To secure its market-leading position, Canal Barge Company aims to react fast to new opportunities. How could it help a distributed workforce to share knowledge and make better-informed decisions?
CBC migrated to IBM® Connections® Cloud—enabling seamless collaboration for all employees wherever and whenever they work via wikis, communities, video conferencing and more.
Unitesa distributed workforce on a central collaboration platform
Enablesfaster, better-informed decision-making
Helpsimprove processes and drive competitiveness
Business challenge story
Staying ahead in a fast-changing industry
As businesses grow, keeping open lines of communication between employees is an essential element in delivering responsive, high-quality services—but the larger an organization becomes, the more difficult it can be for people to collaborate effectively.
This was the situation facing CBC, a leading provider of transportation services based in New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition to managing its fast-paced growth, the company experienced the additional challenge of a distributed workforce.
Carl Fravel, Director of IT at CBC, explains: “Many of our 800 employees work considerable distances away from one another—whether it’s aboard our boats and barges, at one of our nine facilities across the country, or on the road while traveling.
“We see that emerging technologies and business models will transform the transportation space in the coming years, and we knew that we needed to improve our agility to capitalize on those opportunities ahead of our competitors. In the past, there was a tendency for our business to operate in silos—but the challenge with this approach was that it made it very difficult to share the information necessary to make the best-informed decisions about our daily operations, as well as our future strategy.”
He continues: “We have a very strong culture of working together, but it was often the case that the ownership of decisions made at the corporate level was unclear. And because many of our veteran employees are nearing retirement age, we knew that there was a risk that valuable knowledge could be lost during the succession process. To solve those challenges, we looked for a way to foster closer collaboration across the business.”
Boosting agility with collaboration in the cloud
For more than 20 years, CBC has relied on IBM Notes® and Domino® solutions hosted on premises. In addition to delivering email and calendaring services, the company uses Notes applications to integrate its business processes from end to end, with IBM Connections® for collaboration and IBM Sametime® for instant messaging. Based on its positive experiences with these IBM Social Business solutions, the company decided to take its collaboration capabilities to the next level by migrating to IBM Connections Cloud with IBM Verse™.
Kerry Godbold, Information Systems Applications Administrator at CBC, says: “When we looked at the IBM product development roadmap, we were confident that moving from our existing on-premises environment to collaboration in the cloud was a natural progression.”
He continues: “Many of our employees work on mobile devices, and we were particularly impressed with how easy it is to access and edit information in communities, wikis and activities via mobile phones and tablets. And by selecting a cloud-based solution, we knew that we would ultimately drive considerable savings when the time came to decommission our on-premises infrastructure.”
As a first step, CBC rolled out its new approach to collaboration to its information systems department.
“We recognized that creating a social business network would be a substantial business transformation, and that we needed to drive adoption gradually from the grass roots,” recalls Carl Fravel. “Inspired by a book called ‘Opting In’ by IBM Vice President Ed Brill, we began engaging our leadership team and superusers from across the business, sharing educational resources, and getting them excited about the goals of the project. The process was very successful, and we found that very little training was needed to get people up and running on the new solution.”
CBC has now begun migrating files and mailboxes from its IBM Domino environment to the cloud.
“Our migration process is now well underway, and everything is going extremely smoothly,” says Kerry Godbold. “Moving mailboxes to IBM Connections Cloud is straightforward, regardless of whether they are 2 gigabytes or 30 gigabytes. Better still, our users have full access to their email throughout via their Notes client. The whole process is seamless, and we have had great success with it.”
He adds: “Whenever we have a question or we need assistance, IBM is only an email away—and the support we receive continues to be very responsive. IBM makes it easy to get help, and the team is quick to respond with service requests, even for lower-priority items.”
Today, more than half of CBC’s corporate employees are using the new solution—including executives, marketing, accounting, human resources and operations personnel.
“Enabling people to work effectively on the move is one of our key goals, and IBM Connections is already helping us to deliver those capabilities,” says Carl Fravel. “We have around 40 employees using the mobile app to access and edit files, and join video conferences—and their feedback has been very positive. In just a year and a half, we have added more than 2,000 pieces of content to Connections and set up 70 active communities, which demonstrates the effectiveness of a ground-up adoption model.”
Making better-informed decisions—faster
With the entire information systems team now using IBM Connections to drive their day-to-day activities, CBC is experiencing the efficiency benefits of a centralized collaboration environment.
“Before Connections, we tended to manage projects with meeting invites saved in calendars, but this made it difficult to offer visibility of important information, and to assign and track responsibilities for the next actions,” explains Kerry Godbold. “Today, we use activities and wikis in Connections to keep track of progress, outcomes and responsibilities, which helps us to keep initiatives on track.”
He adds: “For example, we are currently building an integrated approach to customer relationship management, supported by Salesforce solutions. By managing the project timelines and deliverables in a Connections community, it’s significantly easier to ensure that work proceeds on time and within budget. Initiatives such as this will help us to deliver more accurate, timely quotes to our customers—and Connections contributes to our ability to deliver new and better services that will increase our competitiveness.”
Many groups within CBC are now using Connections to collaboratively assemble agendas for meetings, and to record decisions and assignments—increasing transparency and accountability.
“In the past, it was often difficult to find out the underlying reasoning behind decisions at the corporate level, as they tended to be buried in email chains,” says Kerry Godbold. “Today, we have a single, centralized point for people to document the decision-making process, which enables greater ownership of decisions made at the corporate level.
“Recording information clearly will also have important benefits for our succession management process. For example, it will be far easier for employees to see the source of high-level decision-making: the process, the criteria, who participated in the decision, and when and how it was finalized and announced. The Connections solution will also act as a bridge between our new and veteran employees—enabling our most experienced people to document the rationale behind our internal practices and procedures, ensuring that valuable knowledge is not lost when they retire.
“We know that new employees joining the business will bring fresh perspectives, and may decide to work in different ways—but to implement effective changes, it is important that they understand the reasoning that shaped our processes. We think that Connections Cloud will be a great unifier—bringing employees at all levels of experience together on a shared platform.”
Based on the successful deployment of IBM Connections Cloud in its information systems department, CBC is already planning for the future.
“We are beginning to open up our Connections environment for secure collaboration with external vendors, such as software developers working with our information systems team,” comments Kerry Godbold. “Looking ahead, we are confident that many of functions across the business will benefit from the ability to work more closely and efficiently with external partners via Connections communities.”
Carl Fravel concludes: “Better and faster access to information is essential to maintain our competitive edge—and IBM Connections is enabling us to achieve exactly that. Our journey to collaboration in the cloud is just beginning, and we see that our business social network will help us to further increase transparency, accountability and agility as our deployment continues.”
About Canal Barge Company, Inc.
Founded in 1933, Canal Barge Company, Inc. (CBC) is a family-owned, independent marine transportation company headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of the most diverse marine transportation companies in the United States, Canal Barge moves valuable cargo to virtually every part of the world for multiple Fortune 500 integrated oil companies, chemical and oil companies, as well as refineries, construction companies, fabricators, public utilities, engineering companies, and the United States Government.
- Connections Cloud (SaaS)
- ESS: IBM Verse (SaaS)
- ICS: Domino
- ICS: Notes
- ICS: Sametime
- T&T: Operations Planning and Optimization
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM Connections Cloud, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/software/products/en/ibmconnsuit