Data science, the cloud, the Internet of Things, start-ups, to name just a few: all the attributes of digitalization are being called on to further the ambitious path taken by Veolia. The process is underway and is beginning to influence the transformation of the Group’s business model and its staff’s working methods, all the better to serve market needs.
« “Fully committed to digital transformation, Veolia puts both the external and internal user at the center of its digital culture,” explains Estelle Brachlianoff, the Group’s Senior Executive Vice-President UK & Ireland in charge of its digital transformation.
The first step was to conduct digital perception surveys among some 5,000 staff members, clients from every sector of activity, and end consumers (water service customers, waste collection users, etc.). The aim being to understand their expectations in order to meet them more effectively.
U-Start, conclusive demonstrations
The U-Start approach initiated by Veolia in Germany, which encourages close collaboration with the start-up ecosystem, has already successfully fulfilled its role as a catalyst. The Wastebox app, for instance, offers construction companies a turnkey solution for treating their waste. After six months’ tests on the ground, the professional version of this experiment will be developed and incorporated by the Group into its Hubcycle project for rollout in several countries. Another example is the POC (proof of concept) carried out with an embedded intelligence vibration sensor, developed by the French startup Cartesiam. Capable of receiving alerts as part of predictive maintenance, it has been tested on three sites in Germany. The interest that it has aroused among several of the Group’s entities could lead to its integration into their operating systems.
Reinventing the customer experience
The number one priority of this transformative approach is customer focus. The idea is to make customers’ lives easier by offering them services precisely tailored to their needs. This goal is achieved by introducing customer relationship management (CRM) tools drawing on artificial intelligence and machine learning.
In the United States, these technologies have improved interaction with customers, refining the Group’s knowledge and understanding of their needs.
Digital also enriches the range of solutions offered to clients. For instance, Veolia Water Technologies has developed Aquavista, an innovative tool that monitors and manages water treatment equipment in real time. In the event of an anomaly, an automatic alert reduces the response time and operating data is used for preventive maintenance. Operational in Europe and the United States, Aquavista is currently being implemented in Asia. Another innovative service, the performance control center Hubgrade relies on over 300,000 smart sensors that convey data in real time from thousands of sites to fifteen digital platforms across 13 countries. This data makes it possible to continually optimize facilities’ energy performance and environmental impact. For example, the air conditioning system can be automatically adjusted using information sent by the sensors about the premises’ occupancy rate.
Digital also rises to the second challenge of meeting staff expectations. The development of connected prevention measures has allowed SARP, a Group subsidiary specializing in hygiene and sanitation, to answer the occupational safety concerns expressed by employees working in highrisk environments. Augmented reality headsets, equipment featuring toxicity sensors, an on-board camera, bracelet, etc., allow operators to constantly interact with their central base, which is immediately alerted if an incident occurs.
Digitalization: all on board
The internal digitalization survey was enthusiastically welcomed by the members of staff consulted. Several additional actions have been taken to involve as many people as possible in the Group’s digitalization process: the Digital Passport, open to all, is an online program for becoming familiar with a digital vocabulary that can sometimes be difficult to grasp. Some 1,000 employees have already taken part. The Digital transformation certificate is aimed at employees more familiar with digital. 200 people have already participated. The Disrupt training program (see Focus) is designed for young talent, who are invited to come up with digital solutions to meet business challenges. Finally, the Accelerate module for managers offers more strategic content: better identifying the main challenges to be met while facilitating the digital transformation, putting in place fluid management and more flexible working methods, and making communication a driver for a more effective and influential business strategy.
Taking inspiration from start-up methods
With a view to accelerating the implementation of a digital culture, Veolia is relying on an array of methods borrowed from the start-up world. Agile project development, for instance, consists in testing ideas over a limited scope and quickly assessing their viability at a lower cost before considering — or rejecting — the possibility of a wider application. Experiments are conducted by digital labs, which can be organized in skills pools connected via a network of experts from different fields, such as data sciences, data analysis, machine learning, and the cloud.
“In Great Britain, Bio-Trading, an auction platform between organic waste producers and users, was born in the space of three months using this method,” explains Chloé Dupont, the Digital Transformation Leader for Veolia, UK and Ireland.
The Group is fostering these winwin relationships with start-ups worldwide. In Germany, the U Start initiative (see boxed text) looks to reduce the time taken to bring new solutions to market in the areas of the circular economy, climate protection and resource efficiency.
Prioritizing data as a raw material
Data has become raw material, whose collection largely involves the Internet of Things. This is a key element in Veolia’s digitalization process. Birdz, a Group subsidiary and pioneer in remote water consumption readings, is now extending its expertise to electricity and fuel oil consumption. It is also developing solutions in the realm of waste. On this market, it has developed
SATAWAD, a more secure and mobile digital environment
The SATAWAD (Secure AnyTime, AnyWhere, Any Device) project aims to accelerate the development of collaborative tools available to Veolia employees and make their working environment more mobile and agile within an extremely secure infrastructure. Protection against cyber attacks represents one of the major challenges of the digital transformation that the Group is undertaking. The project’s rollout across all of the divisions at headquarters should be completed by summer 2018, before being extending to all members of staff by the end of 2019. Active preparations are underway in the business units for the move to SATAWAD, and some of them have already begun migrating to the new environment.
Last but not least, digital offers the advantage of greater ease of collaboration within organizations. At Veolia, the SATAWAD project (see New, page 9) will allow each staff member to access data wherever they are in the world, as if they were in the office. Teleworking will be encouraged and the flow of communication between zones and entities facilitated, particularly through instant chatting between staff and the creation of community spaces. It is not merely new tools that are being deployed, but a new, more agile, collaborative and stimulating way of working together.
“We have an exciting task ahead of us!” states Estelle Brachlianoff. “ I t involve s ident i fying existing initiatives and giving them direction, visibility and acceleration. Direction to ensure that they are aligned with our global strategy. Visibility to boost dialogue, share best practices and retain talent internally. And also to demonstrate our ability to innovate and attract the best partners externally. Acceleration because digital is fast and agile. If we do not take advantage of what we already have, others will do it.”