Ever wonder how cotton from the southern United States makes it to the interior of Turkey? It is likely shipped by Mediterranean Shipping Company, the second-largest shipper in the world. With so much of the world’s precious cargo on board, Mediterranean Shipping strives for efficiency in all aspects of its business. The company recently conducted a pilot deployment of Microsoft Office 2010 and discovered great benefits. From the robust data analysis tools, which help employees complete complex calculations faster, to enhanced e-mail management tools and online access to spreadsheets to help make working together simpler, Mediterranean Shipping has found a lot to be excited about. The software has helped boost productivity, improve business insight, achieve higher IT efficiency, and minimize operations costs.
Mediterranean Shipping Company is the second-largest container ship line in the world. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, with more than 35,000 employees, Mediterranean Shipping serves 270 ports worldwide on six continents. The company operates a fleet of more than 400 vessels with a combined capacity of 1.9 million twenty-foot units. Its customers include Fortune 100 companies, many of which are recognizable as retail providers of common household products.
A privately owned company, Mediterranean Shipping has become successful through organic growth. A key strategy has been to operate as efficiently as possible, with an emphasis on lean operations and low overhead. To this end, the company keeps employees productive by investing in innovative technologies. For its United States–based operations, Mediterranean Shipping relies on an IT staff of just 15 people to support 1,100 employees.
||The new tools in Office 2010 help everyone be more productive. This is exactly why we … adopt the newest Microsoft technologies as early as possible…. We work faster and smarter than the competition.
Chief Information Officer, Mediterranean Shipping Company
Fabio Catassi, Chief Technology Officer at Mediterranean Shipping Company says, “Our organization is highly streamlined, with an intense focus on teamwork and the use of technology. We aim to empower business users by giving them efficiency-enhancing tools that don’t require a lot of IT staff time to implement and support.”
Financial success for Mediterranean Shipping hinges on its ability to maximize ship load and keep the price per shipping unit as stable as possible. Business intelligence is mission critical, and to gain the figures the company needs, users analyze in detail every aspect of shipping activity, including schedules, routing, information about ports of call, and vessel capacity, on the more than 10 million containers that the company transports each year.
Delivering these insights, however, required a great deal of effort from the IT department. IT staffers had to first understand the type of analysis required by the company’s Commercial department, then aggregate raw data from the company’s 22 terabytes of stored data in partial reports that were exportable to a Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet, then the business user had to write macros and employ standard PivotTables to interpret the information from the spreadsheets that the IT department delivered. “It took several weeks to build a specialized analysis model and involved multiple people from IT to provide business users with the level of detail they required,” says Catassi.
Yet, the company actually wanted to extend its business intelligence activities by combining its own shipping statistics with general market statistics. This would create even more data preparation work.
For many years, Mediterranean Shipping has relied on Microsoft products and technologies to run its technology infrastructure and to develop mission-critical line-of-business applications for customer relationship management, booking, contract management, equipment control, statistical analysis, and more. Mediterranean Shipping employees around the world use Microsoft Office Excel 2007 and Microsoft SQL Server data management software daily to analyze the company’s data.
The company’s intensive reporting generated hundreds of thousands of documents and spreadsheets. Some of the Office Excel 2007 spreadsheets were as large as 100 megabytes (MB). “We joke that our business runs on Excel,” says Catassi. “But sharing 100-MB spreadsheets through e-mail was not possible, so users had a hard time collaborating and synchronizing information with each other.” And with branch offices located around the world, the IT department had to rely on costly storage, backup, and replication technology so that spreadsheets and other information created at one office could be accessible to all. “For proper performance, we had to have a local copy of each spreadsheet available at each branch office,” says Catassi. “Disk space was expensive, and we couldn’t buy bandwidth fast enough to meet the replication demands.”
The company is also highly reliant on Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 messaging and collaboration client. “Our employees live in Office Outlook,” says Catassi. “E-mail is a great tool, but it can also be the worst enemy of a company.” Like most companies, Mediterranean Shipping found that inbox clutter was inhibiting user productivity. “Each time a new message arrives, a user loses focus. We’ve seen studies that illustrate how much these distractions can cost a company in terms of productivity.” Catassi says that in addition to the productivity loss, cluttered inboxes also meant more work and more expense for the IT department, because users frequently requested additional mail storage space.Solution
In 2009, Mediterranean Shipping decided to pilot the business intelligence solutions that were part of Microsoft Office 2010 Beta. “We saw tremendous capabilities in Office 2010 that we wanted to begin to take advantage of right away,” says Catassi. “For instance, we knew we could benefit from the performance improvements of Microsoft Excel 2010 and the ease with which it would help us manage large amounts of data.”
Data Analysis Tools for Business Intelligence
||We saw tremendous capabilities in Office 2010 that we wanted to begin to take advantage of right away.
Chief Technology Officer, Mediterranean Shipping Company
Mediterranean Shipping used PowerPivot for Excel 2010, a data analysis add-in that is delivered as a free download for Microsoft Excel 2010, to enable business users to quickly combine and analyze internal and external data sources for deeper insights. With PowerPivot, users can quickly run analysis on hundreds of millions of rows of data, and combined with the out-of-the-box performance enhancements in Excel 2010, the current version vastly outperforms previous versions of Excel.
In a matter of days, the Mediterranean Shipping IT department helped pilot users combine internal shipping data with external data about general market-based shipping statistics. Pilot users also are taking advantage of Slicers in Excel 2010, which allow people to filter PivotTable views within their spreadsheets to better understand large amounts of data quickly and easily. For instance, if a business user wants to filter information in a spreadsheet according to Mediterranean Shipping ports in certain geographic regions, he or she can do this dynamically, within Microsoft Excel. “One port may belong to several different geographic groupings,” explains Catassi. “In the past, we could provide users with the flexibility to achieve different views of information—but that level of analysis required a lot of back-end database structuring and maintenance.”Web-Based Functionality
With Office 2010, Mediterranean Shipping is also solving collaboration and file storage problems associated with maintaining massive spreadsheets. With Microsoft Office Web Applications, users can store, edit, and share Web-based versions of documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Mediterranean Shipping employees are using the Microsoft Excel Web App, which is a browser-based companion to Excel 2010, to work together on spreadsheets stored in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. Users can even work on the same spreadsheet simultaneously. “The Excel Web App is a great complement to Excel 2010 and is a huge change for us. Now I don’t care if users are creating 100-MB spreadsheets, because they can easily access lightweight versions of them from SharePoint Server rather than use storage-area network replicated data storage, or waste storage and bandwidth by sending them back and forth between teams as e-mail attachments,” says Catassi.
Performance and Productivity Enhancements
Mediterranean Shipping enjoys even bigger performance boosts with Excel 2010, as they are running the 64-bit version. Users working on large spreadsheets, manipulating and analyzing massive, complex data sets, enjoy a significant performance improvement over previous versions of Microsoft Office Excel. Mediterranean Shipping adopted 64-bit computing two years ago, with its transition to the Windows Vista operating system. It is currently in the process of upgrading to the 64-bit version of the Windows 7 operating system.
In addition to the improvements it has found in performance and analysis in Excel 2010, Mediterranean Shipping is also taking advantage of enhancements in Microsoft Outlook 2010. Employees enjoy the Conversation View feature in Outlook 2010 and other conversation management tools that help them remove redundant messages from an e-mail thread, consolidate many e-mail messages into a single conversation, and give them the option to ignore irrelevant conversations. Eliminating redundant messages also saves storage space. Interoperability with Other Communications Tools
Finally, connection between Office 2010 and the company’s Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 environment enables users to see the availability of others, within Office 2010 programs. “It’s great to be able to see if someone you want to contact is available for a quick conversation—while I’m checking my e-mail, I can see a person’s presence status and send them an instant message with a question on the spot, rather than replying with yet another e-mail message and waiting for a response,” says Catassi. “It’s not only a much faster way for me to deal with e-mail but also means as an IT department we can cut down on message storage and bandwidth costs.”
In late February 2010, Mediterranean Shipping started to deploy the release candidate version of Microsoft Office 2010 to approximately 400 of its United States–based employees. The company plans to deliver the release-to-manufacturing version of the software to all of its 1,100 employees in the United States within 10 days of the release date. The deployment to 10,000 PCs worldwide will be completed in 2010.Benefits
Mediterranean Shipping is using Microsoft Office 2010 to boost productivity, develop better business insights faster, achieve higher IT efficiency by reducing development efforts, and minimize operations costs. What’s more, the company reports that users have had a very smooth experience transitioning to the newest version of the Microsoft Office system and have been able to “run with it” with little or no training.
Better Insights, Faster
||Now I don’t care if people create spreadsheets that are 100 MB. With the Excel Web App, multiple users can fill in data and get instant results. The Web-based functionality has a hugely positive effect on our business users.
Chief Technology Officer, Mediterranean Shipping Company
With Office 2010, Mediterranean Shipping employees have more precise information and can make more rapid decisions than before the upgrade to help their company maintain its lead in a competitive business environment. New capabilities, such as the PowerPivot add-in and Slicers in Excel 2010, let users combine internal and external data and sort and analyze data from more sources, with more flexibility, faster than before.
“PowerPivot in Excel 2010 helped us combine internal and external data sources in a matter of days. In the previous environment, this would have taken weeks,” says Catassi. He estimates that new data analysis projects that involve the preparation of data from the company’s SQL Server environment can be completed in half the time it used to take. “But most importantly, this project, and others, can be accomplished with much less involvement from the IT department,” Catassi says. “Excel 2010 puts business intelligence capability in the hands of the business user, while still enabling our staff to provide controlled access to our valuable stores of years and years and terabytes of data.”
Users also can work faster with the 64-bit version of Excel 2010. “We already went through the pain of migrating to 64-bit computing,” says Catassi. “Now, we get to just sit back and enjoy the performance boosts of 64-bit versions of the Office 2010 programs.”Higher Productivity
Because the enhancements to analysis capabilities in Excel 2010 put more power in the hands of the business users, the Mediterranean Shipping IT department finds that it also lessens the workload of its staff, freeing people to focus on other strategic work. “The new tools in Office 2010 help everyone be more productive,” says Andre Simha, Chief Information Officer of Mediterranean Shipping Company. “This is exactly why we make it a habit to adopt the newest Microsoft technologies as early as possible. Early adoption helps us gain competitive advantage and at the same time keep our costs down due to the increased capabilities of our information workers. In short, we empower them with the best tools so that they can concentrate on the business side of their daily routines. We work faster and smarter than the competition.”
Other features, such as the Conversation View in Microsoft Outlook 2010, help Mediterranean Shipping employees reduce information overload. “New features in Outlook 2010 are huge time savers for our employees,” says Catassi. Lower Costs
As users take advantage of the mailbox management features of Outlook 2010, this also helps the IT department keep costs low. “All of these features benefit the user, but they also benefit IT,” says Catassi. “From a mailbox management perspective, we used to struggle with users over allocated mailbox space. They would request more space; we would say ‘clean up the space you have.’ Users were also subject to the company’s aggressive archiving policies. Now, without taking time out of their work, users can easily eliminate repetitive messages. And we can more easily impose mailbox size restrictions and conserve disk space. We are already getting fewer calls from users who need more disk space.”
Other Office 2010 advancements, such as Office Web Apps and connection to SharePoint Server 2010, also help reduce costs. Even the largest spreadsheets can be easily accessed and edited by users everywhere, using the Excel Web App. “Now I don’t care if people create spreadsheets that are 100 MB,” says Catassi. “With the Excel Web App, multiple users can fill in data and get instant results. The Web-based functionality has a hugely positive effect on our business users.”
Office Web Apps provide Mediterranean Shipping with a cheaper, easier storage and replication alternative. “Our replication solution is very expensive. With Office Web Apps, I will be able to get rid of that solution and stop copying huge files among our branch offices,” says Catassi. “In effect, Office Web Apps is a great remote access solution.” Catassi believes the company will save at least U.S.$100,000 in hardware and licensing costs annually by no longer using its third-party replication solution. “We’ll also be able to cut back on the amount of bandwidth we consume transferring files over the wire,” he adds.Easy Transition for Users
The initial users of Office 2010 at Mediterranean Shipping have experienced a very smooth transition from Microsoft Office 2007. To gauge how much training would be required for the company at large, Mediterranean Shipping intentionally withheld training from its first group of Office 2010 users. “They were up and running with Office 2010 very quickly, with no training on the basic functions,” says Catassi. “The transition was a non-event. We get many positive reports from very happy users.”
Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010 gives your people powerful, timesaving tools to do their best work from more places. With new capabilities and insightful updates to Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Outlook, Office 2010 offers the complete package—with familiar, intuitive tools. Now you can express ideas, solve problems, connect with people, and create amazing results—in the office, at home, or on the go.
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