Today’s IT teams need to be at one with the business, urges Dominique Pardo, head of Group IT Services at energy giant Total — engaging in the wider business ecosystem, demonstrating collaborative skills and a sensitivity to the technology needs of their colleagues.
Deep technical skills alone are not sufficient for IT teams to succeed in the new era of the digitally enabled enterprise — particularly in an organization like Total, where business transformation and new ways of working are a fixture of the strategic agenda. That’s the view of Dominique Pardo, president of Total’s Global IT Services, the $209 billion French energy giant’s IT subsidiary, who is leading a change program within his own organization to parallel that of the wider business.
“Of course, IT employees need to acquire the skills related to these new technologies: cloud, infrastructure-as-code, DevOps, agile... and all with a single objective to accelerate the digital development capabilities at the core of the company. But this is not enough,” he says.
Pardo points to the fact that people across the multinational organization increasingly have advanced technology skills too, dubbing them “user-collaborators.”
“In about 10 years’ time, everyone will be able to use digital tools,” he believes, and refers to how technological revolutions in history have eventually led to new skills being adopted by a wider user base. “When printing was invented, there were only a few people who could actually read and knew how to use a book. It’s the same thing now. Digital, artificial intelligence, and so on are coming into the hands of [non-IT] people.
As a growing number of colleagues rapidly acquire those skills, so IT teams must operate increasingly closely with the rest of the business to deliver genuine value, he argues. “Our employees must work in an ecosystem as a group and acquire collaborative skills. They must be able to better understand the needs of the business, and also their expectations — as responding to expectations and responding to needs are not exactly the same thing. Therefore, they must acquire ‘soft skills’: the ability to collaborate, the ability to understand others, the ability to interact in a matrix that is always changing, depending on the position someone has in the company and depending on its ecosystem.”
And this is one of the most challenging — albeit most crucial — elements of the job, he argues. “For me, these soft skills are essential. IT is used to acquiring technical skills and has been doing so since time immemorial. The pace of technology runs very, very fast. Nevertheless, this is inherent in the IT profession and it’s not that hard to acquire those skills – but it is much more difficult to acquire the soft skills.”
Enabling the workplace of the future
Allied to this heightened appetite for collaboration, Pardo has a clear vision of the digitally enabled workplace for Total’s 100,000 employees, who operate in 130 countries in diverse environments that range from 800 industrial sites to 14,000 service stations. “With the development of digital technology, teleworking, remote collaboration and so on, you first have to ask yourself a question: What role will the workplace play?” he says. “Whether it’s Total or for other companies, the workplace will be used to make social connections and therefore we will need to imagine an environment that makes it possible to do that.”
He points to his own day-to-day experience as an example. “I already work with teams who could be in Singapore or Houston. I don't see them every day but I have tools that allow me to make a connection very efficiently with these collaborators. Our places of work will increasingly have to be thought of in that way.”
The key value-driver is ensuring the workplaces can be adapted to the needs of Total’s diverse range of users, he argues. “We need to have spaces that we can configure differently, for people who work in project mode, people who work in expertise mode, and so on. These people do not need the same place of work. So for me the essential thing is the capacity for continuous change in a workplace — and the workplace must be adapted both to the collective requirements but at the same time to the individual.”
By delivering on this, the benefits of a diverse workforce can be maximised. “I don’t believe in workplaces where everyone is the same, where everyone uses the same model,” he says. “So just as diversity brings value, diversity of workplace configurations will also bring value.”