ITS projects should identify one or more management-level champions that can provide leadership, project sponsorship; encourages participation; and builds project support. Having one or more champions of the project can keep participants from losing interest and promote the project to gain the interest of potential participants.
The ESCM project found that the recruitment of participants was an ongoing challenge. The FOT was presented as an opportunity for industry to influence a future mandated system. However, identifying complete supply chains was difficult and starting with motor carriers was the best way to build complete supply chains. As a result, getting the managers to personally “buy in” to the ESCM test was key for stimulating staff participation.
A project champion is especially important when staff turnover occurs. The ESCM project found that staff turnover at participant companies dramatically impacted the use of the ESCM system. Turnover in personnel affected both management and operations staff. Several participants dropped out of the test as their internal ESCM champion departed the company and their replacement did not have time or interest in participating.
The following are additional suggestions based on the ESCM evaluation:
- Consider developing an incentive program that stimulates broader system testing. One recommendation from the ESCM project was to develop an incentive program that stimulates broader testing of the system. The recurring themes throughout the evaluation were the limited staff resources and the duplication of effort that led to inactivity or inefficiency. Since the project required the participants using the system to duplicate work, the funding agency should consider reimbursing the participants for time spent on test activities to stimulate system testing. This could be promoted by tax incentives, staff incentives, etc.
- Understand that staff turnover within participating supply chain partners will restrict the use of the system. Staff turnover and layoffs restricted the resources available for a duplicate system. Staffing played a major role in use of the system as well as in determining whether or not a company remained involved in the test.
- Realize that lack of participation by enough supply chain partners will restrict use of system. Many ESCM participants reported that there were very few of their transportation partners enrolled in the system. Without a larger number of participants, the benefits are difficult to quantify. Several participants stated that they did not have enough air freight shipments to further test the system. This occurred because of: a decrease in shipments caused by the events of September 11, 2001; inappropriate participants included in the test because they were very interested in the system; or the result of participant's low volume of manifests.
The ESCM operational test successfully demonstrated the use of technology to create a secure intermodal electronic manifest system and participants reported overall satisfaction with the ESCM system. However, staff turnover and the lack of participation by supply chain partners significantly limited the usefulness.
This lesson suggests that having a management-level champion can maintain interest in the project and gain the interest of potential participants. This, in turn, can lead to the successful demonstration of the improvements in supply chain manifest processing efficiency and resulting productivity gains that can only be realized with broader participation and use of the system. Although having a project champion is one of many factors determining ITS success, project champions have an important role in the advocacy of the project and encouraging active participation, which are important for project success.