Digital for all now

#OSD15: #digitaltransfo of the SNCF in 10 words, with Yves Tyrode

Econocom 19 Feb 2016

On Friday 5th February 2016, the last day of the Observatoire des Stratégies Digitales (#OSD15) Sia Partners held a breakfast seminar on the digital transformation of organisations. Yves Tyrode, Digital & Communications Director for the SNCF, was the guest of honour and talked about the group’s digital projects, which focus on three key concepts: openness, agility and disruption. Here are the highlights of the event in 10 hashtags!




In October 2014 Yves Tyrode was appointed Digital & Communications Director of the SNCF (the French national railways, Ed). The former head of the Technocentre Orange explained that the group’s digital transformation began long before he joined, back in 2000 when the website was set up, and which he ran for four years.  

Tyrode believes that, for digital matters to move ahead, they need to be overseen by a CDO or Digital Director, i.e. someone who can personify the digital transformation but isn’t the only person driving it. And this role – requiring a combination of technological and marketing expertise – is far from easy.

Tweet: “Being in the field and listening, to personify the digital transformation.”  



Contrary to what Yves Tyrode thought before he took on the role, the CIO isn’t a hindrance to digitalisation. SNCF had understood the implications of the digital transformation: as Tyrode explains, it’s often not the CIOs themselves who hold back the digital transition but their managers. A CDO can be a precious ally – but a demanding one, as he raises some major technological challenges and is constantly pushing for change. The key to success could be DevOps, an innovation approach designed to make software deployments more agile.    

Tweet: “CDOs should help CIOs but also challenge them”




According to Yves Tyrode, collaborating with startups is essential. Last year, SNCF set up its first in-house incubator, called 574 (a reference to the world record for rail travel speed). Some 2,000 startups have since been through the incubator and benefited from real-time sharing of the group’s data. For the SNCF, the experience has been a goldmine in terms of innovation.




Is the Internet of Things a solution to scalability issues?

Tyrode thinks that, on an industrial level, embedding sensors into the existing infrastructures can increase responsiveness and agility.

“I’m a great believer in IoT. In some cases, it has completely transformed industries: instead of dealing with a maintenance problem, employees can be proactive thanks to data collected from connected devices.”

The essential thing is to think about tangible uses of the technology: for this reason, SNCF has moved into the Toulouse offices of Sigfox, a French IoT provider. Its staff can now work with a company that makes tension sensors for the overhead catenary wires, which provide electricity for railway lines. The group is also looking into installing accelerometers on the pantographs (apparatus mounted on the roof of the trains to collect power through contact with the overhead wire) on some of its trains




Could drones improve network performance and security? According to Tyrode, the SNCF may start using them soon to send alerts about, say, dangerous mudslides on tracks.




“Without measuring progress, there can be no progress! ROI isn’t necessarily the most revealing indicator, even if we take into account the number of online orders or sales.”


SNCF Group has set up a dashboard to measure customer satisfaction with digital, but also employee satisfaction. Special KPIs have been put in place for applications, for example with the number of web/mobile views. Another indicator used by the group: the number of startups included in the 574 programme, (currently 2,000).




A successful digital project requires two fundamental elements: the digital transformation of the existing organisation, i.e. improving productivity and quality of service, and digital disruption, or adopting new economic models.

Whilst transformation can be effected from within, disruption is too profound to be managed in-house and requires outside support, for example by acquiring startups. In the SNCF’s case, they bought out peer-to-peer car rental company OuiCar, in an attempt to fend off competition from car-sharing providers.




“Managers have to reinvent themselves and become facilitators.”

  For the digital transition to take off, employees have to be on board, which requires reviewing internal processes and convincing management! SNCF has set up an in-house community made up of several thousand people who have volunteered to be ambassadors for the digital transformation.  


“We have to invent the digital transformation together and share it with other companies. We’re all faced with the same problems and management should be a central part of our mutation.”



“Digital is changing the rules of management: we need to invent facilitator-managers, a source of added value”



The SCNF has worked a lot with the RATP (company that operates Paris’ metro and buses, Ed) on improving the customer experience, for example with open data. A role model for us in this area is Citymapper, a London-based startup that has reinvented city route-planning. Tyrode believes cooperation – or, as he puts it, co-opetition – with other players in the transport ecosystem is vital.





“If you don’t tell people what you’re doing, you won’t create anything! You have to combine communication with action.”


=> Also on our blog: #DigitalSNCF: full speed ahead for digitalising the SNCF’s services


=> Read our other articles on the 2015 survey of digital practices:

– What #digitaltransformation governance have companies put in place?

Digital transformation: the main drivers and obstacles

– #Digitaltransfo: employees are better equipped, but there-s still a long way to go

– Digital transformation of the customer experience: companies still reluctant

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