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Oil Shippers System Migration from outdated Technology Platform

Executive Summary

  • End of life software conversion
  • Livelink integration
  • Web Application-Java
  • Oil Shipment Solution

Business Case

The oil shippers system used allows external shipper clients to access a variety of information, including documents, invoices, and a transit time calculator. Access to the system is restricted by security roles, but clients have the ability to set and manage their own passwords.

The Plumtree Portal platform forms the foundation on which this functionality has been built. A component of the Plumtree Portal has become unstable and all efforts to stabilize this component have failed. As well, the current version of the Plumtree Portal is no longer supported by the vendor and some of the risks of this unsupported platform are starting to be realized. The business strategy is to development a new solution and to eventually retire this platform.

To ensure Shippers receive the customer service that gives the customer its competitive advantage, work is required to replace the soluition. After considering several alternatives, it was decided to move this functionality into another system to which shippers have access—a Java web application used to track oil movement for shippers. This scope of this project is to port the existing functionality to this web application.

The primary justification for undertaking this project is the long term viability of the Plumtree platform on which the present application resides. As well, since this core application is utilized by oil shippers to view important information such as their invoices, there is a potential impact to the customer’s reputation and revenue stream.

Shippers users use the application to access their required information, such as invoices, via portlets. Since January 2009, the Plumtree portal has been experiencing issues with a specific sub-component (search service). This results in the portlets not displaying the information to users but they will not have any idea that anything is even wrong. This in turn, will lead to a large number of support calls to IT and a loss of confidence in the shippers’ application. A considerable amount of time has already been spent on attempting to resolve the issue, but the problems persist. The current temporary solution has been to configure the system to automatically restart the service when it goes down. This is a stop-gap measure and not a solution to the problem.

Another justification for this project is that the current system that performs the document management function for shippers, Livelink 9.2, has been unsupported by the vendor since 2007. There is currently a project underway to decommission this version of Livelink.

Finally, the entire maintenance costs for Plumtree will be allocated to Shipper Services in October 2009 as the all other applications residing on the Plumtree infrastructure have been retired or are being moved as part of eSource decommissioning. Currently, these costs are spread out over all business clients with applications on Plumtree.

Careful coordination with other concurrent projects was also required to ensure that changes are not overwritten, code integrity was kept intact, and implementation of the correct version was ensured.

Business Solution

The project team gathered and documented detailed requirements for the functionality that was to be ported from one application to the other. They designed the future state of the new integrated application to maintain and enhance its current functionality, while incorporating the new requirements. This included redesigning the menu structure and navigation, developing a new “look and feel” for the integrated application, providing an integrated security model, incorporating password management, and document management features. Once the design was signed off by the business, the architecture and application were developed and tested by the team.

Upon completion of development, the project team assisted stakeholders in completing user acceptance testing by assisting in the creation of test cases and overseeing the testing. Training was provided to both internal stakeholders and external clients on the application. Internal and external communications plans were developed, as well as training materials and quick reference guides. Training was provided to the IT Operations support team.

Other documentation such as UAT signoff, an implementation plan with back out strategy, technical and functional design documentation, and user documentation was also prepared as project deliverables. The project team deployed the application to production and provided one month of post-production warranty support.

Technologies used in this project included Oracle, PL/SQL, Java, and UMDS and LDAP (for security). Specifically: Java, JSP, AJAX, JavaScript, UMDS/LDAP (security), SiteMinder, Oracle, PL/SQL, SQLServer, File Server, LiveLink, Linux, Portal/Portlets, Mail Services (Email), Web Services.

Business benefits include the fact that a single customer facing application was created from two separate ones. This allowed a single point of contact for external customers to interact with the client system, with a single look and feel. IT Operations now had to support one application instead of two, resulting in lower maintenance costs and freed up server space. In addition, it allowed the client to move off an unsupported platform, reducing both risk and substantial licensing costs. It also reduced the risk of system failure, and subsequent damage to the client’s relations with external customers.