Union Pacific - Our Journey to Growth Transformation

By Rahul Jalali, Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer

Large Retina | Inside Track: UP - Our Journey to Growth Transformation

UP 8061 near scenic Lake Point, Utah, located on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake.

Union Pacific, a 160-year-old growth company. Yes, a growth company. Rarely would such a historic company, especially a railroad, still be associated with growth. That is precisely where Union Pacific is.

We have an amazing opportunity and willingness to obsess over customer experience, which is a key factor in this growth journey. Union Pacific is adapting quickly on the "how" with product mindset and outcome-based thinking and ruthless prioritization. The Union Pacific has a rich history of harnessing and leveraging technology to improve our rail operations. We are focused on a set of common objectives and outcomes – aligned to our customers’ success and our business ambitions - and use these as a guide to define and prioritize our solutions, roadmaps and resources. We develop iteratively, track results against pre-defined success metrics, and fine-tune as needed. If a feature is not achieving the expected value, we move on to the next idea.

This is fostering a deeper engagement with our customers and partners, providing visibility to our supply chain, connecting via APIs into our customer supply chain ecosystems. As a result we are running intelligent train operations with a greater sense of predictability. Technology is evolving this railroad.

If you zoom out, everything around us is changing in the digital economy. Businesses are adapting quickly to satisfy customers’ needs and desires. I experienced this fast-paced rate of positive change in my prior roles at the Fortune # 1 retail company that switched to the product mindset to help propel the business. But too many organizations are held back by an antiquated IT mindset that separates the precious Technology teams from the rest of the business. To stay ahead, Union Pacific is embracing enterprise-wide thinking that gets everyone from tech teams to senior leadership on the same page and speaking the outcome language.

Here are the keys to evolving product culture at our company:

  • Design thinking focused on obsessing over customer problems
  • Focus on Value and Business Outcomes
  • Empowered Product Teams
  • Product Vision and Strategy. Majoring in the majors
  • Adoption of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) mindset. Deliver fast. Deliver often.
  • Agile principles. Launch, learn, adapt, iterate
  • Clear set of KPI's to measure success and progress

As a result of this, we are beginning to see significant improvements in the customer experience as well as productivity gains. Our leaders are product thinkers who are collaboratively involved in product planning, customer discovery, product discovery, and product development process. Our technology team understands the importance of continuous and rapid testing and learning and mitigating the risks. After all, we know that great products are the result of true collaboration. Product thinking is helping create the vision.

Union Pacific helps build America. Our technology team is helping build a better Union Pacific. Exciting times indeed.

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