Amtrak keeps its mobile enterprise running ahead of schedule with Microsoft 365

Today’s post was written by Don Friend, senior director of infrastructure platform services at Amtrak.

Profile picture of Don Friend.Stepping off an Amtrak train, passengers on the U.S. railroad are greeted by the vibrant tile work and iconic palm trees of Los Angeles Union Station, or the light-filled atrium of Chicago Union Station, or the friendly station staff at any of the 500 communities we serve across the country. Our mission is to connect people from all over the country through our rail network. Ensuring that riding the rails is a safe, enjoyable way to travel has always been our goal, but today, the industry is changing. We need to move at the speed of our customer’s online reviews. We need to stay connected and agile to remain at the forefront of modern technologies that improve customer experience—like the self-service kiosks and e-ticketing services we have installed. As we evolve to meet the accelerating pace of both business and travel, it’s essential that our workforce is as connected as our network of trains. We use Microsoft 365 to empower our office employees to work together in highly secure mobile environments.

Our visionary approach to communication and collaboration at Amtrak extends to our Firstline Workers as well. We call it our “connected workforce strategy” and it reflects a huge change in the mindset of senior leaders at Amtrak. For too long, our Firstline Workers remained outside the corporate family, with no email to connect them to colleagues. We deployed Microsoft Office 365 F1 to empower these workers with the rich capabilities in the Office 365 toolset, so we collaborate more effectively, improve passenger satisfaction, and reduce costs.

We have approximately 14,000 mobile workers at Amtrak who run the gamut from engineers who drive the trains to our police force, onboard service attendants, and mechanics. Even our executives are assigned one or two stations that they visit twice a year to complete a safety and cleanliness audit. Many carry corporate devices, including phones and tablets. Our police force uses mobile handhelds loaded with police applications, and our conductors have devices with barcode readers.

In the past, keeping these employees connected to the wider enterprise was challenging. But today, we use Microsoft Azure Active Directory for identity and access management and Multi-Factor Authentication and Microsoft Intune for mobile app and device management. These two services are the foundation of our connected workforce strategy. Regardless of location, employees can easily authenticate from any device. As we work to protect corporate data and employee identities, Amtrak is in a better position to deploy mobile apps to Firstline Workers that will make a difference to our customer service. These include an app for executives to audit their stations, and apps that conductors and service staff can use to track cleanliness and safety issues and alert staff at the next station to mediate a problem.

Mobile access to our corporate communications also makes it easier for our CEO to connect with the entire organization. It took just a month to deploy the CEO Corner on our intranet, which features a question-and-answer section and corporate announcements. As we transition our on-premises intranet to the cloud, employees will be able to use any device from anywhere in the world to access corporate resources safely and securely.

Amtrak recently moved corporate headquarters to a new facility, which presented the perfect opportunity to rethink their conference room strategy. We integrated Microsoft Surface Hubs into our conference rooms, promoting the rich collaboration experience you get with Skype for Business and Surface Hub. As a result, the revamped conference rooms have been a huge hit; everyone loves the large screens where conference calls become vehicles for virtual teamwork, thanks to whiteboarding, coauthoring, and sharing and saving meeting notes. Since upgrading our conference rooms, we have been inundated with requests for Surface Hubs from across the business.

As we continue to keep pace with a changing environment, today we have a productivity solution that combines the key aspects of our vision for the future at Amtrak—a quality passenger experience that’s fast, connected, and safe.

—Don Friend

Read the case study for more on Amtrak’s digital transformation.