Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Managing the Ultimate Complex Merger: Delta and Northwest Airlines

The NY Times has an excellent article on the long and challenging road for an airline merger, in this case Delta and Northwest.  Wall-based Processing (WBP) played a key part in its success. We use the WBP approach in many of our Stanford Advanced Project Management (SAPM) Courses, such as Executing Complex Programs, and the IPS FastPLAN Workshop.
Each airline has hundreds of different technologies that book seats, print tickets or dispatch crews that need to be integrated. Failure here can leave thousands of travelers without a seat if bookings are misplaced.
Delta’s chief information officer, Theresa Wise, said the airline had to merge 1,199 computer systems down to about 600, including one — a component within the airline’s reservation system — dating from 1966.
The challenge, she said, was to switch the systems progressively so that passengers would not notice. Ms. Wise, who has a doctorate in applied mathematics, devised a low-tech solution: she set up a timeline of the steps that had to be performed by pinning colored Post-it notes on the wall of a conference room.