Purolator Courier's CIO: Why We Shuffled Execs

Purolator Courier's CIO: Why We Shuffled Execs

When it came to a major overhaul of its business operations, the company allowed leadership of the initiative to migrate from one executive to another as the project moved to different phases. In the midst of it all, Jim McDade found himself in the role of prime contractor.

As investment plans go, the one embarked on by Purolator Courier in 2005 was a doozey. In essence, the five-year plan was one of those 'bet the company' initiatives, entailing the building of the firm's first two automated hubs (in Montreal and Vancouver), the overhauling of its data warehousing strategy, and the jettisoning of much of its technology infrastructure, including its time-management system and its Web-based and customer shipping systems.

As Senior Vice President and CIO Jim McDade modestly put it, "It's been a busy three years." The need for the big overhaul was indisputable. Hampered by legacy systems that in some cases were nearly a couple of decades old, Purolator found that it couldn't bring new products into the marketplace. The company was being outmaneuvered by its competitors, who had the ability to price services fairly precisely between two points, while Purolator was saddled with zone pricing.."

Strategy and the CIORead what five Canadian IT executives had to say about their changing role in strategic planning.The objective of the five-year plan was to build a new Purolator for the company's customers -- one quite different from the original and one that would give customers a new way of doing business with the firm.

"We changed how we bill for our services, we changed the definition of our services, and we changed what services are available at what postal codes. Fundamentally, we rethought all that," said McDade. "And one of the guidelines throughout the initiative was that we couldn't lose a single customer because of this new system." That meant coming up with equitable pricing between the old and the new Purolator, and getting customers to sign off on the new pricing.

Putting the Right Team in Place

A great deal of thought was put into the initiative from the outset.

"I'm a firm believer that eighty per cent of the value of a project comes within the first twenty per cent of its time-frame," said McDade. "And so we did a lot of hard slogging to envision how we wanted to run our company and get the business onside as to what that change would be, and how they would change to support it."

Once this future had been envisioned, executives from the business as well as a cross-functional team of employees were invited to join the project and help build that future. Though the building of a new ERP system was a heavily IT-based project, the company handed the reins of the design phase to VP of Marketing John Cooper. Along with three of his direct reports, Cooper worked hand in glove with the IT specialists to come up with an appropriate solution.

"There were two big challenges we faced," said Cooper. "The first was ensuring that we had thought big enough in the design phase so as to enable us to deliver flexible solutions to our customers, while at the same time focusing enough to provide clear direction to the build teams to execute against.

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