GOVERNANCE: Business Case for Company’s New Unified Operations Program Needs to be Updated
Our objective for this report was to assess the extent to which the company planned effectively for the Unified Operations Center (UOC) program, including developing a business case that demonstrated the expected financial and operational benefits compared to the estimated costs.
The company began planning for the UOC program in December 2018. It is a multi-year effort to relocate several vital customer care functions—including train-dispatching personnel who are currently spread across five cities—into a centralized location. Mitigating flooding risks at the current Consolidated National Operations Center, located on the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware, was another reason the company planned to move personnel to the new building. In May 2020, the company purchased a building in Wilmington for $41.1 million to house the UOC program.
We found that the company experienced challenges associated with its building purchase, which have led to questions about how the company will use the property. Specifically, the purchase was largely premised on two significant yet faulty assumptions: (1) that the company could centralize and collocate its train control and dispatch personnel, a specialized Amtrak Police Unit, social media staff, and relocate IT personnel from leased office space; and (2) that the program would yield cost savings. Neither assumption materialized because the company did not effectively verify the feasibility of centralizing these personnel and functions—including retrofitting the building to accommodate significant IT requirements—before purchasing the building in May 2020. The company is in the early stages of design work to retrofit the building to accommodate the UOC program at an estimated cost of $37 million, and it is updating its business case for the program’s future.
To help the company make more informed decisions about the future of the UOC program, the building it purchased, and the best use of resources, we recommended that it verify the assumptions in its revised business case about the UOC program’s functions and staff relocations, as well as develop the most accurate estimates possible of the associated costs and benefits so that decisionmakers can determine whether and how to proceed. The company agreed with our recommendation and plans on taking corrective action.