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Customs Cargo Management Re-engineering

by Kim James •
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Murray Harrison, Customs CIO, has praised the Cargo Management Re-engineering team, describing them as extraordinary and saying “If you can create that sort of team and get that kind of commitment to the task, you can achieve anything”.

Speaking at the AIIA Canberra Managers' Forum on 3 November, Mr. Harrison said people had worked through the night on recent implementation problems with CMR because of the sense of engagement developed by the team. “When the pressure went on, that’s where we got the benefit of the attitude,” he said.

The project brought together 15 key vendors, including Computer Associates with KAZ/Iocore for the CMR software, IBM and Cybertrust for the gateway technologies and EDS for infrastructure. The team adopted partnership principles derived from the Japanese auto industry, which broke down barriers and provided a “one-team” approach.

Mr. Harrison told the Forum that he could have predicted implementation problems with such a complex system, but not the media reaction. He said there had been a compounding effect from initial problems which had in turn clogged the helpdesk, and a “bit of a panic reaction”. However, he defended the system, saying “the software is doing what it is supposed to”, with many of the issues arising from lack of industry preparedness for the new system and the setting of higher data quality standards.

CMR is a particularly complex application because it integrates both a number of Customs backend systems and parts of the import/export supply chain. Its vital statistics include:

- 16,529 business rules - 23,000 function points - 799 screens - 70 EDIFACT business messages - 400 database tables - 35 external interfaces - 91 reports - 55 batch jobs

The system connects to a number of other agencies, including AQIS, ATO, ABS and Defence, as well as to the import/export business community, through web and EDI channels.

Mr. Harrison described the integration required to bring both the government and commercial operations into a single process as “really, really hard”. The project required extensive engagement with private sector software developers who provide the commercial systems, including daily contact with key players in the final 3-4 months of the project.

Mr. Harrison said that the project had taken Customs to the world forefront of electronic processing and was currently “the most important e-government activity by miles” through its integration with other agencies. However, he also told the industry audience “There’s no shortage of stuff we have to do. There’s always the next project.”

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