New collaborative practices mean rethinking the internal organisation of companies

The Digital Transformation has a real impact on the world of business

All large French companies today consider themselves to be engaged in digital transformation. According to Gartner, by 2020, 75% of businesses will be or will be on track to becoming digital enterprises and all of them are working on what is referred to as their customer experience. This is clearly a major component of digital transformation. New digital tools dramatically alter the relationship between a company and its customers and the availability of mobile applications enables greater connections between customers and their external partners. This digital transformation means seriously rethinking the internal operations of companies, forcing managers and employees alike to create new business models, departing from the norm for their market and breaking with established habits, which is no doubt the greatest challenge.  Although it seems quite paradoxical, I believe the biggest obstacle is not competition, nor technology, but the internal barriers and companies’ unresponsiveness to change.

The role of management is decisive in such a change becoming a successful one, and new ideas must be instilled into every echelon of the organisation, from boards of directors, to all operational teams.


The role technology plays in this transformation of management styles

Work methods need to evolve to incorporate greater flexibility and responsiveness into team management. Management by projects must be facilitated, and technology has a key role to play in this transformation. It’s crucial to provide the tools which make this collaborative work a possibility because it’s not just about improving the flow of internal exchanges, but also allowing teams to work as part of a true ecosystem which encompasses the company’s partners, and its customers. Being contactable around the clock through a multitude of platforms is a start, but to really stimulate exchanges, we also have to leave behind communication tools as we knew them a decade or so ago. Company-wide collaboration has replaced the role of employees at the centre of their organisation and liberates that company’s true potential. Companies must develop their ability to stimulate the creativity of each employee.


New opportunities for companies

These days all companies are concerned about the competition posed by players born of the digital era. A recent MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte Digital global study revealed that 9 out of 10 managers consider their industry to be at risk of being “uberised”. However, only 44% of them are actually doing something about it. These managers have to ask themselves what digital technology can contribute to their core business, and how to integrate it. But they should avoid launching into the task from a purely defensive perspective! It’s essential to consider related sectors where the company could scope out new opportunities and growth areas.  An example of this strategy is Airbus, which took over drone technology to dream up Vahana, a self-piloted flying vehicle concept which contrasts sharply with the large aircrafts which the company’s success was built on. Another French company which deserves a mention is SNCF which, instead of going head to head with Blablacar, extended the carpooling principle to offer IDVROOM, its own short-distance carpooling service. It’s the same concept we envisaged when developing the soon-to-launch Orange Bank. Digital transformation is not about merely transforming what we’ve already got, but searching out innovations and business opportunities around us. Rather than viewing the marketplace as a competition, think of it as a never-ending challenge. Digital advances help break down barriers, but you also need to give them a helping hand by breaking down the barriers you impose on your own business.


The digital future of business

Henceforth, companies have to display internal responsiveness but also create outwards linkages in order to work in an ecosystem with other market players, and open their information system to customers. We are witnessing new digital collaboration tools adapted to the needs of business, whether that may be mobile tools for salespeople and teams on the move, web services and video conferencing for teams that hold remote meetings, or tools for contact centres. There is a fundamental trend that is only going to grow in the years to come: the integration of these collaborative bricks within business applications, particularly commercial applications, human resource management software or business applications.

That was the thinking behind Salsa, our business management application developed for major accounts. Our salespeople have Salsa on their tablets for when they’re out in the field and it allows them to access our social network features, view news alerts, etc. It’s a workspace which was created wholly to respond to their needs and this customisation is particularly important because not all users have the same needs.

Apart from messaging and telephone tools, it’s important to make use of collaboration tools which facilitate work on projects and virtual meeting rooms which not only allow remote meetings to be scheduled, but also provide a platform for storing and sharing documents, and maintaining exchange history with the ability to add audio or video. Parallel to this digital context, it pays to rethink work spaces provided for employees. Gone are the days when each worker was isolated in his or her bubble, but so too is the era when employees were forced to share the same noisy open-plan office space. 

These models have done their dash and today make way for a new vision of work spaces. It’s essential to undertake a drastic design overhaul for the layout of spaces provided for employees, incorporate noise control criteria which was often lacking in the old model, and only then can we stimulate creativity and encourage interaction between project team members. According to consulting firm Schole, 78% of employees are part of virtual teams working in project mode. So not only must the digital realm be totally reflected in the office layout, but the furniture itself must be designed to help employees share and exchange. It’s imperative to think about offices which differentiate between spaces dedicated to creativity, spaces for meetings, and space for time out and reflexion.

Box: 5 Key points to ensure a successful internal digital transformation

1. Discard the tried and true: Digital transformation is not simply a matter of updating your current processes, you have to think differently, outside of the box.

2. Involve all of your company’s employees: Digital transformation must be led from the executive level, but the conception and application of this transformation cannot happen without the participation of employees at every level.

3. Equip yourself with technology which promotes responsiveness: Tools for mobility and cooperation play a central role in kick-starting performance; you have to give your teams the means to work better internally and as part of the company’s entire ecosystem.

4. Incorporate exchange features to your business software: It’s an emerging trend: all business apps are gradually incorporating communication and exchange features. The underlying idea is to make all business processes more collaborative.

5. Rethink your physical space: Collaborative tools are essential for digital transformation, but the very design of work spaces must also reflect this new approach to work, and steer employees towards exchange and collaboration.

Guillaume Boudin

I direct the Business Unit Communication & Collaboration at Orange Business. In a rapidly growing market, my mission is to offer companies the best communication and collaboration services in order to improve their teams’ productivity, and to strengthen their performance. I am also President of the company OCWs (Orange Connectivity and Workspace Services), and Manager of Orange Business Russia.

Through my professional life, I have a particular interest in team work and in the development of new business areas. I have also lived overseas in Vietnam, Madagascar, and Iran, and I thoroughly enjoy discovering new cultures.