Written by Catherine Morin
When Pierre Bonin was appointed Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Videotron in 2014, the company’s IT department had become an order taker and was more perceived as a slow down than a contributor to the business.
“Our legacy systems were not very geared toward digital transformation. We were slightly concerned around the capability of IT to deliver,” Bonin told IT World Canada.
Fast forward six years and that same IT department is developing innovative programs that are revolutionizing the telecom and residential television industries.
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The Fizz program, launched in 2018, created a new cellular sub-brand that is 100 per cent digital. Everything, from choosing a plan to ordering a SIM card to setting up an account, can be done online at the member’s convenience. The service offers download speeds of up to 150 Mbps and instant customer support through online chat. With this initiative, Videotron aims to bring fairness and simplicity to the world of mobile communications.
“Since our competitors all offer sub-brands for mobile, we decided to innovate in creating a sub-brand that was entirely digital, in the sense that there’s not even a phone number to call Fizz. The closest you’re going to come to exchange with an agent is really through chat, and even then, the chat is initially a bot. There is no human intervention for regular transactions,” Pierre Bonin, the telco’s CIO explained, adding that an agent takes over the chat in case of a critical issue, usually unnoticed by the customer.
The Helix program, which started rolling out in August 2019, includes an IPTV platform and a Wi-Fi service terminal. The solution aims to provide a revolutionary, unified user experience for residential TV and optimize the home Internet network. Upon spoken English or French commands, it searches content from multiple sources, like Netflix, Club Illico or YouTube, and regular cable channels. Users can switch seamlessly between streaming services to find specific movies and TV shows. The platform also offers content suggestions based on customers’ interests.
Videotron built the IPTV service on Comcast’s X1 platform, which possesses “impressive voice recognition capabilities,” according to Bonin.
With Helix, the Quebec-based company became the third Canadian carrier to offer an IPTV product based on X1 technology, after Rogers and Shaw Communications.
“We are now able to provide a high-quality digital journey for customers who apply for Helix, and we’re continuing the modernization of our legacy platforms to include more functionalities by the end of the year,” Bonin said.
To support the Fizz and Helix initiatives, Bonin spearheaded a major digital transformation that advanced the IT department from an order taker to a trusted business enabler. One of his most significant challenges was convincing organizational leaders on the firing line to buy into his disruptive concept and change their working ways.
Despite initial resistance, these leaders eventually became innovation drivers. With the Fizz program’s success, they realized that embracing a new approach was safer than they thought, even for a broader program like Helix.
A seasoned IT leader, Bonin has worked in the industry for over 25 years with companies like Bell and Fido. His experience in corporate environments and his in-depth knowledge of the startup community helped him turn Videotron into a more responsive version of itself and a renowned digital provider.
Bonin, who credits most of his success to his team’s remarkable work, says it’s always been clear where a CIO’s focus must lie. “I keep on saying the same thing to my team: be business people first and IT specialists second. We need to understand the business’ needs and the issues that our colleagues and other departments are facing to accompany them in the organization’s journey.”