Opening conference: To what extent does the Digital Transformation impact the IT business?
All companies have launched their digital transformation and the entire IT ecosystem is involved in this change. ReadyForIT focussed on the themes of technologies and skills, bringing together experts and companies in an interactive and pragmatic manner. This opening conference introduced the issue of the digital transformation and what it means for ITs and their business.
How have ITs reinvented themselves to adapt to clients’ new needs?
Suez is the global leader in intelligent and sustainable resource management. The group has initiated a vast digital transformation to meet the needs of the communities and industries comprising its clientele.
What does the digital transformation represent for Suez?
At Suez, the digital transformation covers both the waste management and water businesses, and represents three major issues:
- How to protect market share against growing uberisation, which also impacts major players of this size
- How to win new market share, because digitisation comes with plenty of data representing new opportunities. For example, it is possible to propose marketplaces that bring together waste producers and businesses needing this waste.
- How to use digitisation within the company itself to improve operational performance, through the use of robotics and artificial intelligence
Suez is a major sustainable development player whose objective is to reduce water consumption and waste production. Digital technologies represent a major opportunity for the company to enhance the proposals made to customers.
What role does IT play in this change?
In the past, IT was considered a necessary evil within the company. Today, however, it has become a partner of the organisation that needs to be present, more efficient, more agile and more reliable. Suez uses digital technologies to sell services to clients. This new business line is part of a relationship with clients that are digitising.
The French department’s ISD serves 30 000 employees, employs 300 people, uses 250 applications, and is responsible for digitisation in the BUs. Combining digital technologies and the ISD allows the group to offer a seamless service to both employees and clients.
The objective shared by these two departments is to offer innovative and robust solutions that communicate with the client’s information system. They now work more closely upstream, co-constructing solutions although the ISD remains responsible for Suez’s global internal IT architecture and security.
The other departments involved in the company’s organisation are the group’s general ISD, branch directors and BU experts. The new organisation combining IT and the ISD reduces the risk of friction between these players and makes the process smoother.
Maud Fiancette explains that the ISD now plays two roles: "I haveboth feet on the ground with conventional ISD roles managing obsolescence, compliance and the security of our applications, the move to the cloud…, very down-to-earth topics.[...] And I have my head in the clouds, because […] we’re launching Suez 2030 and France will be participating in this transformation, as we look ahead more than 10 years. And the question is: what role will the IS play in this transformation?”
Is it necessary to avoid traditional business models to generate value?
Organisations need people, and people need training in new technologies.
What new cybersecurity risks do we need to understand?
ANSSI (Agence Nationale de la Sécurité des Systèmes d’Information) is assisting companies and organisations in the digital transformation which promises not only new opportunities but risks as well.
In the space of only a few years, it has become clear that cybersecurity is a pillar of the digital transformation because of the significant risks whenever a person or group maliciously gains access to an information system:
- Espionage: the vast majority of cases involve espionage, though they are rarely reported, because neither the victims nor the perpetrators wish to reveal it.
- Crime: blocking an IS and then demanding a ransom for its release is effective for cybercriminals; their demands are often met because major groups would rather hand over millions of dollars than be without their information system.
- Military conflict: the conflicts of the future will be fought on digital battlefields.
Cyber security flaws are often the result of pure chance or a failure to consider digital security. Guillaume Poupard believes it is important to take into account "this topic of digital security at the proper level to avoid potentially dramatic consequences." Therefore, to limit the security risks, employees have to be trained and we need to raise awareness of digital issues.
How important is training and recruitment in the digital transformation?
At the current stage of digital transformation, supply and demand for training don’t line up: with scarce jobs and highly sought-after skills on the one hand, and sectors experiencing shortages on the other. It is important to train more professionals to address this situation. By 2022, 200 000 job offers will go unfilled in France, and 700 000 in Europe.
By 2030, 85% of jobs will be in professions that don’t exist today. So, most of today’s jobs will have to evolve, and we need to assist these changes and anticipate them by changing models.
Today’s recruiters have to look for more human skills such as questioning, creativity and collaboration rather than calculation and memorisation, which are more appropriate for machines. At Ecole 42, for example, we "learn to learn", we don’t simply learn skills that match a market need, with the risk of demand disappearing.
Teaching is crucial to train professionals in artificial intelligence, data and cybersecurity. But at Ecole 42, we believe breaking the rules is the key characteristic of innovation. The training we offer has no teachers and no courses. It is based on Internet access and enhancing the ability to work together, collaborate and communicate.
Learning continues throughout our life on a solid foundation obtained in school that satisfies the individual’s curiosity during their career and allows them to evolve professionally. France is lagging behind in teaching coding to children despite the fact that computing no longer simply plays a support role, but has become essential. The generations after the digital transformation will more naturally gravitate toward these jobs.
Why does IT need to be humanised?
IT and the digital transformation are an unstoppable force. This means we need to learn to use them as best we can and under the best conditions.
Why do we need to assist IT in its transformation?
Philosopher Julia De Funès explains: "paradoxically, technology helps to humanise individuals". In business, at the time of the digital transformation, we worry about artificial intelligence competing with humans but pay little attention to humans who are very quickly becoming robotised and artificial. However, humans will be essential in assisting artificial intelligence, which cannot be controlled only by technical skills.
Today's business world is under attack by artificialisation. In certain sectors, everything involves procedures, mechanically, in almost a robotic way.
Rarely is there a meeting without a PowerPoint presentation, even when a visual medium is not necessarily required to deliver the message. Additionally, though quality of life at work is becoming a management priority, unhappiness is growing constantly in the working world. All of this is the result of processes that have become automatic.
Happiness is a personal matter and cannot be mechanised. Happy employees aren’t necessarily more efficient, but they perform better when they are permitted to be active. Today’s business world is suffering from a lack of action. Employees don’t feel like they’re taking action, they don’t feel like they are involved in their professional life: they execute more than they undertake, they are agitated rather than being active.
How can we re-humanise business processes?
Humans are becoming increasingly technical with the digital transformation, because it’s very comfortable to depend on procedures. Procedures don’t require us to think. And so, humans almost naturally face a paradox: artificial intelligence is forcing us to re-adapt and re-humanise ourselves. Three conditions are necessary for action and humanity:
- Risk: taking risks doesn’t mean eliminating everything, but depending on the direction of the situation, it means deciding that it is sometimes less risky to take risks that not to take any at all. To take action, we need to rely on our intuition, which is not rational and computing intelligence, but a specific human characteristic that consists in seeing things in a comprehensive, holistic and systemic way.
- Meaning: we are fools when we no longer know why we are doing something, whereas one of the unique characteristics of humanity is our ability to think. Today, the meaning of life depends only on the individual and no longer on religion, politics or social class. Companies claim to provide a shared project that is often insufficient, especially since work has become an end in itself and no longer a means; work is now devoid of meaning even in its name.
- Trust: the etymology of the word comes from the Latin fides which means faith. Trust is a form of belief, namely the opposite of knowledge, since we cannot be certain of how the other person will behave. The irrational nature of trust is also unique to humanity and is foreign to the cognitive process of artificial intelligence.
The digital transformation and the arrival of artificial intelligence will transform tasks, skills, our way of being and our way of thinking.
Speakers: Majda Chaplain, MC Factory; Maud Fiancette, Suez France; Frédéric Charles, Suez Smart Solutions; Sophie Viger, Ecole 42; Guillaume Poupard, ANSSI; Julia De Funès, Philosopher and author