August 13, 2001
Two years ago, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. faced a future in which its growth was so rapid it needed to rebuild its IT infrastructure almost from the ground up--everything from new multimillion-dollar reservations and supply-chain management systems to minor Web redesign projects. And its IT project managers were still working with pen and notepads.
That's when the Miami-based cruise line contracted with Niku Corp. for what was then little more than time-entry software for its nearly 300-member IT staff and a cadre of consultants. Since then, Royal Caribbean has been sold on the value of workforce-optimization software. "We needed to be a more professional IT organization if we were going to go after internally managing and developing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of IT projects," says Tom Murphy, Royal Caribbean CIO.The cruise line is currently using the software to manage 150 IT projects, some as small as a $20,000 Web-site redesign project and some as large as a "massive" effort to build a new reservations system for customers and a new multimillion-dollar upgrade of its J.D. Edwards procurement and supply-chain management system that will require a great deal of customization. The company started using the Niku software 18 months ago to simply track staffers' and consultants' time. The cruise line began to explore the idea that the software could be used to track every detail of a project, and has since developed methodologies and templates that are used to manage all IT projects--nearly 150 are currently under way. "We spent an enormous amount of time trying to allocate projects to the business units that needed them and we needed tools that would help us get that done so we could focus on development," Murphy says.Cruise-line business units and project managers use software from the time an IT project is just a concept to map the project's future. An $8 million project might include $4 million for hardware, $2 million for software and $2 million for labor. Niku's Resourcer application is used to categorize the skills and available employees and consultants, information which is used to determine who will staff a project. Project planners break down labor costs by the specific job category and the number of hours to be worked by the person holding each job. Royal Caribbean uses the software to set daily, weekly, and monthly milestones for each aspect of the project--when hardware is to be delivered, when certain development milestones are to be reached, and the date of deployment. The vendor's financial-management software keeps track of how the costs associated with the project are allocated to departments.The apps generate daily reports on the progress of each project, and when any aspect of a project falls behind, its project manager is alerted. "It wasn't enough to get monthly reports or weekly reports. We needed daily information on progress and real-time alerts when a project falls behind." The cruise line considers the software enough of a success that its marine operations division--including shipbuilding and maintenance--is currently evaluating it for use in those operations. Royal Caribbean's CIO says workforce-automation tools and the broad range of project management tools they offer are indispensable in a time when no company can afford to waste the time and energies of IT staffers and consultants. As Royal Caribbean's own marine division shows, as the word about workforce optimization spreads, project-oriented businesses are paying attention.
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