Car Ferries and the Information Value Chain

I have a real world example of the importance of Information Value Chain thinking for you — odd-ball, but it made me think and I hope you find it fun too.

This weekend I was price hunting for car ferries from Ireland to France. I was looking for as cheap as possible, but more importantly close to the days we wanted to start and finish our holiday. Ireland to France is a long way — 18-20 hour trip, so the ferries do not go every day, even in the height of the Summer season. I was dreading slogging my way through the ferry company’s websites, collecting dates, prices and ports for each route for different weeks between late June and early July. Imagine my delight when I realized there were ferry comparison sites. One stop shopping, I thought! Well … NO.

What was wrong with these sites? They did offer prices for all the ferry companies. However to get any quote, I had to enter a starting and destination port. Many ferry ports on the Irish and French coasts are nothing more than that: one ferry company’s terminal perched on the edge of an otherwise empty stretch of coastline. No town, and most importantly, no other ferry companies. So if I select Rosslare in Ireland and Roscoff in France as my ports I have a choice of exactly one ferry company. Cork – Roscoff: a different one. Rosslare – Cherbourg: a different one. I might as well have gone to the ferry company’s own site, then at least I could check for cabins (remember that 20 hour sailing)! The added value of the comparison website? ZERO.

Let’s compare this with searching for a flight from Shannon, Ireland to Raleigh, North Carolina. Even on Google I am offered flights with 5 different airlines through 5 different hubs. I can compare on price, duration and number of stops.

The designers of these tools are thinking much more about how they deliver value: helping me get from A to B, not just data about flights.

So what would be ideal? What if I was able to enter my origin — County Clare, Ireland — and my destination — St Jean de Monts, France — and be listed all sailings which get me there and back as close to my desired dates as possible? I have a car — that’s why I’m looking for a car ferry, so whether I arrive in Roscoff or Cherbourg is just a 20 mins difference driving. Whether I leave from Cork or Rosslare just a couple of hours. I could even go via Britain if the price and times were right.

Home to holiday home, not port to port — that’s Information Value Chain thinking!