Case study Distribution and transport

Aligning port IT to the business

A historical IT landscape presented the opportunity for efficiency improvements

Historically, the port has been made up of commercial subsidiary companies and their separate IT systems. They wanted to identify areas where the cost of operations could be lowered and also ensure business systems were fully aligned with business development.

Improving efficiency

The historical landscape meant that many systems, in particular the finance system, were not suitably connected to one another. The port faced some key issues as a result:

  • Reporting the level of success against many business objectives was a time consuming, manual process.
  • The lack of connections between systems resulted in duplicated effort; reducing efficiency and increasing costs.

The port recognised that if technology is effectively aligned to the needs of the business, then efficiencies could be introduced into the business processes.

IT Strategy

Waterstons developed an IT Strategy for Port of Tyne that helped the port understand how their assets, including their people, could to be fully utilised to achieve operational excellence.

Further investment in new business systems was necessary to support the port’s value added services, whilst ensuring supporting functions were able to carry out their roles in a streamlined, efficient and integrated way.

During the strategy creation process, Waterstons translated the port’s business strategy to identify the following:

  • Business priorities
  • Projects and initiatives to address the business priorities
  • Risks and mitigations of these to the delivery of the port’s priorities
  • Business benefits of recommendations made, e.g. Return on Investment (ROI)

Waterstons were able to identify practical steps that the port could perform in order to ensure their business systems supported their clearly identified strategic objectives.

In addition, as some of these practical steps would take some time to implement, clear and attainable quick-wins were identified that could be accomplished using existing tools and systems that were in place at the port. These quick wins would also support the long term recommendations, ensuring that both the financial and time investment made continue to add value to Port of Tyne.

Methodology

The steps Waterstons took to produce the Port of Tyne’s IT Strategy are described below. These steps were undertaken asynchronously; while the status quo was being assessed, Waterstons was also clarifying the business strategy.

Assess the status quo

Interviews with operational staff and senior individuals within in each business area helped to identify all the primary systems in use within the port. A high level map of the existing business systems, workflows and information flows were created.

Clarifying the Business Strategy

The Waterstons team held a workshop with the senior management, using several methods to clarify the port’s business strategy.

Creating the Strategy Map

The Strategy Map describes how the port can create value by connecting their strategic objectives in explicit cause-and-effect relationship with their financial, stakeholder, internal and learning and growth perspectives. In order to clarify what is important to the organisation at a high level, Jim Collins’ Hedgehog principles were used to identify what the port is passionate about; what the port can be the best at; and what drives their economic engine.

Treacy and Wiersema’s model was used to identify the port’s main discipline driver as an operationally excellent organisation.

Once Waterstons fully understood the port’s business strategy the following were reviewed to identify areas where technology could be used to support this:

  • IT Business Systems Strategy
  • IT Support Strategy
  • Plans and Budgets

(The IT Technical Infrastructure Strategy can also be reviewed; however this was excluded during this particular review.)

Final presentation and written report

Waterstons’ findings and recommendations were presented to the Port of Tyne. Discussion of these findings and recommendations is encouraged during the presentation.

Recommendations

One of the key recommendations was the creation of an IT Steering Committee in order to ensure that all projects went through an approval process and demonstrated a good return on investment. Other recommendations included:

  • Business Process Mapping exercise to improve underlying processes.
  • Strategic Review of all applications, specifically where there is overlap and duplication of specific systems (due to company acquisitions).
  • Formal System Selection process for some of the specialist bespoke systems under discussion.
  • Implementation of an intranet for collaboration and to replace many of the offline spread sheets.
  • Investigation of suitable ERP applications, including the development of a complete ITT.

The recommendation was that while these projects were being considered some short term quick wins, such as consolidation of ledgers, should be executed in order to facilitate processing and lay better foundations for new systems.

Since developing a tangible strategy for information technology, in association with Waterstons, Port of Tyne has experienced greater business efficiencies.
John Hudson Chief Financial Officer