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Airline upgrades to first-class automation

Air Canada had a lofty goal: to replace paper-based internal processes with electronic solutions, particularly in the area of managing contracts. Throughout its many locations, the airlines maintains hundreds of contracts, which range from liquor licenses to aircraft purchase agreements. A team of 15 employees, including lawyers and paralegals, work full time to manage each agreement manually.

Although Air Canada receives contract agreements in both electronic and paper forms, its only automated support was with documents and spreadsheets in non-centralized systems. Journalizing critical dates, monitoring approvals and tracking all renewal and expiration dates were all done manually.

According to Jane Binet, legal systems manager for Air Canada, “The possibility of missing a critical date or misplacing critical information began to rise at an exponential rate as business increased. We needed a better way of handling our contractual engagements to lessen the possibility of missed deadlines or, worse yet, litigation. “With our paper-based process, we knew we were working hard at maintaining order, however, most of our time was centered around management of the process. Missing deadlines or critical dates meant a direct hit to our bottom line or, in the worse case scenario, legal liability. Furthermore, errors in completing the process often delayed execution, thereby reducing our margins.”

The fact that Air Canada’s offices are spread all around the country posed another challenge to the airlines.“Not only do we have to manage the processes within our own territory, we have to manage and often collaborate with remote offices,” Binet explains. “This meant managing different time zones, different schedules and different approvals. In addition to our local issues, we required the e-infrastructure that could manage the process across the enterprise. As a large company, communication is not just required, it’s imperative. [And] because of recent acquisitions, we were under budgetary restrictions. We needed a cost-effective system that could provide immediate returns across the entire enterprise.”

In looking for a solution, Air Canada wanted a system that would integrate with its existing IT applications as well as the Microsoft environment. The airlines chose a system from RethinkNdo that includes that company’s BreakAway Pass workflow and e-process software, as well as the Windows 2000 Server and SQL Server 2000 from Microsoft.

Air Canada can now access its contracts over its corporate intranet, obtain contractual information, manage dates and leverage built-in escalation. The result is a knowledge-based information portal, which handles the life cycle of contracts, according to a recent news release.

“Our new solution drastically reduces the overhead and potential for errors . . . ,” says Binet. “More important, it enables Air Canada to focus on service functions relating to its customers and the core business practice of being a world leader in air travel. We see this as the first step in building our e-process and e-infrastructure.

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