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.”
She 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.”
Improving customer experience using digital
A graduate of the ESCP Business School, Meriem Riadi has been in the role of CDO for over two years. Before joining Suez she was the group chief digital officer of Groupama, a large European Insurance company, working on digital marketing actions, on the development of new offers and developing partnerships with start-ups.
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 around three main pillars: Digital customer experience, Performance & Data and, New business models.
Her team is structured around three main components : digital marketing & customer experience; data (i.e. data governance, data science, data engineering & platforms) and digital new business models acceleration. The role of the team is to work both on the enablers of Suez’s digital transformation (e.g. platforms, roles & responsibilities, culture), to deliver large scale digital projects, an to accelerate short term innovative project thanks to the Suez Digital Hub (see below).
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 when compared to B2C industries.
“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”, she 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.
Scaling the ‘Digital Hub’
In October 2018 Suez launched its ‘Digital Hub’, an acceleration program with the objective to accelerate between 15-20 digital projects every six months, sourced from all Suez geographies.
While not an “accelerator” as such for external start-ups, the Hub is designed to increase the speed of Suez’s very own solutions.
So how is this progressing?
Meriem Riadi says for the first three “seasons” they developed 50 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.
One of the key successful projects, Calm Network, involves the development of an algorithm to identify risk on pipes bursts thanks to a new generation of pressure sensors developed by a start-up, Inflowmatics. 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
The chief digital officer believes the strength of the programme is to accelerate the development time on new solutions.
For the Calm Network algorithm, this took four months to developed instead of two years, she says.
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 in the waste business, to give "a fully transparent view of the of the service", which the CDO says really help to speed up the response time.
- Meriem Riadi will be speaking in #BreakOuts: a new live webinar series from the Aquatech Online team. For information and to register for free, click here.