron’s team can offer insights about individual customers, the information is often limited to one account or segment. Cameron needed to pull all the information together and create a macro perspective to inform big-picture decision-making.

Additionally, SPI needed to define the product from the customers’ perspectives to inform its marketing communication and positioning strategy.

Greg at Skypoint, who worked with Cameron to build The Vault, suggested that SPI partner with MBA student teams from Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University (JHU.) The school offers a Strategy Consulting Practicum, in which students work with businesses in a consulting capacity to gain real-world experience.

The practicum focuses on the formulation, analysis, and practical application of business strategy to help organizations evaluate market potential and understand the competitive landscape. Students use analytical techniques to diagnose competitive positions, identify strategic options, and provide data-driven recommendations to their clients.

Rick G. Milter, Ph.D., Faculty Lead for the Strategy Consulting Practicum at Carey Business School, has been a long-time advocate for project-based experiential learning where students and businesses can mutually benefit.

“A business school is a professional school and should provide opportunities for its students to get involved as professionals in the field,” said Milter.

“Imagine what would happen if our medical schools did not require students to spend time in hospitals. Not only can more be learned through such applied practice, but organizations can become healthier via engagement with students bringing fresh perspectives under the guidance of experienced faculty.”

As part of this consulting project, students from JHU helped SPI validate the idea of monetizing The Vault and identify market demands for such an analytics platform to inform the next steps. They also offered an objective perspective on how SPI could communicate the value of The Vault to its customers.

“I’m impressed by the level of research the JHU students performed and the diverse experience they brought to the table to address our challenges,” said Cameron.

“The JHU team helped us develop a roadmap based on in-depth insights. Now we have a clear strategic direction and a game plan to guide the execution. They understood what we needed and facilitated the process of getting there. The JHU partnership Skypoint recommended was a big win.”

This collaborative project helped Cameron and his team determine the current drivers and market profile of the target audience. The JHU team reviewed analysis assets (The Vault, KPIs, and reports) to address target market needs and external adoption. They also created a marketing strategy and a pricing strategy for The Vault based on competitive analysis and ROI modeling.

"Skypoint gets it. They understood our vision and supported us with the execution every step of the way. The Skypoint team also coached the JHU team so they worked with us even more effectively."

A Strategic Partnership Delivers Game-Changing Outcomes

Before working with Skypoint, it took the SPI team weeks to compile data and generate reports. Skypoint helped Cameron’s team connect all the tools and automate the process with Power BI and a data warehouse. Now, SPI Marine accesses near real-time data and creates reports with ease.

Our solution combined Managed BI with data analytics, software development, and data strategy. The multi-faceted approach leverages various technologies, such as Power BI, Power BI Embedded, Microsoft Azure, and .NET, to help SPI Marine achieve its goals.

As a result, the SPI team can do more with much less—achieving results while keeping the team lean and efficient.

Cameron said, “I always view the Skypoint team as a division of SPI. Greg brings everything together. I can just pick up the phone and call Ron to ask for advice. And of course, the team built a powerful product that’s easy to use.

Skypoint serves the roles of multiple teams to cover everything from determining the vision and the strategy to executing on it. They also go above and beyond software development and jump in whenever I need support, like partnering with the JHU team to bring The Vault to market.”

Bringing The Vault to market for SPI Marine required more than a robust analytics platform, it required robust collaboration.

As a strategic partner, Skypoint provides our clients with access to experts with different strengths and skill sets to address their challenges. When you partner with Skypoint, you get access to a full development team and a leadership team that pulls all the resources together to achieve your vision.

“Skypoint serves the roles of multiple teams, determining the vision and the strategy to execute it. They go above and beyond software development whenever I need support.”

Let’s turn your data vision into a groundbreaking concept.

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