Meriem Riadi: The digital architect shaping SUEZ’s future
Utilities Digital Solutions Europe

Meriem Riadi: The digital architect shaping SUEZ’s future

Friday, 15 May 2020

Covid-19 accelerating the digital transformation

As the chief digital officer of environmental engineering behemoth, SUEZ, Meriem Riadi speaks about how digital must be seen as a bridge to customer engagement.

Meriem Riadi is keen to see the positives from the current pandemic situation.

The chief digital officer (CDO) of SUEZ believes the digital transformation has been accelerated in two areas.

Firstly, the organisation’s workforces and many others around the world are proving that remote working can work, at scale, in a very efficient way.

"We have progressed in this area the equivalent of years in only a matter of weeks,” she says positively.

“This is not just in terms of behaviour but also in terms of the culture, and the improved perception of home offices.”

Riadi also believes the pandemic will accelerate the digital transformation when it comes to project performance.

“Like many industries, we are being challenged regarding our financial results, but performance is one of the three pillars of our digital transformation plan,” she says. “The three pillars also include customer experience and new business models.

“All the projects related to data and full performance, including revenue management, predictive maintenance and performance of customer experience – will be accelerated.”

SUEZ set out the ambition to increase its investments into innovation and digital technology by 50 per cent by 2023.

Improving customer experience using digital

A graduate of the ESCP Business School, Riadi has been in the role of CDO for over two years. Before joining SUEZ, she held senior digital roles in the insurance company, Groupama.

And it's her background from a non-environmental engineering business that perhaps enables her to look at the different verticals with much needed fresh eyes.

Her role is to accelerate the group’s digital transformation based on three principles:

  • Define the group digital roadmap

  • Accelerate industrial projects, such as data, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

  • Open innovation: open up the group to digital ecosystems and start-ups.

The CDO believes that digital tools should improve customer experiences, and this is one area the water and waste markets need play catch up, particularly with other sectors such as healthcare.

“The digitalisation of customer experience is very important for our industries,” she says.

"It's a pillar that was not well developed in the environmental services industry, as this was an industry driven by experts rather than being a customer-centric industry."

As well as improved customer interfaces and “technologies such as voice bots”, Riadi says digital solutions are moving from being optional to necessities.

"In the latest tenders, we see organisations wanting more modern and efficient customer experiences. Having digital tools are now required to win new contracts," she adds.

Taking the ‘Digital Hub’ internationally

In mid-April 2019 SUEZ launched its ‘Digital Hub’ to bring together tech start-ups, incubators at a “digital workplace in the heart of Paris”.

While not an “accelerator” as such for external start-ups, the Hub is designed to increase the speed of SUEZ’s very own solutions.

The aim is to accelerate 15 to 20 high-potential digital projects every six months. So how is this progressing?

SUEZ Digital Hub workspace

Riadi says for the first three “seasons” they developed 15 digital projects.

Each season, or six month period, results in a demo day where the project leaders present their projects in Paris and have to be “transparent about what did and didn’t work”. The event is broadcast around the world.

The CDO has ambitions to take the programme further afield than Paris.

We are working on an international roadmap because we would like to create a hub in North America and also Asia in 2021, depending on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she adds. One of the project successes involves hydraulic network optimisation company, Optimatics, which SUEZ acquired as part of a wider ambition to build out its network of digital solutions.

The companies co-developed an algorithm to help predict pipe bursts by using data captured by a new generation of sensors.

Early results: accelerated algorithms and blockchain

Riadi believes the strength of the programme is to accelerate the development time on new solutions.

For the Optimatics algorithm, this took four months to developed instead of two years, says Riadi.

Another development included AquaCircle, a web simulation tool that brings together diagnostics for drinking water networks. This includes a targeted action plan based on the best cost/benefit scenarios.

Blockchain software was also tested with a municipality in Poland, to give "a fully transparent view of the of the service", which the CDO says really help to speed up the response time.

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