Set Sail for Innovation: Navigating the Seas of Ferry Operator Ticketing Transformation

Set Sail for Innovation: Navigating the Seas of Ferry Operator Ticketing Transformation

Finding yourself on the quest for that perfect ticketing partner?  

Our CTO, Andreas Krohn was seeking a new ticketing solution whilst he was Head of IT at Forsea Ferries.  In this interview, he reveals the benefits of hiring a technology specialist who truly gets your industry, why those initial discovery sessions are crucial, and why finding the right supplier is akin to a romance on the high seas.

Why do you think organisations should change their ticketing solutions?

I believe in steering digital transformation towards commercial success. Sure, there may be IT and operational issues with current systems that prompt change but at the heart of it all lies the quest for profit and the opportunity to deliver against commercial objectives.

What sparked ForSea Ferries to rethink its ticketing system? 

Working alongside my commercial colleagues, I became well aware of the opportunities to earn more income; the products we wanted to sell and our ambitions to develop commercially, however, we were constrained by the prevailing legacy systems.
Consequently, increasing profit margins and remaining competitive was becoming a serious challenge.
As the Head of IT, it was my responsibility to remove the shackles of our outdated solutions, the cost of doing nothing was far outweighing the cost of doing something!

What technology did you want to replace?

We had two different booking platforms; a legacy, custom-built platform and a reservation system for online bookings.  The issue is that whenever you attempt to co-ordinate inventory across two disconnected systems, it quickly becomes a nightmare and completely inefficient.  Any new initiatives had to work across both systems, and if they did, it meant double entries.  This massively stifled our ability to adapt to the demands of the market and is a common problem for many ferry operators as most have an online sales technology that is separate from their pre-existing legacy systems.
It became clear that it was time to cut loose and source ONE solution that allowed us to amend prices and create new products simply and efficiently across all channels.

How did you find the right technology supplier?

Finding the right technology supplier is no easy feat. We embarked on the project, appointing a consultancy who spent time understanding our requirements, translating them into a brief and identifying appropriate providers, including both software and hardware providers.  We approached the traditional ferry ticketing providers but also looked at booking system providers with newer solutions, including Expian, formerly Ticknovate.

The Forsea Ferries service differed from most as we did not ticket for specific departure times.  We had such a frequent service on a short route, passengers could board the next available service. 80% of the vendors we approached could not deliver this flexibility so were immediately discounted. We invited three vendors to present their solution in person, one of which was Expian. It was clear from these early stages that Expian was set apart from the others. 

What set Expian apart? 

Flexibility, adaptability, and a deep understanding of the industry's unique needs.  There was a clear ability to adapt to changes in market conditions and this ability became vital as we then ploughed head-on into the COVID-19 pandemic.  This completely changed how our business operated, and many more besides us globally!

Who else was involved in the project - was it a matter of all Hands on Deck…excuse the pun!

Procurement should never be a solo task! Having your CFO on-board from the get-go is super important as otherwise the project easily risks grinding to a halt.
For this project, the Chief Commercial Officer led the charge, supported by my IT team, operations, marketing, and customer service teams all pitching in.
Each department has different pain-points and considerations that are hugely relevant but can be easily overlooked by a Project Manager if excluded from the process.
In the same way it takes an entire crew to navigate a vessel, a booking platform is the backbone of an organisation that steers multiple departments and each plays their part in driving organisational efficiencies and success. 
Once appointed, Expian ensured the group of stakeholders expanded, including those who would be using the system on a daily basis.

Any lessons from the process?

Ah, hindsight! Yes, realising the importance of involving someone who truly understands the industry's language. Perhaps if our consultants, my COO and myself (both having only been in post for less than a year) all tech experts, had more experience in the Ferry Industry, with a better understanding of knowing what questions to ask, we would have approached the project differently.

Is there anything you would do differently?

Do not underestimate the importance of the discovery phase! Due to Covid travel restrictions, we were unable to invite the Expian team to see our operations in action.  This is a critical step and should have been done as soon as the team was appointed. Expian offers a bespoke solution and this visit enabled them to see the scale of operations first hand. It also helped them to establish relationships with key people on the ground who could discuss specific needs that may not be known at the management level.

Any lasting advice you would give to others seeking a new ticketing partner?

Organisations don’t know what they need and what is possible until they start to develop something new and your technology partner should guide you on this journey.  So, rather than set the basics for the project, use the procurement process to find the right partner! Then use the discovery phase to get a fuller picture of your requirements. 

Think of the procurement process in the same way as online dating. You may start out listing a preference for a tall, brown-haired partner who has similar hobbies, but this doesn’t indicate that you will have chemistry or become great parents together. Instead focus on finding a technology partner that you have an understanding with and can communicate with and has the basic tools to solve some of your requirements and then you can deal with the details as they come up.

So, don’t just settle for the basics that you think you need. Let the procurement process be your compass, guiding you to the right partner!

Ready to match with a booking technology partner?

We have an out of the box solution for Ferry Operators that can be tailored for your specific requirements.  We can provide consultancy and solutions to guide you through this journey.

Contact Patrick Gray at and let’s embark on this adventure together.

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