P&O Ferries launches multichannel website in legacy estate overhaul

P&O Ferries told the Internet Retailing conference it will launch a multichannel website next week as part of a move to overhaul its legacy estate

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P&O Ferries will launch a multichannel website in a move to overhaul its legacy IT estate.

The ferry operator currently has a 7-year-old website and 30-year-old back-end legacy systems which gives the company no way of offering customers a seamless experience.

Speaking at Internet Retailing’s conference in London today, CIO Chris Cook said the company was at the “embryotic stages” of its e-commerce overhaul. “We’ve still got a long way to go,” he said.

Last year P&O Ferries decided between replacing its website with a new content management system (CMS) for its legacy channels' to provide a single channel legacy dependent solution; or buying an entirely new e-commerce platform to allow it to step away from legacy software. Cook said he managed to convince P&O to spend almost twice as much money on a new platform, in the shape of SAP’s Hybris.

The platform will allow P&O Ferries to have a new-look website to improve conversion rates and provide route-specific content as well as customer accounts. “This is new to us in the ferry industry,” he said.

The website will allow P&O Ferries to start selling add-ons, including RAC road cover and on-board Wi-Fi.

“We will be able to sell digital products on board such as click and collect – we have a bit of a problem with click and collect in that our shops tend to move around a bit - but all of these things aren’t a problem which we didn’t have before.”

The site has been live in contact centres for a few weeks and the website roll-out starts this week with the German sites crossing over this coming weekend. The full UK launch of POferries.com will happen in the coming weeks, as well as a mobile site due to go live in December 2014.

Legacy IT

But the big challenge for Cook is P&O’s legacy IT systems.

“It’s important to IT guys, but the huge problem is legacy problems,” said Cook. “Behind the scenes we’re weighed down with legacy systems.”

P&O Ferries has an old back-end system called Dolphin for the last 30 years, which P&O’s travel agents, freight customers and port management systems all use.

“If that system goes down the cars are queuing up the M20 for the next half an hour – that’s what keeps me up at night,” he added.

The first job was to implement the first phase of the e-commerce journey using SAP’s Hybris platform for the front-facing website. Now the website, mobile and contact centre will be joined up for the first time. The back end of the website can also be integrated to begin “building a fence around the legacy systems” which will replaced by Hybris as it starts to make the Dolphin system redundant in a couple of years’ time.

“But it’s far easier said than done,” said Cook.

Cook warned delegates at the conference not to underestimate integrating IT systems. “We didn’t and we were still burnt by it, the people who built the legacy systems were long gone.”

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