Eurostar International is the parent company of Eurostar, the high speed train service which connects London with Paris and Brussels. Eurostar International employs around 1700 people and reported a profit of nearly £21 million in 2011.

Current CIO of Eurostar International, Christophe Lemaire has previously held various roles at French railway company, SNFC before joining Eurostar three years ago. He has responsibility for all the company’s information systems, including the reservation and distribution systems. His job role also includes the maintenance of desktop, corporate and voice systems.

Eurostar International is working with France Telecom and Nomad digital to deliver on board information and Wi-Fi services. This will allow passengers to see information about their journey and seat reservation statuses through interior monitors on the trains. This could potentially increase the amount of awareness passengers have about delays to their journey. Another deal was with VAR React will provide the rail network with high speed internet access for its premier lounge passengers.

IT leader: Christophe Lemaire, CIO.

In role since: Three years in the role and in the company.

Reporting line: CEO.

How often does the CIO you meet with the CEO:

  • Monthly, plus ad hoc meetings on (his or my) request.
  • Weekly updates with the CFO on big projects and Finance-related initiatives.
  • Fortnightly/monthly one-to-one updates with most of the other directors.

Board level seat: Member of the Eurostar Management Group (=fortnightly directors meeting). Not an executive Board member. Only the CEO, CFO and Commercial director are.

IT Budget: OPEX budget for 2012 was £14 million. CAPEX budget is obviously variable. Was approx. £10 million in 2012, which is somehow exceptional.

Approx 3% of revenues in 2012 (OPEX + CAPEX). “Normal” rate should normally be around 2-2.5%.

IT estate and or number of log on accounts under the control of the IT leader: All Eurostar staff members do have an account, whether they be office-based or on-board staff (total approx. 1,700).

IT staff currently employed: Approximately 45 FTE.

Split between in-house/outsourced staff: Approx 15 contractors (out of the IT outsourcer).

IT outsourcer: altogether approximately 50 FTE, split between approximately 20 in UK (London HQ plus all UK locations) and France, the rest in New Delhi, India.

IT management team and reporting structure: “Four plus one” direct reports:

  • Head of Distribution, in charge of studies/development/maintenance of all systems  related to the distribution of Eurostar products.
  • General Manager for Operational IS: for all non-distribution systems (Finance, Operations, HR, Rolling Stock).
  • Head of Service Delivery, in charge of contracts performance and management and quality insurance. Manages the IT outsourcing contract.
  • Head of Technology, in charge of all IT related studies, projects and maintenance. Manages the WAN and Datacentres contracts.

Plus: Information Systems Security Manager, in charge of IS Security policies and procedures, their implementation, plus PCI-DSS and ISO27001 initiatives.

Primary technology platforms at the organisation: Information;

  • Reservation system operated by mother company SNCF, IBM mainframe technology.
  • Distribution systems: legacy website based on Apache/Oracle, distribution tools in stations and Contact Centre 100 per cent bespoke, using a Oracle database.
  • Check-in system: bespoke application with Oracle database.
  • Finance and HR: Oracle ERP.
  • Train Maintenance: 15-yrs old Oracle-based bespoke app.
  • Desktop/laptop estate: Microsoft.

Primary technology suppliers:

  • Oracle (via Hitachi as SI), Telstra (WAN), Cisco, Microsoft.
  • Avaya (via Sabio as SI) for the Contact Centre telephony.
  • NIIT (outsourcing partner).

Significant strategic technology deals struck in the last 12 months:

  • Website total rebuilt. Strategic project stands for approximately 45 per cent of the company’s revenue. Website tier built by CAP UK, booking engine provided by an SNCF subsidiary, Contracts signed in June 2011. Go Live planned for early 2013.
  • IT Outsourcing deal signed in June 2011 with NIIT-Technologies
  • Train Maintenance System, deal signed with Nexala early in 2012

Percentage of your applications/infrastructure run from the cloud: Difficult to express as a % but quite limited so far. A few initiatives on HR systems (performance management) and emails filtering, while further initiatives to come.

Major technology or transformation project recently completed and how did it transform operations, customer experience or the organisation: The most important achievements over the last year have been;

  • The successful delivery of a new telephony platform in our Contact Centre, with capability to integrate it in our distribution system.
  • Our move to mobile applications, available on iPhone/Android/Windows.
  • The move to the outsourcing partner we chose in 2011. The most critical phase was the successful operational handover realised in October 2011. All expectations from the initial deal have not yet been met, but this move has been a key milestone for the company, and has already delivered good value to the internal users.

Did the above project reach its cost, timing and transformation objective: Telephony system delivered in Q2 2011 on budget and ahead of schedule.

Outsourcing project: operational handover done on schedule, overall business case met.

Business transformation programme – beyond technology – that the CIO owns or is a major contributor to: We are presently in the middle of a series of major transformation projects:

  • A totally new website, that we expect to be state-of-the art , to bring advanced functionalities to customers, and to be a powerful vehicle for the new Eurostar brand.
  • A series of projects accompanying the delivery of our new train fleet in 2014/2015: Wifi on board, “InfoTainment”, real time information (also available on the website), but also a new Train Maintenance tool (ERP), a new train rostering system that is a major overhaul of the “train-related” part of our Information Systems.
  • A major IT Transformation, moving from a locally hosted and maintained infrastructure to a modern, dual-hosted operation in two data centres, and massively relying on virtualisation. This project will give way to VDI and BYOD projects.

To be noted as well that we are also working on our “Information Systems Strategy for 2015”, which will be presented as a set of business oriented projects “hubs” as:

  • Contact Centre 2015, or how we will renew our non-web distribution channels and integrate them to the telephony platform.
  • Eurostar Terminals 2015: a focus on the services expected by customers in stations.
  • Mobile solutions for customers and staff.
  • Business Intelligence, or how to integrate all sources of data we have on our customers and on our past and future train offer, and make the best of these through business analytics techniques.
  • Resilience and security of our infrastructures.

My ambition is to use our work on the Information Strategy for 2015 as a way to showcase the transverse positioning of the IS department and the cross-functional expertise we have developed. These are going to be key for the development of the company, and for the delivery of cross-functional initiatives.

Strategic aim of the CIO and IT operation for the next financial year:

  • Deliver the major initiatives listed above: new website, systems part of the new train fleet, IT transformation.
  • In addition and as part of IT transformation, deliver a Disaster Recovery plan.
  • Initiate an ISO27001 certification process and run it towards completion.
  • Propose an IS Strategy for 2015 and implement the 2013 part.

Strategy in the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and how social networking is impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation:

  • BYOD: nothing has been done so far, but our ambition for the next 12 months is to rely on the IT transformation and thin clients to enable it on a wide scale.
  • Use of Mobile: iPhones were generalised to Train Managers and Drivers in September 2010 and are widely appreciated despite some recurrent bugs on Exchange. Mobile apps were launched in 2011 with great customer success. We now need to organise the next steps for customers and staff (especially on-board staff) in an integrated way, to avoid dispersion.
  • Social networking (internal usage): various options being trialled at the moment for internal usage (Jive, Yammer), plus , MS Lync for IM and real time document sharing. Our view is that we need to combine the retained solution (not yet identified) with our existing document management solution (Alfresco).
  • Personal access to social networks now allowed to staff members.
  • Social networking (with customers): Eurostar fairly active on social networks, mainly Facebook and Twitter since 2010.

Strategy for dealing with shadow IT and BYOD including influence and engagement with executives, to place the right controls around employee choice: Shadow IT needs to exist as it can feed innovation. But it needs to be controlled. Any new evidence of “shadow IT” is documented and reported in one-to-one mode to the director in charge, up to him to decide what to do. No authoritarianism, but awareness and transparency.

BYOD: nothing done so far, but plan will start in Q2 2013 once the IT Transformation will have been delivered.

Technologies are being considered to enable transformation:

  • Generalised Virtualisation, thin client (Citrix).
  • Cloud based solutions wherever appropriate.
  • MS Lync and Alfresco to manage and share information in real time.

Transformational inspiration sources: Networking with peers, part of Gartner EXP programme, keep in deep contact with the business in Eurostar and in the travel industry, reading, listening, feeling.