On September 27th, more than 150 IT professionals gathered at the Crystal Park, PwC Luxembourg's head office, to attend a new edition of IT Days. This year, the event focused on the latest technological innovations and their integration in the current agenda of IT managers.

The event started with a presentation entitled "The Unleashed Technology Acceleration", given by Vincent Gauché (Director, PwC Luxembourg). "Many technologies are converging and are therefore supportive with one another, allowing their acceleration. Also, progress in one technology has a positive effect on others," he started. The current world of innovation is creating a lot of opportunities. Vincent Gauché then listed the 12 technologies he sees as most promising. "AI starts to be connected to robotics that can perform more and more tasks linked to decision-making. IoT and the network of sensors that can remotely control and manage products will also allow the creation of new services," he explained. Vincent Gauché highlighted the opportunities offered by drones – moving from military use to business –, virtual and augmented reality – which can help explore, probe, test and train for new experience. He then talked about 3D printing and additive manufacturing, moving from prototyping to tailored and manufacturing precision, but also about the promises of blockchain, allowing the development of smart contracts, notably. Vincent Gauché also shared several opportunities brought by the use of advanced materials, nanomaterials, neurotechnologies and biotechnologies. "Energy capture, storage and transmission technologies will allow a fundamental upgrade to enable green energy, while quantum computing means that new problems resolution is at reach. It can evaluate all the solutions to a problem at once and ultimately decide what the best solution is," he highlighted, before ended his presentation talking about space technologies which aim at enhancing our models towards the "theory of everything", the multiverse and even the colonization of new worlds.

Candi Carrera, Country Manager of Microsoft Luxembourg, then took the stage and focused on the Artificial Intelligence's growing reality and design principles. He started by sharing his definition of AI: "it is a technology that can perceive, learn, reason, and assist in decision-making, and that acts to help us solve problems. And we are doing it already". According to him, Hollywood has influenced technologists and scientists with movies such as Terminator, Wargames, The Matrix, etc. "AI is a reality and not fiction anymore. It is used to sense, comprehend and act. We need to raise awareness and be careful about it," he added, before sharing key dates in the development of AI, from object recognition in 2016 to machine translation in March 2018, all reaching human parity, meaning you cannot know whether it is done by humans or machines. Candi Carrera then shared with the audience several projects that have been lead in Luxembourg over the last 2 years: virtual agents KYC, virtual agents customer Q&A, telesales campaign conversation-rate augmentation, self-quote bots, ad positioning, etc. He stated that "no AI strategy is not a strategy", highlighting the fact that there are many examples where AI can help people and that companies have several possibilities, investing in AI. They can opt for AI-infused experiences, AI-infused processes, IA-infused products and services, etc. Candi Carrera ended his presentation with the main AI design principles and values that need to be respected: fairness, reliability & safety, privacy & security, inclusiveness, transparency and accountability. "It is positive to have AI as it solves issues and helps people if we are able to infuse it into everyday life. But we must think about the design principles first," he concluded.

Then, Patrice Witz (Technology & Digital Partner, PwC Luxembourg) moderated a round table discussion on the current state of advanced technologies, bringing together Christian Kettmann (CIO, CFL), Jean-Marc Verdure (CIO, Enovos International), Daniel Matthieu (IT Director, Ferrero) and Olivier Nosetti (Head of IT, Banque de Luxembourg). According to Jean-Marc Verdure, things, when it comes to technology adoption, are changing in the utilities industry, thanks to the challenges induced by energy production and mobility: "Digital technologies are part of the solution. We are working on the digitalization of internal processes and operations, while also improving user experience, notably through the creation of an application called Eno Coach. Moreover, drones can be used for the inspection of high voltage towers". Daniel Matthieu also highlighted the fact that Ferrero is investing in several new technologies, notably drones, IoT and data analytics: "we notably developed a farm management program with a startup using drones and satellites images to know when to irrigate the fields, and therefore reduce the cost while improving the quality. We are also working on smart contracts using blockchain". Christian Kettmann explained that innovation was actually one of the five pillars of the CFL strategy. He notably doubled the number of IT professionals in his team, adding new pieces to move forward in the implementation of new technologies. He explained: "IoT makes objects speak. We then need to use the data to measure and take decisions. On the user experience side, chatbots can clearly help passengers needing information". According to Olivier Nossetti, the adoption of new tech can sometimes be more complicated in the financial industry due to security and compliance challenges: "technologies need to be mature to be used, since we deal with a lot of personal data. We are currently using advanced data analytics applied to fraud detection. At the group level, Crédit Mutuel is working on analyzing incoming emails, in order to provide them with better answers, aiming at changing the way the company communicated with its clients". On the cooperation with startups, Daniel Matthieu highlighted the fact that companies cannot do it alone and need to work with specialists but also with all the stakeholders. Jean-Marc Verdure agreed, stating that sometimes it can be difficult for traditional players to become completely digital, compared to new entrants. Yet, several challenges are still ahead, and notably going from "Proof of Concept" to real and effective use, but also achieving and even matching the high expectations of top management.

After a well-deserved lunch break, experts attended Hedi Sghaier's speech. The CIO of Société Général Bank & Trust, shared a presentation entitled "Agile@Scale", focusing on transformation strategy and feedback. "Agility started 7 years ago at the HQ in Paris, and in 2014 in Luxembourg," he added. It actually took two years to build the infrastructure and to provide the teams with all the tools they need to work quickly and efficiently, by saving their time and therefore providing more added value. "People are actually at the center of the new operating model, surrounded by 5 pillars: agility, automation, technical convergence, DevOps and cloud," explained Hedi Sghaier. The Agile@Scale methodology therefore aims at attracting the best talents while continuously delivering the best value. It helps innovate better, increases engagement and the attractiveness of the company, increases the value for business while improving efficiency. "Transformation is successful when it comes from a co-construction with the business. It involves a deep skill and culture change," highlighted the CIO of Société Générale Bank & Trust. He also shared his best practices, from defining the product management team and naming product owners to pushing for autonomy and co-location, and therefore advocating horizontal management and sharing these practices with the entire community. "Such an agile methodology means a change of culture and mindset: it impacts the operating model, steering, finance but also HR and sourcing, as roles and skills are evolving.

"The mechanics behind the innovative user experience" was the name of the presentation given by Frank Roessig, Head Digital Solutions for Finance, Telindus. He started his speech by giving a brief history of banking 1.0: "Banks used to force you to adapt to them. You had to do business their way and they were seen as an unavoidable intermediary". Then came several wake-up calls, from the famous Bill Gates quote – "Banking is necessary, banks are not" – to the financial crisis and of course, technology. People then started to ask themselves: How are we going to deal with banks? Many reasons are nowadays driving this change. First, client expectation has become central: they need their solutions to be real-time, easy to use, while accessing them anywhere, at any time. "They actually want to be in control", highlighted Frank Roessig. There are new market frameworks, with regulatory changes, PSD2 being one of the most recent examples: "Banks do not own the client anymore". Frank Roessig then shared the example of onboarding, stating that onboarding used to take months. Now, thanks to technology it only takes minutes. He defined it as a big leap, having a huge impact on cost and on efficiency. Moreover, the competitive landscape has also changed over the years, with startups providing clients with new solutions and big players, such as the GAFAs, probably waiting to enter the finance industry. "They are actually on the clients. One question remains: when are they going to start?". Insisting on the importance of providing clients with a positive design and user experience, he said: "Why shouldn't be banking as cool as building an iPhone? User centrism is a big thing. If users don't like it, they won't use it". Frank Roessig ended his presentation focusing on the importance of design thinking, starting with looking at clients' needs, and by adopting a holistic approach, bringing together people (user experience), structure (process and procedures), compliance (legal and regulatory) and technology (architecture and tools). Such an approach will allow the enhancement of user satisfaction, the optimization of operational efficiency and will also ensure regulatory compliance.

The PACE methodology, which aims at bringing relevant solutions to the market faster, was the topic of the speech of Régis Salaris (Innovation Driver / PACE Coach, ING Luxembourg). "Due to increasing regulation, new consumer habits and more competition, companies need to invest in innovation to redefine the way they work. ING has developed its own transformation program to deploy new services, answer to the needs of clients, but also to favor innovation: PACE" explained Régis Salaris. The approach is based on some of the design thinking principles: empathy, methods used by startups and agility. Clients find themselves at the very center of the approach and decisions are therefore based on facts and not on opinions. He then shared 10 tips to ensure the success of the PACE approach: "Innovation and pace are at the very core of the think forward strategy: innovation must be part of the strategy and supported by top management". He also insisted on the fact that quality and standardization must be ensured as innovation must be structured. Also, employees must trust the process and adopt instead of adapt. Moreover, "they need to get out of the building and ask the customers, interviewing them on current challenges to get insights". The next step would be to run experiments to diminish the risk of decision-making. "Think big, start small and learn fast" is also a key concept here, so is "learn by doing". Then comes communication and showcasing as it is important to show the added value of the approach. "People need skills and expertise, but also need to have the right mindset: leaders must be open and facilitate change," explained Régis Salaris, before concluding: "The innovation team is not an innovation lab. It aims at helping the company being innovative instead of doing innovation".

Edith Magyarics (CEO, Victor Buck Services), Genna Elvin (Co-founder, Tadaweb), Erik Jacquemart (Head of Innovation, ING Luxembourg) and Hedi Sghaier participated to the second round table discussion of the day, on the use of upcoming technologies. It was moderated by Isabelle Lunven (Managing Director – Transformation Office, PwC Luxembourg). The latter started by highlighting the need for new approaches to deal with new challenges. According to Edith Magyarics, the entire company must be embarked in the culture change brought by the use of new technologies, while also acknowledging the fact that "we don't know it all" and pushing towards cooperation and exchange. She added: "When you suppose such a change, the message needs to be the same and aligned at all levels. People also need to see the end-to-end results and small steps should be considered as quick wins". Emma Gelin agreed and stated that leaders must illustrate tech and explain it to the ones who could be scared to lose their jobs. "We favor a bottom-top approach where we get people on the ground and we need the buy-in from all the people who wish to take part in such transformations", she explained, while sharing her best recommendation: define what you need and want before even going forward. Hedi Sghaeir also insisted on the mindset change that is needed to transform a company, as not only IT is impacted: a digital transformation impacts the entire business. The new CIO of Société Générale Bank & Trust then shared his three pieces of advice when it comes to digital transformation: sharing, upskilling and attracting talent and resources in Luxembourg. According to Erik Jacquemart, innovation and new technologies should only be implemented if they bring value to the customers, who will there be ready to pay for it. He then shared the example of Payconiq, which started at a hackathon to today become the mobile payment leader in the Benelux region: start small, test, and scale. "Our aim at ING is to actually increase the pace of innovation rather than simply 'innovation'", highlighted the Head of Innovation.

Before inviting participants to attend the networking cocktail, Vinciane Istace (Communications and PR Leader, PwC Luxembourg) shared interesting figures with the audience highlighting the lack of women currently working in the tech industry, which she defined as "the missing force". She notably said that the percentage of women in computer science dropped from 37 in the 1980s to 17% in 2011. Vinciane Istace then shared three solutions to close the gender gap: education – organizations can contribute to sponsor classrooms, support and encourage girls so that they can overcome the intimidation factor –, hiring and finally retention. "I trust leaders to scrutinize their organization and break the stereotypes to lead positive change," she concluded.

Through the day, many experts presented their solutions to the audience, dealing notably with mobility, agility, cybersecurity, AI and cloud computing. The companies which participated are: System Solutions, HPE, Dimension Data, Denodo, OKTOPUS Consulting, Check Point, PwC Luxembourg and Ainos.


Alexandre Keilmann

Photos: Dominique Gaul

Publié le 28 septembre 2018