Luc Bretones, Director of Orange Technocentre and Orange Fab, explains how digital transformation is impacting both workplaces and workflows: from the rise of collaborative projects to the construction of tomorrow’s offices. Let’s hear from him.
Has digital transformation become a priority for businesses?
Luc Bretones: Absolutely. Digital technology overcomes time and space, offers unprecedented ubiquity and multiplies your potential audience. At the same time, more widespread access to information has provoked new consumer behaviour, which is more demanding, informed and impatient. To respond better to these new expectations, companies have to embrace digital more than ever as it is accelerating every day and is becoming essential to remaining competitive.
What are the concrete consequences?
L. B.: Digital transformation is not just about introducing new technologies or business models: it marks the arrival of new ways to create, produce and collaborate. It has an undeniable cultural dimension that is prompting new organisational models and employee relationships. It also coincides with new aspirations based on well-being and engagement.
The future Orange headquarters on the banks of the Seine in Issy-Les-Moulineaux is fully signed up to this vision. The 56,000 m² Bridge project was designed as both a living space and professional resource for employees. Orange believes that the working environment is central to quality of life at work, and aims to offer the best possible employee experience.
“Collaborative” seems to be the new magic word...
L. B.: No matter where I work, information and knowledge can be combined to capture trends as they are happening. But when innovating becomes an obligation, it’s necessary to be more agile, more flexible and more collaborative. Creating content collaboratively, creating a social connection, sharing information or combining efforts are all ways in which technology can be used to innovate and create. With the Bridge project, Orange aims to support this type of innovation and cooperation via a modular building that can adapt to teams and priorities. This creative collaboration is not limited to internal resources – ad hoc projects can be delivered with external service providers and start-ups.
How do you go about encouraging collaboration inside an organisation?
L. B.: Digital is a disruptive technology as it redistributes the organisation’s power among individuals. Hierarchical structures are pushed aside in favour of a network of autonomous project teams. Whatever the chosen work method (Agile Scrum, Design thinking, Lean...), it implies a profound change in corporate culture. Some methods are trans-disciplinary, based on concrete actions, short timescales and beta experimentation. Managers have to accept that employees will take more risks on a daily basis and therefore recognise their right to make mistakes. It’s more about support than control, coaching rather than telling and leadership rather than management.
Are we talking about a shift in core skills?
L. B.: We’re now part of a culture of lifelong learning! Given the sustained pace of innovation, tomorrow’s job requirements are hard to predict, so we need to develop new skills and a high degree of flexibility and versatility. The organisation becomes a “skills exchange”, and training is a key driver. It needs to prepare digital talents by setting up agile teams who are always learning.
If the concept of hierarchy is being erased and management is becoming more horizontal, employees will respect experts with skills more than the people at the top. Having a degree or diploma is not as important as performance, which can be observed in real time, and qualifications that can be assessed continuously. One of Bridge’s innovations is its decision-making process: employees can take part in co-creation workshops to design future workspaces based on their professional experience.
Can the workplace accelerate change?
L. B.: Yes, I believe so. Work is evolving in a way that means we must rethink geographical organisation. Businesses are reconfiguring their traditional offices into more open and user-friendly spaces, enabling collaboration and innovation, decompartmentalising services, sharing information, improving well-being and attracting talent. Quiet areas, loft-style lunch places, break out zones and meeting spaces… everything is done to increase the quality of life at work and co-creation. Thanks to these new spaces, employees are becoming increasingly autonomous, responsible and involved. In terms of the Bridge project, Orange aims to define what is relevant and viable for a Group of our size based on our employees’ needs. More than a real estate programme, it is a full business project that enables us to reflect in depth on how we want to design and create our workplaces in the future.