Financing projects and equipment and technological assistance are the main drivers for the digital transformation of industrial companies, according to the 2014 Digital Transformation Survey we published at the beginning of the week in conjunction with L’Usine Nouvelle and Sage. To get a better idea of the role of digital technology in organisations today, we met two experts: David Fayon and Michaël Tartar, co-authors of Transformation digitale: 5 leviers pour l’entreprise (“digital transformation: 5 drivers for companies”), (Pearson).
THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION OF COMPANIES IS A MAJOR ISSUE TO GUARANTEE THEIR LONGEVITY IN THE MARKET. WHAT OBSERVATIONS LED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
David Fayon: I’ve been in the digital world for over 30 years. I knew we were going to reach a turning point in digital adoption, and particularly where companies are concerned.
Michaël Tartar: Everyone talks about digital transformation but very few people are able to establish where companies are in terms of this transformation. So we’ve come up with a model whereby companies can assess their progress in terms of five main drivers: organisation, technologies & innovation, staff, products & services, the environment.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS A “DIGITALISED” ORGANISATION TODAY?
D.F. and M.T.: An organisation that can interact with the mobile environment that is the digital world we live in. In our book we have identified 5 types of companies: “Wait-and-see-ers”, outsourcers, integrators, impressionists and transformers. Ideally companies should be aiming for this last category: the company 2.0 or digitalised company.”
ACCORDING TO OUR SURVEY, 33.5% OF MDS CONSIDER DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY TO BE A MAJOR GROWTH DRIVER AND 55.5% EXPRESSED AN INTEREST IN DIGITAL PRACTICES AND INNOVATIONS. SENIOR MANAGERS ARE INCREASINGLY AWARE OF THE IMPORTANCE OF DIGITAL, AND YET NOT ENOUGH COMPANIES ARE TAKING THE PLUNGE. HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THIS?
D.F.: Digital generates a great deal of excitement but a certain amount of fear too: managers, for example are afraid of losing power. It was the same thing when telephones were first introduced into companies, then email and more recently social networks.
M.T: I’d say the awareness is there, but not the willingness. The main reason for these reservations is ignorance: there are so many facets to digital that it’s difficult to grasp them all and understand the power it has.
SOME OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES SUCH AS SWEDEN, FOR EXAMPLE, ARE A FEW STEPS AHEAD OF US IN TERMS OF THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION OF ORGANISATIONS (SEE THE RECENT REPORTS BY ROLAND BERGER AND MCKINSEY, RECENTLY DISCUSSED ON DIGITAL FOR ALL, NOW). DO YOU THINK THE FRENCH ARE A BIT BEHIND WHEN IT COMES TO DIGITAL?
M.T.: There’s definitely an unwillingness on the part of managers. But if we want to introduce digital into companies, we need to make bold decisions.
D.F.: Over the past 7 years, there has been considerable progress at government level, with the creation of the Ministry for Digital Technology, and the National Digital Council. The digital cause is progressing in companies, but now it’s time to go from diesel to turbo.
OUR SURVEY ALSO SHOWED THAT FINANCING EQUIPMENT AND PROJECTS IS AN EVEN BIGGER OBSTACLE FOR ORGANISATIONS – DESPITE THE FACT THAT IMPLEMENTING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY COULD ACTUALLY LEAD TO COST SAVINGS AND THAT THE SOLUTIONS TO FACILITATE IMPLEMENTING THEM ARE ALREADY AVAILABLE. AREN’T FRENCH COMPANIES USING THIS EXCUSE AS A SMOKE-SCREEN?
M.T.: Digital is expensive: making applications, developing them, incorporating content. But there is genuine potential for income. You have to invest in order to reap the benefits.
D.F.: It’s not so much an excuse as the harsh reality. Managers are worried about the short term, immediate profit, shareholders, although investment in digital is part of a long-term process. The key success factor is thinking about the mid and long-term return on investment.
36.8% OF DECISION MAKERS POLLED (FROM ALL TYPES OF COMPANIES)
SAY THEY HAVE OPENED A DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION-RELATED POSITION, OR PLAN TO DO SO, SO WE’RE STILL WELL BELOW THE 50% MARK. WE’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK, BUT DON’T YOU THINK THIS JOB HAS BEEN RATHER NEGLECTED IN FRANCE? IS IT BECAUSE IT’S DIFFICULT TO DETERMINE WHAT OBJECTIVES TO SET?
M.T.: In order to create such a position, you have to accept that it’s a bit of a grey area: the job description is a bit vague. Also, in France, the nature of permanent employment contracts is incompatible with the role of a Chief Digital Officer.
D.F.: Whereas employing a Chief Digital Officer in a company with less than 10 employees isn’t financially viable, it’s a vital question for large companies. The ideal candidate would be someone with a strong background in marketing, combined with a sound knowledge of digital technology, excellent communication and inter-personal skills – and a strong vision and strategic perspective. A Digital Transformer is an extremely rare thing, but if you look hard you can find one!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COMPANIES TO HELP EASE THEM THROUGH THE DIGITAL TRANSITION AND INCORPORATE THE TECHNOLOGY IN ORDER TO BECOME MORE EFFICIENT AND AGILE? COULD YOU GIVE US SOME EXAMPLES OF BEST PRACTICES?
D.F. and M.T.: In our book, the aim for each of the 5 drivers (organisation, technology &innovation, personnel, products & services, environment) is to give the indicators and resources to achieve excellence. You also need to give your teams digital training and guidance, like Kering’s Digital Academy.
WHAT DOES “DIGITAL FOR ALL, NOW?” MEAN TO YOU?
M.T.: These are very exciting times, and the transformation is happening very fast. It’s like the discovery of fire, the invention of writing, the printing press… Knowledge is available for everyone, we’re raising standards.
D.F: It’s a natural progression of history. This is the fourth revolution: the data revolution.
Photo : Corporation, photo by Nec-Monitor-292, licence CC BY 2.0