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.

At the end of the Tuesday meeting, McDade tried to get an informal measure of how things were progressing, asking questions like, 'Are you a little more nervous or a little less nervous?' 'Are we making progress?' 'What are your gut feelings on it?'

"On a job with that many people, there are four or five layers until you get down to that coder at the bottom, so you need to maintain some sort of communication with everyone," he said. On Wednesday afternoons the project leaders would go in front of the executive committee and report on the past week. "Visiting your CEO every week keeps you sharp," said McDade. "I would talk about what the development teams were doing, but the people making the presentation were the folks like John Cooper and Mike Coté. So it was an opportunity for them to shine and for them to be on the spot too, which was a good way to keep the whole thing on track."

Tackling the Challenges

Purolator has about 300,000 customers, the vast majority of which are small or medium enterprises that do not have contracts with the firm. The greater challenge for the company in migrating to the new system was its 5,000 or so large customers, the biggest of which were making thousands of shipments a day.

"When it came to those 5,000 large customers, we were still operating our old billing system at the same time as our new billing system," said McDade. "On the one hand we were saying, 'Hey, we have to get rid of all of this stuff, it's 20 years old,' and on the other hand we were saying, 'Well, we're going to have to talk to those things until we convert the last customer.' So our legacy systems were a big issue for us in terms of a risk to be controlled." But with the help of a good project manager from CGI, the legacy piece was well managed and ended up not being as big a risk as anticipated.

"Someone would say, 'It's going to take this many days to do this,' and we'd say 'I don't think so -- explain why. Let's take a closer look at this -- why, why, why -- and we'd just keep going through it. We'd just keep managing the risks away as we evolved through the project," said McDade.

As the project moved to the back end of the build, another hurdle was faced: will the business accept this? The question was an important one, as the roles of a few hundred people were about to change.

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