“Digital for all” may be a great opportunity, but it’s also a struggle, and Eric Boustouller, Area Vice President for Microsoft Western Europe and author of a digital manifesto called L’Atout numérique, (“the digital advantage”, published in French for the moment) fights every day to bring about this revolution for everyone. An international growth driver for businesses, a catalyst for opportunities for all professionals, a solution for everyone’s well-being: these are just some of the examples of its potential. So what else do we need to convince us to benefit from it? We met a digital maker who is convinced of the force for change, both through and for digital.
“Digital is no longer just the privilege of a few but an opportunity for everyone.”
Eric Boustouller says :
“Digital technology used to be perceived as very high-tech and complicated, the preserve of experts. It’s not anymore: we’re all digital users. Everyone has a mobile phone and uses digital TV; there’s widespread use of digital tools both in and outside urban areas: they’re everywhere and for everyone.”
More than just a trend, the digital revolution is a new phenomenon of society: according to an international study by Millward Brown, we spend an average of almost seven hours a day looking at screens. This proliferation of tablets, PCs and mobiles has a knock-on effect for organisations:
“This social revolution has had an accelerator effect on companies. Digital is no longer just the privilege of a few but an opportunity for everyone. And this has had other consequences: there are more and more dedicated digital budgets across all areas of a company, new jobs are emerging, such as Chief Digital Officer. And with this substantial increase in digital equipment, I’m also seeing greater enthusiasm for digital in companies.”
This enthusiasm to design and build, using digital solutions, a digital world involving all members of society is not a utopian view but an ambition that requires a sound understanding of the very real issues associated with installing tools across the whole value chain.
Implementing digital: the clock is ticking
According to Eric Boustouller, “just talking about digital isn’t enough”: there are obstacles which can only be removed by putting it into practice:
“We have to show that digital has the potential to revolutionise education and healthcare, to stimulate growth, create new jobs. But we also urgently need to show that realising these opportunities involves the various issues of equipment and installing digital solutions.”
So why the rush? Take the example of healthcare: an estimated 10,000 deaths a year are caused by erroneous administering of medication which could be avoided if doctors had access to all the patient’s medical history, Eric Boustouller points out in L’Atout numérique.
A number of digital solutions already exist to avoid such disasters, such as cloud-based access to digital medical records and remote monitoring of patients by specialist nurses via videoconferencing. And healthcare isn’t the only area that could benefit from digital progress, explains Boustouller:
“Over the next five years, digitising all the companies that aren’t yet digital could generate 6 to 7 million new jobs and €700 billion of wealth. That’s why it’s urgent.”
“What used to be impossible is now possible, within companies and elsewhere.”
Fond of Mark Twain’s famous quotation “They did not know it was impossible so they did it”, which features in the introduction of his book, Boustouller isn’t put off by the barriers that hinder progress, progress that everyone should benefit from:
“What I see is this: digital is a growth driver, a productivity catalyst, a way of achieving a better work-life balance, a way of working that is conducive to exchanges, innovation and creativity. It can’t be an obstacle.”
And the Area Vice President for Microsoft Western Europe can use both his extensive experience as well as a number of international studies carried out by Microsoft to convince all those who aren’t ready to take the digital plunge:
“A recent report commissioned by Boston Consulting Group across five continents showed that companies that have adopted digital have a growth rate 15% higher than non-digital ones. They also create jobs twice as fast and are more international.”
“What used to be impossible is now possible, within companies and elsewhere,” he goes on, and constantly witnesses the effects of the “digital tidal wave” on the European economy:
“Every day, companies that are reluctant to go digital gradually lose their reservations as they realise the benefits outweigh the risks as we can master these technologies. Just look at the growth of cloud adoption in all industry sectors: we’re talking triple-digit growth every year!”
As digital progress gathers pace and becomes more widespread, the former member of the board of the Syntec numérique (a professional body made up of companies in the digital industry), is tireless and eloquent in his defence of the digital revolution, which he believes requires certain conditions:
“Certain specific processes need to be put in place to speed up the growth of organisations, and this requires having an entrepreneurial, open-minded, enthusiastic attitude.”
Enthusiasm is something Eric Boustouller has no end of: perhaps, after all, unleashing the potential of digital is all about motivation?
NEC-conference-35, photo par NEC Corporation of America, licence CC BY 2.0
Gordon Bell and Alan Kotok, photo par Computer History Museum, licence CC BY 3.0
Innovation chalkboard, photo par Missy Schmidt, licence CC BY 2.0