The Grill: RIM CIO, Robin Bienfait

By Hamish Barwick, CIO Australia |  Consumerization of IT, BlackBerry, BYOD

Preparing Research in Motion (RIM) for the future is top of mind for its CIO, Robin Bienfait.

The company was in the news recently when Australian airline, Qantas, reported that it would ditch its fleet of 1300 BlackBerry smartphones for iPhones.

This was a further blow to the company after RIM announced a first quarter loss of $518 million in June 2012. Sales had dropped from $4.9 billion in the first quarter of 2011 to $2.8 billion. Chief executive, Thorsten Heins, announced that the company would shed 5000 jobs.

Bienfait, who has been CIO of RIM since January 2007, spoke withCIO Australia about the company's restructure plans, bring your own device (BYOD) and some of the challenges she faces in the role of CIO.

There have been reports of planned job cuts at RIM, what is the rationale behind this?

The company needs to operate efficiently and be cost effective. Unfortunately, at this point, that means reducing costs and head count. That is why we are making difficult decisions now that some people may not completely understand.

We are committed to ensuring that the workforce reductions we make do not impact key programs such as the BlackBerry 10 platform, customer support or service levels.

When we come out of this transition, we will move forward with a lean and nimble organisation that can act quickly and that is aligned with our growth opportunities.

What is RIM doing to attract and retain enterprise customers?

Some [people] may not realise that 90 per cent of the Fortune 500 businesses around the world rely on BlackBerry offerings. In Australia and globally, protection of data and intellectual property [IP] has always been and will remain of key importance to corporations.

I was in Australia recently, and met with many of our business customers. They want us to succeed, and are focused on partnering with us through this transition.

What does a typical day involve for you at RIM?

I love hearing directly from our customers about their specific needs and discussing how the company can help gives me tremendous satisfaction. I am 100 per cent committed to using my experience and knowledge to exceed the expectations of our customers--that's what I'm here for, and those are the values I pass on to my teams on a daily basis.

What are some of the challenges you face in the role of CIO?

Having a successful career isn't just about working your way up the ladder. To me, a successful career is about gathering a wide variety of experiences, and really learning all of the parts that make a business run successfully.

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