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MITEM Case Study - CP Ships

Abstract of an article in the April 2000 edition of eAI Journal. Click here for the full story.

CP Ships, the London-based subsidiary of Toronto parent Canadian Pacific, is now a major player in the global container shipping business with $2.6 billion (US) in revenue. Driven by the expanding global trade of it customers, CP Ships has grown rapidly through five acquisitions since 1995.

With its rapid acquisitions, CP Ships has found itself as the parent of six separate companies, all of which were typically former competitors in one form or another. The company faces a formidable data- and work-process-integration effort in order to wring out the inefficiencies that are inherent in such far-flung, freshly merged global enterprises.

Business Problem

Since his promotion to CIO of CP Ships in April 1999, Tom Collins has been working diligently to develop the economies of scale and consistency that accrue from centralized logistics systems. Meanwhile, he has been living with the current non-integrated hodgepodge of booking and documentation systems spread around the world, and across diverse technical platforms; systems that he inherited from the still-being-digested acquisitions.

Collins observes that "CP Ships is now a collection of lines, some of which are old competitors. Although there is the usual struggle for power, essentially there is no main company that is absorbing the others. It is a collection of companies, each with its own business model. There are plenty of tensions and cross line co-operation has not been established as the norm."

Collins' considerable organizational and technical challenge has been how best to meld the disparate parts into a functioning whole. CP Ships had an acute need to deliver rapid and visible changes across a technical environment that uses IBM OS/390, HP Unix, and IBM AS/400 platforms.

Project Goals

The primary means of information transfer has been the time-honored process of entering data into one system, printing it out from that system, faxing the print-out to another location, where the information is in turn rekeyed into another set of systems. And then the cycle repeats Key-print-fax-rekey. Key-print-fax-rekey.

Rationalizing and automating this cumbersome, convoluted, and inefficient workflow process was CIO Collins' immediate-term business objective. The overriding project requirement was to quickly tap into the existing working data streams and deliver incremental improvements without ripping apart the current systems.


According to Collins, MITEM's non-invasive middleware product was hands-down the best fit for immediate-term business needs. Collins already had functional, but non-integrated, business processes that were spread around the globe on three platforms and five systems. He did not want to, nor did he have the resources to, rip these working applications apart and rebuild them to fit the greatly expanded footprint of his current business. His business objective then was to consolidate these diverse information flows into a centralized view without being forced into the lengthy cycle of end-user requirement meetings that necessarily accompanies full-scale reengineering efforts.

Using MitemView enabled the first working version -- an integrated presentation across three platforms and five applications -- to be delivered in just 12 weeks without distracting the already overburdened Year 2000 project teams.

A major reason for selecting the MitemView approach was precisely to avoid the normally lengthy and disruptive reengineering process. MitemView offered a safe, credible approach for interfacing quickly with existing business processes -- quotations, bookings, documentation, etc. MitemView fitted Collins' needs well because of his business focus: to deliver a working version quickly so that his booking and documentation specialists could see an immediate improvement in information flow. For individuals accustomed to the limits of the existing fragmented systems, there is nothing like a rapid-development environment to earn their support.


Given the realities of his situation, Collins has not had the luxury of drawn-out strategic planning and implementation cycles. What he has accomplished with MitemView has bought time and breathing room. The non-invasive approach has enabled him to deliver immediate-term, highly visible results where it counts the most: systems can now be viewed at a single workstation. This advance is important for CP Ships on two fronts. First, the company's developers have not been diverted from other projects. Second, and more importantly, bookings and documentation specialists have become actively engaged in improving their own workflow. When freed from a lengthy and often contentious development cycle, end users will typically pitch in whole heartedly to improve their performance.

Directly involving end users has had an enormous positive impact on morale since they are the ones -- not the central IT developers -- who actually know where workflow improvements can and should be made. For CP Ships, the leverage in business efficiencies and team morale are truly extraordinary.

Article written for eAI Journal by Philip E. Courtney.
(c) Thomas Communications Inc., 2000.

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