Still, the NetControl project team had to make sure that the new GUI wouldn't be a complete shock for those employees who had become accustomed to the look and feel of the old system. To strike a balance, developers have created a set of browser-based style sheets that allow end users to choose their GUI preferences, says Tennison.
It helps that the project team has introduced functionality in "baby steps," says Tennison. From a cultural perspective, he says, "that made it a lot easier, maybe because we didn't go too fast." Instead, the company has laid new track for NetControl while the mainframe is eased into the boneyard.
At a Glance
Company: Union Pacific Corp.
Business: Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, provides freight transportation services to 23 states in the western two-thirds of the U.S.
Company stats: Revenue of $18 billion in 2008; net income of $2.3 billion in 2008
Project champions: Initially, it was Lynden Tennison, senior vice president and CIO. The current project leader is Martin Malley, assistant vice president of information systems at Union Pacific Railroad.
Size of project team: 220 people, including offshore developers
Size of IT staff: Just over 1,400 people, including 400 in telecommunications operations
Project investment: Union Pacific plans to invest roughly $200 million in a new transportation distribution network that's being completed in stages through 2013.
Project payback: By automating customer billing processes, Union Pacific has dramatically reduced the amount of manual edits needed to process customer bills and is saving millions of dollars in labor costs.
Hoffman is a freelance writer in New York. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When CIO Lynden Tennison and other members of the Union Pacific IT team began exploring technical platforms for hosting the NetControl system, they identified a few must-haves: The system would have to be long-lasting, able to scale effectively and able to support a "five-nines" (99.999% uptime) environment.
"We designed an engineering model of a loosely coupled server environment, much like you'd find at a Google but not quite as sophisticated," says Tennison of the initial design efforts, which began in early 2003.
The team spent about two years running test evaluations and mock-up models. "Once we understood enough about the technical framework, we started in earnest on the redesign of the core business in mid- to late 2006," Tennison adds.