Tech is like sport – it takes practice to stay in the game

Societe Generale’s 2nd annual TechWeek has just come to a close. Over 10,000 people took part in this year’s event, united under the theme of demonstrating the concrete applications of new technologies being developed by the Bank. Whether using voice recognition to secure a transaction, detecting fraud with machine learning and big data, or identifying important skills with artificial intelligence: overall, more than 200 concrete use cases were presented, showing our staff the value of new technologies while avoiding theoretical arguments and specialist jargon.

Of course, technology is not an end in itself. Its worth lies in what it enables us to create for our clients and the efficiency it brings to our processes. And the more open we are to it, the more we can benefit from its potential.

We need to constantly approach new technologies by asking ourselves, “What impact will this have on our clients? How will it allow me to better serve them, in a faster and more personalised manner?”
It’s up to us to identify the most effective technologies and to roll them out quickly in all our business lines to develop new services for our clients. This is why it’s essential we all regularly contribute to our digital culture.

In this regard, TechWeek is emblematic of the cultural transformation we must undertake: it shows us that, regardless of our business line or function, we must all be aware of these new technologies, which have a fundamental impact on how we exercise our role as bankers. TechWeek is not just an event for those who work in IT or innovation. It involves all of us, we all need to develop our culture ‘Tech’ and practice it. And, of course, that’s something I’m doing too!

Last year, I wanted to learn the basics of coding and the best practices for development as part of a “coding contest” organised by our IT teams.

This year, I decided to devote more time to expanding my understanding of this area. Each month, I meet with the teams and discover their projects and new technologies. It’s a comprehensive coaching programme that I find extremely interesting and stimulating. A big thanks to Aurélien, Alain and all the other Group members of staff who have contributed to this learning experience as part of their teams!

One of the sessions, for example, focused on open source. Clearly, the open source movement goes way beyond simple code sharing. I am particularly fascinated by large-scale collaboration methods and the capacity to bring several players together to create ecosystems. In the following session, I experimented with A/B testing on the Societe Generale France banking app by sending different messages announcing a new version of the app to our customers. This concrete test evaluates the effectiveness of a given message with its audience. This marketing method allows us to optimise the customer journey and user experience. I also worked with the development teams of ALD International to develop a functionality for the ALD Carmarket website promoting specific characteristics of the cars for sale. I saw how new a functionality can move from the idea stage to production launch in less than an hour, introducing targeted and differentiated service offerings.

Given these concrete experiences, I am convinced that the close connection between IT and business is fundamental in determining how to take advantage of the full potential of new technologies and agile development methods, and so find new applications to serve our customers.
This is one of the driving principles of the methods we are rolling out within the Group. Taking part in one of the project teams working in agile mode, I was particularly impressed by the diversity of the team, made up of people who aren’t necessarily “tech-native”. There was Johan, for example, who moved from being a wealth adviser to a developer by retraining with our partner school, the Grande Ecole du Numérique; Pheaktra, who spent several years in the user support teams and now brings her “operations” perspective to the development team in addition to being a developer; and Thomas, the former Unix administrator, who is now the team’s lead developer and scrum master. Advancing step by step, the team has delivered an increasing number of “user stories”, and their delivery rate is accelerating. The team’s composition from the outset is a key factor in its success. These examples are perfect illustrations that it is up to each of us to show our motivation and our ability to launch ourselves into the digital world.

The challenge of the years to come is to apply this agile development methodology to as many of our projects as possible. Changing the ways in which we work and manage our IT projects is a key priority of our digital strategy. In Global Banking and Investor Solutions for example, 45% of versions developed internally are delivered in under a month, and we are working to achieve the same standard in all our IT departments. We have also launched “digital factories” across the Group in order to support our efforts to digitalise and automate processes, and, as announced in our strategic plan, we aim to automate 80% of internal processes within our traditional retail banking networks by 2020.

Of course, these new ways of working will require us to adapt our culture and refine our skills. Our staff are the primary drivers of this change. They lead our transformation by strengthening their skills with ongoing training initiatives. We must develop a more digital, open, agile, and business-oriented culture at every level. It’s what we did during our recent Management Committee seminar, with a day entirely devoted to new technologies and the ways under development for their application.

To rise to the challenge of digital transformation, seize new opportunities and invent the services of tomorrow, we must – and can – all “live and breathe tech”. As in sport, to improve your game while also enjoying yourself and staying competitive, practice is the key! See you at my next session on artificial intelligence!

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