Royal Caribbean Sets Sail With Niku

After 9/11 Royal Caribbean, like the rest of the cruise industry, went from boom times to bust literally overnight.

RC is dependent on the airlines to get passengers from all over the country to its docks, so when the government shut down the airlines immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the cruise company was stuck with thousands of bookings but no one to fill them.

Because of this, the company’s IT department had to go from supporting a booming business to one where the future was completely uncertain. RC shut down all but the most essential IT projects, i.e. security, laid off staff and hunkered down into the role of a support organization, said Richard Shapiro, manager of RC’s IT Program Administration Office, which tracks and supports all the company’s IT projects.

“This company got very, very badly hurt after 9/11, as did many others,” he said. “We’re in the travel business and when the airlines shut down, customers couldn’t get to our ships. We were instantly in a battle for the survival of the company.”

Without Niku — which makes RC’s portfolio and project management software, Niku 6.0 (renamed Clarity with the release of Niku 7.0) — this shift would have been far more painful and far less successful, said Shapiro.

“Niku helped us understand how to stop projects where they were; how to hold onto those plans and those efforts,” he said.

With the visibility Niku provided Shapiro and others into the workings of RC’s IT department — where resources (people, money, man-hours) were allocated, to what projects and at what stage each project was in — Shapiro could logically and systematically end those projects and reallocate resources to other areas or, in some cases, eliminate them altogether. This was no small task since RC’s IT basically supports a large hotel chain on the water. But with Niku, the shutdown was orderly and took about three weeks.

“We couldn’t have reacted so quickly without having the (Niku) tool,” he said. “If you think of any large hotel chain, a Marriott, a Hilton, with hotels all around the planet then we have to meet all of those requirements plus one wrinkle — our hotels move.”