16.10.2019

Digital Transformation: Why Culture Is So Key

I am really honored to have represented Forrester in the jury of the eCAC40/Les Echos Index measuring the digital maturity of the largest French companies quoted at the French stock exchange (CAC 40 Index).

The results are as follows (top 10 only):

  1. Société Générale
  2.  Total
  3. Schneider Electric
  4. Air Liquide
  5. Orange
  6. BNP Paribas
  7. Atos
  8. ENGIE
  9. AXA
  10. Saint-Gobain

What struck me this year in the ranking is the fact that, according to Gilles Babinet (digital champion for France at the European Commission) and the Les Echos methodology, the average score decreased slightly for the first time. I think one of the reasons is that the largest French companies need to evolve their culture, organizations, and processes to fully and deeply transform. This is not about digital transformation but about business transformation. This is especially notable in France, where we see many prominent CDOs (chief digital officers); however, as rightly pointed out by Stéphane Richard (CEO of Orange): “I don’t need a CDO; digital is the responsibility of each of the members of my executive committee.”

Culture is the most important factor, way more important than technology, for example. By culture, we mean a set of shared values and beliefs that drive a change in behaviors. This has to be both a top-down and a bottom-up approach. The CEO and the C-level executives must embody the culture and the DNA of the brand so that employees change their behaviors to better serve their clients. A great example of this was shared by Frédéric Oudéa, the CEO of Société Générale, when receiving the 2018 prize (see picture below): He regularly (once a month) spends time learning how to code in order to understand IT/software issues and directly listen to clients and employees. Another example comes from C-level executives at Generali or Air Liquide, which spend time regularly to call back detractors themselves.

Digital Transformation: Why Culture Is So Key

The role of the chief people officer is thus critical. He must work closely with the CMO (to define what the brand purpose means for employees and to develop the employee brand) and with the CIO (to make sure employees have the tools they need to be more productive and accomplish their tasks). According to Forrester’s latest Customer Experience Index (CX Index™), France is lagging behind the UK and Germany in delivering a good experience. Not surprisingly, the No. 1 challenge for 34% of the marketers we have surveyed in France is employee recruiting and retention!

For more information on digital transformation, see this post from my colleague Ted Schadler on the sorry state of digital transformation in 2018.

For French readers, see this summary article in Les Echos.

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