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Case 5: Dragon - Object-Oriented Architecture of a Global Customer Service System



The objectives of the Dragon project were the following:

The Dragon project has been carried out in two phases:

Phase one (1.2.97 - 30.6.97)

Phase two (1.7.97 - 30.6.98)

The motivation and objectives for phase two were as follows:

Major Activities and Results

The project was devided into two strands. The first focused on the development of a prototype serving as 'proof of concept' and the second on the development of a prototype serving the production system for GCSS.

Phase one

The first strand of work was centered on the production of a prototype, Dragon, for a new global customer service system that supports the customer service processes in Maersk Line. It was developed in close cooperation with the ongoing Business Process Improvement (BPI) program being carried out in Maersk Line.

The prototype was developed using techniques and tools developed by the Devise group at Aarhus University. In particular techniques such as user involvement (participatory design), and fast prototyping were used. The prototype is developed on Windows NT using the Mjølner System. The Mjølner System is an object-oriented development environment for the BETA programming language developed by the Devise group and Mjølner Informatics ApS.

The main results of phase one were:

Phase two

The second strand of the project was part of the actual development of a production system for a global customer service system. While initiatives were taken within Maersk Line regarding foundation work (e.g. network issues, migration issues, overview of existing databases), the Dragon project concentrated on further developing the prototype in order to elaborate, in particular, the client side of the coming system.

In the first part of the project focus was on designing proof of concept in that a functional but not very elaborated version of all major parts of a potential GCSS was produced. In the second part of the project, emphasis was much more attached to elaborating the components/concerns previously identified. Looking at the overall process, it may be noted that for any given component there is a general movement in time from a focus on analysis, over design, towards implementation. On the other hand, at any given point in time, activities pertaining to analysis, design and implementation took place (not necessarily on the same components, though). This process structure was one of the key prerequisites for the, at times, very fast development, for example in that all competencies were involved and produced tangible results all the time.

The role of the Dragon project and the prototype were two-fold:

The main results of phase two were:


The overall conclusion of the Dragon project is that it has more than fulfilled its expectations. The main lessons learned may be summarized as follows:

Multi-disciplinary, cooperative, and experimental system development turned out to be a success in its application in quite a new context. It involved diverse competencies as cooperative design, ethnography, usability studies, object- technology from the developer side; BPI, IT management, project management, requirements organization, and customer service staff from the business side; and actual design always took the form of cooperation and experimentation among and between these.

From a business point of view:

  • The close involvement of business people in a cooperative and iterative development has proven a success, and will be employed throughout the life of the global customer service system development. This may also have implications for the way that future IT projects within Maersk Line are structured
  • Much of the new functionality in the Dragon prototype has been proved feasible and either has been or will be incorporated into the production application
  • The common vision of a global customer service system will continue to be represented by the Dragon prototype throughout all regional and hierarchical divisions within Maersk Line
  • Prototyping as proof of concept has proven successful, having potential implications for future IT projects of similar magnitude

From a research point of view:

Project Period

February 1997 - June 1998.

Contact Persons

Project members Aarhus University

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