Here’s a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) who’s raring to go: at Renault, Patrick Hoffstetter is masterfully implementing the digital transformation: he was the one behind the digital factory, the unit in charge of coordinating all the group’s digital activities. From a background in marketing and new technologies, Hoffstetter, who was previously Vice President Europe of LastMinute.com, Chief Product Officer at Yahoo! and Marketing Director at SFR, brought his digital culture to the world’s fourth biggest car manufacturer four years ago.
So how can you implement a digital transformation in a group with over 120,000 employees? How can you get 120,000 people to grasp the implications of digital? How can you manage innovation in a constantly-changing ecosystem? We found out from Patrick Hoffstetter.
INCORPORATING digital INTO THE DAY-TO-DAY
What is the digital factory?
The digital factory is a group of Renault staff, based at the new headquarters, with correspondents in other areas and countries, because there’s a digital and CRM manager at most of our subsidiaries, sometimes with teams of as many as 4 or 5 people, even more in the bigger markets.
At the headquarters, around fifty people are in charge of digital and, in the field – in the different regional and international offices – there are about a hundred. There are also people in charge of this in other departments: in corporate communication, for example, there’s a dedicated digital team, who liaise with bloggers and manage our corporate digital content, etc.
All in all, when we get everyone who works in digital marketing together for our “digital days” there are almost 200 of us, which is not surprising, considering the importance and the size of the company. We also outsource a great deal to partners or agencies.
“One thing we wanted to do was incorporate digital in the company’s strategy and daily routine. My team is part of the sales department. I report directly to Thierry Plantegenest, Vice President in charge of global clients, which, aside from digital, also includes all the client points of contact – and functionally, I report to Nadine Leclair, Senior Vice President of Expert Fellow, Renault’s expertise division.”
A combinATION OF opErationAl AND prospective
What are some of the major projects you’ve been in charge of?
What I explain to my teams is that digital is a dual issue.
We have one foot firmly in the operational side of things and in the day-to-day management of digital: strategy, guidelines, platform and content management, but also tools, functionalities and performance management: reporting, dashboards and client monitoring, from our website traffic and Facebook pages right through to business transformation, particularly in terms of sales resulting from leads we send to the network.
On the other hand, there’s a more prospective side to digital, more innovation-focused. Our role within the company is one of a scout, we evangelise staff on the implications of digital. It’s a real educational mission that involves decrypting information: so much is said about digital that some of our managers and colleagues are a bit lost. Sometimes they come to us with very pragmatic questions, either professional or personal. It could be for example an employee wondering what he can or can’t say over the social networks to the marketing director, who is wondering whether to invest the media budget on Facebook, and is looking into e-commerce opportunities, customer loyalty, setting up communities, etc.
GETTING immerSED IN THE COMPANY processES
From a strategic standpoint, innovation is essential. We reached a more industrial dimension when we set up and ran the digital lab almost a year ago. We run around ten POCs, (Proof of Concept).
For example, we developed the My Renault Connect app, as part of loyalty programme. It’s a good example of cross-functional cooperation as it involved marketing and the engineering and product teams working on the connected car. We also work a lot with mobile apps, big data and e-retail.
“The key to success is being totally immersed in the organisation, processes and internal needs. The number-one priority is getting all the employees motivated, which is a complicated challenge in a company like Renault which employs 120,000 people in 200 countries and covers a wide range of professions. But if you’re not in the middle of the boat, it’s hard to navigate: and you have no business navigating either!”
Unlike some companies that choose to outsource or set up outside divisions, we’re really at the very heart of the activity. But that doesn’t stop us working more and more with the startup ecosystem, so we can tap into the digital culture at the very source. Renault has implemented a number of projects ranging from historic partnerships with Le Web and Paris Incubator to a more recent partnership with venture capital fund Partech Ventures.
How do you go about “digitally evangelising” employees?
Three years ago we launched our own enterprise social network, My Déclic. It was quite a success: without a great deal of in-house communication, we soon had several thousand members.
More recently, we set up within the Communications department a team in charge of stepping up this evangelisation process. The team works closely with us, as well as with all the internal communication and HR teams, to ensure we reach all the staff.
EXCHANGING BEST PRACTICES
Do you draw inspiration from what other companies are doing?
Three years ago, I started up a club called eg10 made up of CDOs from CAC 40 companies. All companies have their internal successes but are also behind in some areas, so we talk about all aspects of digital. The aim is to learn best practices from everyone and thus speed up the digital transformation of our companies.
For example, Pernod Ricard is pretty advanced in terms of innovation and AXA recently implemented a cross-functional strategy to boost its digital transformation with initiatives such as the AXA Lab. SNCF Group, meanwhile, has boosted e-commerce with voyage-sncf.com and built on this success to optimise its whole multichannel transformation. Each company has its own speciality and we try and copy whatever works because, in the end, all major companies come across the same sorts of difficulties: staff awareness, speed, organisation, data management, etc.
We are very proud to see that now, in the automotive industry, and even compared with other industries, Renault is the leader. We’ve always been ahead of our time in terms of organisation: our first experiment with the digital factory was nearly 15 years ago and we set up the client department two years ago. Digital acculturation is a more complicated issue. Renault was one of the first CAC40 companies to bring out an enterprise social network, we’ve experimented with MOOCs, etc. But you can’t get 120,000 employees on board overnight. For the big data side of things, for example, we’ve launched a number of tests, POCs, programmes, IT projects… But we still have a long way to go!
“One thing we have noticed, whatever the company or industry sector, is the importance of “change management”: and that means not just the theoretical side but changing everyday habits and making sure that everyone, from C-level to ordinary employees, soaks up the digital culture. It’s not easy because there’s a whole aspect of digital that stresses people, a disruptive element, and the speed at which things go that can be overwhelming.”
DON’t be afraid of failure
What advice would you give to a company that’s just starting its digital transformation?
I’d give pretty basic advice, because it’s often the simplest ideas that are the best.
The first thing is that, in order for it to work, you have to get everyone on board, from the intern to the CEO.
“A top-down initiative or one that comes from just one subsidiary is doomed to failure. The digital transformation really has to be seen as a company-wide project.”
The second thing I would recommend is humility. You have to be prepared to fail.
“No one has a crystal ball. The main strength of pure play companies is the “learn to fail’’ culture: I tried, it didn’t work, I’ll start again tomorrow morning and learn from that failure. Now that’s something that’s very hard to accept for us in France and in our culture of engineers.”
The last thing is about speed. We are in a sector where we have to think about things for a long time and ask ourselves the right questions several times over. Whereas the digital culture is the exact opposite of that: it’s all about speed. Sometimes it’s better to make a mediocre decision within the hour than a brilliant one a month too late!