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RIM CIO works the enterprise ranks of BlackBerry users

'We've had some missteps,' she says, while committing to customer needs

October 10, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Research in Motion CIO Robin Bienfait's last name means "well done" in French. She's hoping those two words apply to BlackBerry 10 smartphones once they ship in the first quarter of 2013.

"We're committed to our customers and want to see them successful," Bienfait said in an interview at MobileCon here. She said that since April, she's talked to 180 CIO's -- mostly from the U.S. -- who are RIM customers and many who have grown frustrated by RIM after years of working with BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and BlackBerry smartphones.

The outage affecting BlackBerry users on several continents for several days a year ago was a big concern of the CIOs, she said, but also the slow rollout of new smartphones, including BlackBerry 7 devices in the U.S.

"Customers also want us to succeed, which is fantastic," she added. "We've done so well over the years and not to continue at that pace means we've disappointed them."

While she said enterprise customers in the U.S. still back RIM, the CIO added, "We've had some missteps, including not having devices in the carriers' hands that they can leverage, including putting BlackBerry 7 products in countries other than the U.S." Part of the problem with U.S. carriers was not having BlackBerry 7 available for LTE, she added.

Bienfait and her team have obviously had a big impact on BlackBerry 10, including how the software in the devices will be supported with security and other features by IT shops using BES 10 when it comes out at the same time. Her team has full access to device development and security and the way RIM manages the devices.

When it comes to the look and feel of the coming BlackBerry 10 devices, she's passionate that one of them will sport a physical keyboard with a Qwerty layout.

"I have to have a physical keyboard," she said, demonstrating how she uses her thumbs on both hands to type on a BlackBerry. "A lot of customers still want that physical keyboard."

She said her role at RIM means she focuses mostly on software service and support as they pertain to BlackBerry 10 and other products. "I give them feature input," she said of the designers.

But Bienfait also said her role includes oversight of BlackBerry operations, the enterprise business unit and internal RIM IT. Those duties mean she cares greatly about RIM's brand and reputation, which also means she cares about the BlackBerry 10, since it is seen as so crucial to RIM's future success.

Regarding network outages, Bienfait said that RIM is fully committed to improvements. "Yes, outages are always a big issue for customers and something we take very very seriously and don't have repeats," she said.

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