The Conductor: Lynden Tennison

Union Pacific is one of the most enduring companies in the history of the United States. The transportation company's origin—commissioned by Congress in 1862 and signed off by President Abraham Lincoln—helped preserve the Union in the throes of the Civil War. From the Missouri River westward, the rail lines offered a new alternative to wagon transportation and contributed greatly to the rise of the American West.

Much has been written about this triumph of construction and expansion. And for years, the company continued to grow. The Staggers Rail Act of 1980 deregulated the industry and nullified restrictions that had been in place since the late 1880s, leading to a new dawn for railroads. Finally, they could run like businesses and focus on growth and profitability.

One of the first things Lynden Tennison will point to is Union Pacific's long legacy of innovation—particularly technological innovation—in the railroad industry. And he'll draw connections between past, present, and future.

As CIO of Union Pacific today, Tennison is paving new ground (almost literally) in innovative new technology and processes that not only save the company money but also—a rarity today—help the company make money.

Not long after his appointment as CIO in February 2005, Tennison began tackling the most difficult issue of his tenure.

Union Pacific's transportation management system—think of it like an enterprise resource planning system—which touched practically ...

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