Helping Railroads Avoid Mistakes as they Transform their Tech

*Reproduced from the November 2022 Progressive Railroading Magazine

The tech side of railroads has every right to be careful, and even suspicious of the latest, shiny new thing. My past lives in telcom and other industries is riddled with both success stories and less successful outcomes surrounding tech modernization. How is success ensured? There are three main areas to focus on.

Abhi Bhan, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales

Abhi Bhan, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales

The institutional inertia of rail in general is that success is achieved by managing tech costs down. Unlike upgrading locomotives or performing MOW operations which are seen more as OpEx, the software and tech side is often treated as a CapEx, and spending has typically been held to a minimum. This has obviously left many railroads gasping for tech systems modernization at the end of an extended PSR effort, driven in large part by Wall Street.

This is where looking outside the walls of rail, and into other industries, yields some powerful lessons. The first is how to avoid the common mistakes other businesses and industries have made in their tech modernization efforts. Railroads have some of the smartest people that I’ve met in my career. However, mistakes can easily be made not because of lack of team intelligence or knowledge, but the lack of an integrated strategy – and it has nothing to do with the actual technology. For example, leadership empowerment, siloed implementations, failure to plan for change management, and lack of a clear vision are the true back-breakers of success.

The second area to focus on is identifying the right areas for transformation and improvement. It is imperative to start with a forward-looking transformation program that creates a future-proof foundation which is built for speed and flexibility and supports ongoing innovation, collaboration, and security.

Finally, leveraging efficiencies for compliance and cost-avoidance bridges the gap between external regulations and internal guidelines to create a more productive workforce & safe work environment. This can be as simple as letting tech do the heavy lifting by automating key administrative and regulatory processes or enabling employees to easily self-serve known functions.

My background from other industries and PST’s unmatched 30+ year rail domain expertise is creating a real sweet-spot of problem solving for our clients. We’d love to help solve your challenges.

PST TechServices can be found at this link.


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