BNSF Railway: Unified and Communicating, article in CIO Insight

February 01, 2013
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Jo-ann Olsovsky discusses how BNSF Railway supports its widespread and increasingly mobile workforce of 40,000 employees with unified communications.

by Peter High, published on

 Excerpt from the Article

Jo-ann Olsovsky, the vice president and CIO of BNSF Railway, shares her experiences with implementing unified communications, the benefits BNSF has gained, and the company’s immediate IT challenges.


WHO: Jo-ann Olsovsky, VP and CIO of BNSF Railway
Sharing her experiences about BNSF Railway’s approach to unified communications
Fort Worth, Texas
To provide CIOs and other IT leaders with actionable advice and insights about how to implement unified communications.

Jo-ann Olsovsky knows a thing or two about telecommunications. Prior to becoming CIO of BNSF Railway in June 2008, she was the assistant vice president of telecommunications at BNSF, and previously, she was the director of enterprise network services and technology support services at Verizon Communications. Soon after joining BNSF, Olsovsky recognized that unified communications would be an important area to invest in as the workforce that she supported was increasingly mobile.

In this Q&A, Olsovsky tells CIO Insight contributor Peter High about the steps she has taken relative to unified communications, the value her company has derived, and her future plans.

CIO Insight: How did the idea to pursue unified communications become a strategic imperative for BNSF Railway?

There was a combination of factors that led us to pursue that strategy. First, our workforce is very mobile. We have 40,000 employees all over the United States, and many of them are not in traditional office settings or spend a significant portion of their work day on the go. As a result, we needed to tailor communications tools that fit their needs.

Second, our voicemail system was no longer adequately supported. With our focus on being good stewards of the technology investments that we deploy, we jokingly say that “We will replace no asset before its time.” Well, our voicemail system had clearly reached its time. This added an additional reason to understand what the marketplace offered when it came to advanced communications solutions.

Additional topics covered in the article include:

  • What features did you include as you pursued unified communications?
  • How did you plan and stage the rollout of unified communications?
  • Now that the initial unified communications strategy has been in place for a few years, what benefits has BNSF gained?
  • BNSF has a lot of employees who have been with the company for many years.  Was there any push back that you dealt with in implementing these solutions?
  • You mentioned that a priority going forward is to continue to transition to Lync and to replace your aging PBXs. What else do you have planned?

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