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Eurostar's CIO Christophe Lemaire is focused on tunnel vision

Mark Chillingworth | Nov. 28, 2012
"There is a lot of ambition to connect the rail services in Europe," says Christophe Lemaire, CIO of the rail operator that originally connected London to the rest of Europe -- Eurostar. Europe's currency and community is having a tough time at present. This is creating hyperbole of currency and community collapse, but a discussion with Lemaire reminds me how integrated our European lives have become and how the business community has hardly left the platform of European possibilities.

"Integrating the three partners into one company took many years to approve, but it has proved successful and has given us agility," he says.

Lemaire's first task was to integrate all the technology infrastructure into the new organisation.

"The transformation of Eurostar into a single entity was not quite an easy project," he admits. The national French operator provided Eurostar with some of its initial technology, but as Lemaire points out, the scale difference between the two organisations is considerable and tools that were developed for the needs of SNCF are not necessarily adequate for Eurostar which is far smaller and does not operate under the same constraints. "As a consequence we are today working on moving to tools and systems that are better adapted to us, for example around train operations," he explains.

"We want to move to something more fitting for Eurostar's size."

As Lemaire completes the integration of Eurostar into a single company, he is already timetabling the next major strategy journey.

"One of the main things is the importance of the data. Do we know what is the most important piece of information we have about you is? If we can say we know a lot about our customers, knowing people's booking preferences, I am sure there are interesting thing we can do with it.

"We need to go further, use social media and see trending patterns. Customer information is the most important information we have. It's a very positive project as it is an open field for Eurostar," says Lemaire.

"The heart of my role now that this integration into a single company is behind us is to provide an information systems strategy for the next three to five years. That has to reflect the business strategy and the information systems are at the heart of it," he says.

"We live in a world that goes fast, where surprises can arise every day, and where technology is at the same time everywhere and powerful. Things that were a dream five years ago are now available to the mass market. We do not know what the future will look like, but at least we can prepare ourselves by being as flexible, organised and open as possible.

"Our ambition beyond this three to five years strategy is to be where our customers are (think about mobility, social media...), do the best with all the information we have about them from all possible sources, react quickly to the market through efficient distribution tools, work on our website, and be as efficient as possible, doing the best of our resources, while being a great place to work for our staff."


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