Union Pacific’s CIO Specializes in Commercializing Technology


By Peter High, published on Forbes

Lynden Tennison has spent the majority of his career leading and staying on top of technological developments within the railroad industry. In his current role as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Union Pacific, Tennison has been working to commercialize internal software and leverage corporate assets to secure advantage in a competitive industry. To this end he and his team have developed PS Technology, a subsidiary built to tap into and market internal software, and launched Breeze Broadband Communications, a new wireless ISP company. These efforts have been extremely successful, bringing in an additional $50 million in revenue, and for that reason, Tennison is a recipient of the 2017 New York Forbes CIO Innovation Award.

When asked about Tennison’s contribution, Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz said, “Union Pacific has a six-track strategy that drives value for our four key stakeholders: customers, shareholders, employees, and communities. Leveraging our technology assets through subsidiary companies is a great example of how our IT team helps foster innovation with new products and services, focuses on resource productivity by leveraging corporate assets, and maximizes the overall value of the Union Pacific franchise for all stakeholders.”

Peter High: Please describe the innovative idea that you and your team in IT pursued.

Lynden Tennison: We commercialized much of our internally developed software through a separate technology subsidiary company, PS Technology, plus we leveraged other corporate assets to launch a new wireless ISP company targeting rural America, called Breeze Broadband Communications.

The software subsidiary, PS Technology, leverages internal R&D within the railroad IT department and also reinvests 15 percent of their revenue in new product R&D.

The new wireless ISP business, Breeze Broadband Communications, is using communications infrastructure, including our towers and other transmission assets, originally built to support the railroad to deliver wireless broadband services to rural markets. Breeze was conceptualized within the IT department and a thorough market study was done, including full business case development, prior to launch in 2017.

High: What opportunity or issue to be resolved led to this IT-led innovation?

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