by Chloe Dobinson

Eurostar CIO Laurent Bellan Q&A – Delivering cultural change and the future of Eurostar

Jun 05, 2017
CareersIT LeadershipIT Strategy

Eurostar CIO Laurent Bellan recently replaced its wide area network (WAN) partnering with company Masergy to support its digital transformation programme which will help deliver a customer-focused strategy.

Bellan, who was previously the Head of Customer Systems at Eurostar, spoke to CIO UK on how he is delivering a behavioural and cultural change, ensuring an understanding of IT and the future projects at Eurostar.

What are some of the recent successes you have implemented as a CIO? Laurent Bellan:“There are number of things we are working on as part of the objectives we set in January 2017 which is to become more agile as a company and I don’t just mean software development but also our ability as a company to adjust our product to market changes. To support this we have moved our infrastructure to the cloud and redesigned our websites in which we have agile development teams in-house now.”

What challenges and opportunities have you seen in implementing these technologies? Bellan: “The opportunities are in terms of agility with the cloud infrastructure changing much faster than before. It is not slowing us down anymore so we can do things at a much quicker rate. There is also an opportunity in terms of costs for using the cloud because in the past we have had expensive equipment and we were not utilising them fully and now we have the opportunities to review and adjust it to our needs.”

How are you encouraging a better engagement with your customers? Bellan: “We have integrated with our customers to create a single customer view and we are working on a project this year which will enrich customer data and will provide a better customer service. It will take contextual information for when they are travelling and tell them whether there is a delay or if queues are long or if boarding has started which we are going to enable later this year.”

What technologies do you believe will have an impact on the transportation industry? Bellan: “For us AI has impacted pretty much everything it goes from predictive maintenance to personalising the customer experience. We find also being able to process things in real time is related to smart machine learning and AI prediction in general. Some of the issues we are struggling with are long queues at the stations because of the level of the security checks at the border which produces more queues so we need to be able to deal better with it. It is a mix of real time technology, prediction, measurement and AI.”

How are you delivering behavioural and cultural change? Bellan: “That is a challenge because we are facing situations where technology provides some capabilities which have gone too far for our businesses to keep up with. So it starts at the top with the executive committee and management and I am trying to engage with them a lot and work with the management to embrace new technologies and attitudes. We are trying to implement changes in some areas where we are doing an agile project in the station that we expand from that as an example to do other projects.”

How are you training staff members? Bellan: “That is also a big challenge for us we are getting them trained in using the cloud. We have also tried to give them projects, sometimes small projects where they start using new technologies. In some cases we are challenging some of the team members to do a new application, for example, in using a new technology that they don’t know and to learn it. I also mentor some other people and use that new technology but you have to be patient for them to learn it rather than hiring a contractor for them to learn it.”

How are you ensuring an understanding of IT at board level? Bellan: “I am kind of lucky because Eurostar is not a large company there are only 1500 people and technology is not seen as a support function. We are part of the business teams and we work very closely with some of the executive commissioners for projects. I find that people are very engaged and something we do is to deliver value quickly and help solve some of the business problems as quickly as we can. By quickly I mean less than six months but some projects cannot be done this way.”

What does the future hold for Eurostar? Bellan: “Hopefully the future is bright for Eurostar because we have invested in a new fleet of trains. At the end of the year we plan to have a new destination going to Amsterdam and we are actively working on developing some new products and services by selling train tickets plus hotels – so we are really embracing the digital transformation while also working hard on providing digital technology.”