It seems the world has suddenly gone digital but for many it was ever thus. The leading software developers in the yachting industry were already on the case years ago, directing a wholesale shift from paper systems, or sometimes no systems at all. One such company is DEEP Blue Soft based in the South of France, considered by many to be best in breed with their comprehensive solution for yacht management. We spoke to Sales Manager Nicole Romanet to learn more about the company and the practicalities for yachts of all sizes.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got involved with the yachting industry.
Originally I’m from Canada, but I travelled extensively and lived and worked in several different countries before settling in France. I come from a corporate background in commercial trading, finance and operations across a broad spectrum of markets. I moved into data processing/development and yacht management seven years ago, and I continue to learn something new about this fascinating industry every day.
How long has DEEP Blue existed, and who are the brains behind the brand?
There are many brains behind the brand - yachting experts and an in-house design and development studio based in Slovenia. Benoit Faure, the founder of DEEP Blue, started his career as a military pilot in the French Air Force and civil aviation. After retraining, he worked for 10 years in the software development/video gaming industry acquiring development studios and licenses for international publishing companies. Benoit then changed industries and worked as the sales director for a construction shipyard for seven years before becoming an owner’s rep for construction surveys on new build superyachts.
In 2013 a group of merchant navy captains who had joined the yachting industry came to Benoit looking for a fully integrated web interface covering all aspects of yacht management. At that time, there was really only software for technical planned maintenance. So DEEP Blue was released later in 2013 and has since gained a reputation for being best of breed when it comes to software solutions for yacht management.
What size of vessel do you mostly work with?
We work with a range of vessels from 25-140m, both motor and sailing yachts. Our software is currently installed on 160 yachts with 1600 users.
Is your software available as a complete package or can clients choose specific modules?
DEEP Blue is a modular software, so clients can choose whichever modules they want. We are always happy to provide a full demonstration and we can adapt to suit the precise needs of the individual yacht.
What is the most common entry point when you start working with a new client/vessel?
Many of our clients come to us because they want to move away from spreadsheets and multiple applications, or simply want one complete management tool for their entire operation. We work directly with individual yachts, family offices and management companies.
Finance is the main driver for many; the DEEP Blue Finance module is the must-have module that most clients select by default, and then they build their own package, assembling additional modules - HRM, PMS, ISM, SYNC and a long list of custom services.
We also work with new builds that want to take advantage of our ever-improving Planned Maintenance System module.
Which is DEEP Blue’s most popular module?
Finance (FIN) and Human Resource Management (HRM) are two of our most popular modules.
FIN module allows authorised crew to enter expenses or obtain approval from management in real-time within the same secured interface, and it provides detailed financial reports.
HRM module provides a simple solution for the captain, crew and managers to comply with complex labour laws and international standards. Each crew member can access their own work schedule, declare hours of work/rest, post leave requests, and access the full history of their time on board, including payslips. Managers can also generate payroll and organise the payment of crew salaries.
There is also the CORE module which includes a wide range of functionalities such as crew and guest lists, and monitoring of crew and yacht certificates, with an alert appearing on the dashboard when a document is approaching expiry.
To what extent are the different modules customisable?
The brilliant bit about DEEP Blue is that it is highly customisable to suit the size of the boat and the needs of the client. Customisation includes things like crew/yacht documents, PMS, ISM, expense categories, inventories and locations, and more.
The jewel is a unique interface which allows the system administrator to define the user access permissions at fleet level, yacht by yacht, or by name and position.
DEEP Blue also tracks the actions of each user, so all activity is recorded with user names and positions.
What is your process for onboarding new clients?
After the yacht’s DEEP Blue server has been activated and customised, we book online training sessions with managers and HODs to get them up to speed with the system as quickly as possible. These sessions can take place in one full day or over several days, as required. Training sessions are unlimited. We try to ensure the system is set up and used correctly from the start, and when a new officer, purser or chief stew joins the yacht.
When a yacht transitions from a different system, is it easy to import existing files and data, and do you offer assistance with this?
Yes, our development studio can import existing data from any other system, and our team in Sophia Antipolis also offers assistance with this.
What level of support is available to clients on an ongoing basis?
Our priority is to ensure that our clients get the full value from the system they purchased. Therefore, we provide support seven days a week throughout the life of their subscription. We do this through email, phone, online meetings and, whenever possible, in person. We also provide continuous training for crew and management and our support team in France is always happy to answer questions, big or small.
How does your solution compare in terms of price?
Covering all aspects of yacht management with a unique interface, and a system that functions online/offline, together with the level of service we provide, our packages are seen as a very competitive. The proof is that even 25m/30m yachts have opted for DEEP Blue - our system is designed for yachts of all sizes.
What would you say are the defining features that make DEEP Blue stand out in the marketplace?
Besides offering a complete and fully integrated yacht management solution, we constantly gather feedback from our clients. This allows us to continually improve our system’s framework and features, upgrading our software every month and making sure that ALL our clients are running on the latest version (upgrades are included in the subscription).
What is the most significant problem that your software solves?
More than anything, it saves time! Everything can be done online via a single, intuitive interface, accessible from any computer or mobile device.Crew members, management and owners’ reps can save literally hours of valuable time working within a professional framework.
Recently you partnered with Virtual Pursers who provide administrative support for large yachts – what are the benefits of this collaboration?
Virtual Pursers approached us in the early stages of their new venture. They wanted to be able to recommend a complete yacht management platform to their clients who will benefit significantly through our collaboration. We believe our partnership of products and services is very complementary and we look forward to working closely with them.
What’s the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve learned in your role so far?
One of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of my role is all of the different people I get to meet around a yacht management project. From financial directors, captains, DPAs, chief engineers, pursers and of course owners and owners’ reps, it’s a pleasure to build these relationships and to feel as though I am working as a team with our clients.