SERVICE TO THE
CITIZEN AWARD WINNER
Amtrak serves 85,000 citizen passengers a day from 500 stations across 46 states, Washington D.C., and three Canadian provinces, all in support of its mission: “Delivering intercity transportation with superior safety, customer service, and financial excellence.” The challenge of delivering the imperatives of this organizational mission is immense. Amtrak’s train-servicing is a huge deal with brake checks, safety inspections, maintenance, cleaning, catering, linen, etc. The slightest delay in any train turnover logistics can have big ripple effects. Keeping the schedule moving across such a dispersed environment is an incredible responsibility.
Sovan Shatpathy joined Amtrak at a time when the organization was under fire for performance and deteriorating passenger service. Sovan was charged with overhauling the IT organization, dramatically reducing IT spend in all business areas and making IT function more effectively for the organizational mission and goals.
His vision and leadership went far beyond the traditional focus of IT in advancing these goals.
Shatpathy: “The primary challenge in front of me was ‘how do we take this railroad company, which moves close to 32 million people every year, and standardize things? How do we move it to a technology world that allows for our customers, partners, and employees to be happy and productive?’ Shatpathy and his team focused on simple, intuitive, and scalable technology options, paired with an outcome-oriented mindset and delivering a better customer experience by driving a better employee experience.
CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER
Sovan’s team is responsible for delivering systems to the business functions efficiently and effectively, bringing in a commercial mind- set of speed-to-value. With a relentless eye toward building a connected employee experience to better serve customers, Sovan directed the team to develop a number of interconnected applications to help employees do their jobs effectively and implemented a number of key initiatives to improve service and their customer experience.
Sovan restructured the form and function of the IT organization to center on a service-oriented focus, with IT being seen as a key enabler and a partner to the business functions rather than a cost center. This put extra pressure on leadership to foster a connected environment, rich with communication tools, in order to keep its logistics-heavy mission moving full steam ahead.
As CTO, Sovan started with a philosophy of using best practices from technology leaders to avoid recreating the wheel at Amtrak. He divided his attention equally between driving the project itself and the end product created, ensuring the results met Amtrak’s broader goals. First, he challenged and changed the company’s perspective on how to accomplish those goals by focusing on the ability and enablement of information technology to impact and elevate the experience of the customer by elevating the experience of the Amtrak employee. His philosophical approach in the recognition of information technology as a business and technical function for supporting employees’ success and executing for the ultimate organizational goal of customer satisfaction set the mark for all. This prioritized IT’s impact on the business rather than focusing on simply delivering requested functionality.
Second, Sovan drove and modeled an IT consolidation effort, including an Application Rationalization process and a consolidation of apps into a small number of anchor platforms, thus reducing the proliferation of homegrown systems. This generated economy of scale enabling meaningful professional careers within the IT group. Additionally, Sovan deployed purpose-built apps like Train Operations (TOPS). And, delivered it all in Amtrak’s Productivity Workspace.
Sovan’s enterprise-wide transformation created a more connected and mobile environment, applying business insights and knowledge and shifting employee roles to better serve customers and system users. Additionally, this modernization process recognized that it was serving a customer base that is quickly evolving; people expect real-time, personalized, mobile-ready services when they engage with a service organization. They assume systems and processes will move forward based on customer-centric data and insights, even in an organization the size of Amtrak. With mobile-ready business models becoming the standard, a social media listening platform to understand and respond to the real time pulse of the customers was created.
Under Sovan’s leadership, Amtrak created the TOPS app to track and manage key areas in servicing and safety for their passengers. Supervisors can log when their team is done with a given customer service, alert their counterparts of any issues, and pull reports that capture performance stats, common disruptions, and more. TOPS opened up communications and visibility across the entire train turnover process, making it easier to understand, quantify, and replicate best practices that could otherwise get lost in an expansive workplace.
Sovan’s visionary investment in IT innovation brought a forward-thinking approach to a mission immersed in safety, scale, and quality customer experience. It also helped the organization realize an enterprise-wide transformation through the improvement of workforce productivity and ultimately, quality customer service and loyalty.
For most organizations, “keep the train moving” is merely a common office expression. But for Amtrak, it’s quite literal. Popular routes, such as commuter trains along the Northeast Corridor, support as many as 2,100 passenger trains and 60 freight trains daily.
Sovan’s leadership accomplishments include the creation of an innovative industry Train Operations (TOPS) app, an IT Service Oriented Organization and Competency Center, the integration of a new 360-degree view of the customer with operational apps thatcan dramatically improve the customer experience, and a “every employee, any device” strategy that guides the delivery of Amtrak’s service to thousands of customers.
Today, with the innovative information technology modernizations led by Shatpathy, Amtrak is being recognized for its operational success, ending its 2018 fiscal year with the best operating performance in the company’s history, an improvement of more than 13% over 2017. Amtrak has a 95% on-time status at Chicago Union Station, where TOPS was piloted. “This is the first time in my time at Amtrak that I have seen somebody be excited about a tool to enable them to do their job better, smarter, faster,” said Joyce Cruickshank, Amtrak AVP and IT PMO and colleague of Shatpathy’s.