Cargo ALERTS Replacement 

Synopsis

The main objective of the client was to upgrade the cargo ALERTS system to mitigate the risk of obsolescence. The client's existing INFORM ALERTS was to be replaced with INFORM GroundStar RT v9.7 for cargo airside task allocations. The new system would provide a comparable level of benefits to cargo operations in terms of resource requirement, application performance, mitigate risks, and provide additional business benefits. Coforge identified and delivered those benefits and resulted in a fully supported operationally critical SL1 application. 

About the client

The client is an Anglo-Spanish multinational airline holding company with its operational headquarters in London. It is the sixth-largest airline company in the world, covering over 200 destinations and serving approximately 112 million passengers per year. The client has expanded since their merger to include other airline subsidiaries like – Aer Lingus (EI), Vueling (VY), and Level (LV). 

Business Challenges

ALERTS application from the supplier (INFORM) is a forerunner to their GroundStar RMS product. It is a resource allocation system used to create, plan, and allocate real-time tasks for cargo airside operations via Remote Data Terminals (RDTs) at LHR. Though there are many implementations of GroundStar (10+) across the Group, ALERTS was the first, implemented in BAWC approximately 15 years ago, and over the years has undergone many customizations. The client-specific version of ALERTS in use was v7.1.  

ALERTS v7.1 runs on RHEL (RedHat Linux) v 5.0. This version of LINUX is already out of support and extended support ended in 2020. Alerts v7.1 could not be upgraded to run on a newer version of the operating system. Hence, ALERTS v7.1 was to be replaced with the newer version of the INFORM GroundStar RT application.  

The objective of this project was to upgrade the Cargo ALERTS system to mitigate the risk of obsolescence. This project replaced INFORM ALERTS v7.1 with INFORM GroundStarRT v9.7 for cargo airside task allocations, providing a comparable level of benefits to cargo operations in terms of resource requirements (manpower) and application performance.   

In addition, there is a single point of failure to INFORM in that there is only one person who can support the application itself. Later versions of the INFORM product - Groundstar - are used across the client group. This was a significant business change project in that Groundstar is functionally different from ALERTS. All client-specific customizations were added to the GroundStar product to support the current cargo operations and also offer opportunities for process improvement and additional benefits.  

Key objectives of the project were to:  

  • Mitigate the risk of running a key operational application on an unsupportable operating system  
  • Mitigate the risk of having only one person who can support a critical operational application  
  • Use standard functionality to minimize the amount of customization needed to address some unique features of the cargo operation at LHR, and remove some functions of the current system that are no longer required   
  • Exploit the capabilities of the replacement system to gain additional business benefits  
     

Additional requirements were to:  

Get all client cargo-specific customizations included in the new product  

Automation in some business processes like capturing the driver sign-in times through integration with staff tracker attendance and time recording system, integration with vehicle GPS data to show exact position on vehicles on the airport map, and integration with FLY to capture “Mail” messages in the system  

Provision of live feeds from interfacing systems for business testing  

Perform live operational trials on the live system before business go-live  

Since the new application is supported only on Win 64-bit OS, replacement of 50+ old user PCs on Win 32-bit OS was required that had other non-64-bit compatible apps running on it  

Overnight upgrade of 200 RDTs (handheld devices) used by drivers as there were no replacement and backup devices  

Our Solution

Being the preferred supplier, Coforge was entrusted with the implementation of GroundStar RT v9.7 product to replace the old ALERTS v7.1. Coforge was expected to capture and document the requirements (including customizations), design, set up new infrastructure, set up interfaces (including new interfaces), system testing, interface testing, support business testing, and implement the solution.  

Workshops were conducted with the client's business users to identify and document the requirements.  

PRL (Prioritized Requirements List) and Functional specification were documented and signed-off.  

Workshops with the supplier (INFORM) to share the requirements with them to identify the gaps.  

A testing strategy was defined to test the changes for impacted systems. It included strategies for system testing, interface testing, and all business testing phases (joint testing with supplier, business simulation, and UAT), and live operational trials. 

Delivery of the application from the supplier was planned in multiple releases. There were two different streams of releases. One for the software (7 releases) and one for the interfaces (5 releases).  

New infrastructure was designed and setup. This included setup of dev, UAT, training, pre-live, and live environments, and provision of live feeds from all interfacing applications. Coforge ensured the availability of the environments to support the various testing phases and ensured there was no downtime during the testing phases.  

System and interface testing was carried out for each release followed by joint testing with the supplier by the users.  

User Acceptance Testing was done by the business and co-ordinated and supported by Coforge.  

Go-Live of IT infrastructure and application was done 2 months before business go-live to support Trials on the new Live system without impacting the operations of the existing Live system.  

Coforge supported the user training for all airside and non-airside users. Total of around 200+ users which included external users who use the application on Citrix.  

For the business cut-over to the new application, all RDTs were upgraded with new software and all PCs were replaced with new ones over-night.  

4 weeks of ELS following the business cut-over was agreed upon with application support, business, and operations team for a smooth transition to BAU support. A Command-and-Control center was set up to support ELS in 24x7 shifts with representation from all teams in each shift.  

Delivering more value

The ALERTS Replacement was a complex project which involved efforts from a lot of stakeholders from various business and operational areas and multiple suppliers. A well-coordinated effort from all streams ensured successful implementation and transition to BAU support. Despite the complexities involved, there were no Critical P1/P2 issues raised post-cut-over and the users were able to quickly adapt to the new system. 

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