Digital for all now

Cité de la réussite 2014 : Being bold with digital transformation : but how ?

ECONOCOM 21 Nov 2014

“Boldness is a frame of mind, a strength that allows you to overcome obstacles to improve and transform the world.” These were the opening words of the latest edition of “Cité de la réussite” (“City of Success”), a series of conferences about the major social issues of our times, which took place on 8 and 9 November at the Sorbonne. The aim of the opening keynote was to show how boldness and audacity can help us face the radical changes that the world is going through, in particular in companies. A number of challenges are arising – starting with the digitisation of organisations. So boldness is the order of the day – but exactly how can we be bold?

“Digital is all about the client. The company should adapt to the client, and not the other way round.”



“Being bold is a state of mind,” stresses Barbara Dalibard, managing Director of SNCF Voyages, (the travel agency division of the French national railways, Ed), during a round table on the digital transition of businesses. Digital transformation requires ambitious managers who are prepared to break away from traditional organisation and production lines – a view that was shared by Didier Barbé, Marketing and Communications VP for IBM France:


“You have to explain to the brains of the organisation that digital is changing and sweeping aside the vertical organisational approach in favour of a more cross-disciplinary model.”


OK, but what else? According to the professionals at the Cité de la réussite: “The customer should be the main focus,” said Barbara Dalibard. Didier Barbé added: “Digital is all about the client. The company should adapt to the client, and not the other way round.”



Companies are thus being forced to keep pace with customers’ new habits:

“At SNCF, the digital wave is a major revolution that is making us reinvent ourselves every day,” says Barbara Dalibard. “Our aim is to constantly optimise use of time. We need to be able to give our customers real-time information, because giving them accurate, up-to-date information lowers their stress levels. We also need to adapt to our hyper-connected clients by using more and more customised apps. You need to bear in mind that 50% of our train tickets are currently sold online and 15% via a mobile device.”

Keeping up with these rapidly-changing uses means establishing and maintaining permanent contact with clients.



“Digital isn’t a wave, it’s a tsunami”, says Didier Barbé rather dramatically. “We can’t go on doing things the way we used to. Digital may offer greater agility but at the same time it imposes a major constraint: speed. The changes can’t just be a minor side-line: the whole company model needs to be changed. I don’t see it as a transition but an overhaul. We need to redefine and rethink the way we address needs by drawing on all our internal and external resources and with a use-based approach as opposed to a product-based approach, even if that sometimes means working hand-in-hand with the competition.”


This is exactly what IBM has been doing over the past few years with the Watson project for a virtual medical assistant for doctors:


“To keep up with the latest advances in treating breast cancer, a doctor would need to spend 160 hours a week reading documents. It’s impossible. So we came up with a system whereby they can keep up to date and thus make easier diagnoses and ensure a more personalised patient approach.”

This is another major innovation which, along with the “digital convalescent room” or the connected operating theatre, is heralding the new era of medicine. Antoine Gourevitch, Associate Director of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) explains:


“A project like Watson gives us a glimpse of what medicine will be like in 10 years. It’s the jobs themselves that will be changed: there’ll be “star” doctors who will capitalise on all the potential of digital technology, the “middle-of-the-road” doctors who will still be struggling a little to use it, and the others, who will be reduced to assisting the less-qualified medical staff.”


“By 2015, there’ll be 1000 billion connected objects in the world. We need the right industrial infrastructures to manage all the new sensors.”

In addition to strong dialogue with the customer, the digital transformation of an organisation also requires considerable communication and training efforts with the various people in the field:


“You have to show the teams how and why digital can be useful to them,” explains Barbara Dalibard. “That will help them make sense of a job that is constantly changing.”


Organisations must change their structure, but without the right equipment, the digital transformation will be just a pie in the sky. As Didier Barbé points out:


“We need digital factories: it’s a major driver for economic growth. By 2015, there’ll be 1000 billion connected objects in the world. We need the right industrial infrastructures to manage all the new sensors.”

So how can this be achieved? Antoine Gourevitch:


“Being bold is about accepting structural and organisational changes. Instead of centralising the ideas in the company, there should be an ‘open source’ model to help foster innovation.”



Barbara Dalibard recommends generating a “network effect” to promote boldness and innovation, by setting up dedicated teams within companies – sort of start-ups within a company – and who are given a certain amount of leeway by the company:


“These innovation ecosystems need to be separate from the rest of the company from the start and then be allowed to grow. In order to do so, you’ll need the in-house resources to allow the ecosystem to flourish, by ensuring the organisation is agile and allowing the various people to communicate easily, such as via instant messaging, or to get training via MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses, Ed].”


In these “innovation bubbles,” you need to combine people’s skills because this diversity of backgrounds will boost innovation. Mahasti Ravazi, a partner at law firm August & Debouzy, says:


“You need a combination of experiences and expertise. Experts used to develop their product alone in their field, whereas now, they need other skills they wouldn’t normally combine to get better results. That’s what being bold is!”

One last element you need to stimulate boldness and facilitate change: a flexible legal framework.


“Law is often a hindrance to growth,” says Mahasti Ravazi. “In law, being bold means helping people who think big from the very beginning, and not holding them back. You need to figure out how to structure things so you can take calculated risks in order to promote digital innovation for all businesses, now.”

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