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Q & A with Philippe Ensarguet

In the build up to the Study of Enterprise Agility Conference (SEACON) in November, I caught up with Philippe Ensarguet, CTO of Orange Business Services, and asked him a few questions.


At SEACON, Philippe will be presenting in the Case Study session in the afternoon on the main stage.


Here's what he had to say...


How would you describe your role?


I lead the global technological strategy, orientations and tech cultural transformation for Orange Business Services. With 20+ years of experience, I have a privileged viewpoint on tech stacks and platforms, build to ops practices and tools - as well as on the cultural transformations of our customers, partners and teams. I frequently share my observations and thoughts on trends in keynote sessions.


Pro-software cultured, cloud minded and digital addicted, I essentially provide expertise, analysis and leadership to executives and companies. This is incorporated into their global technology innovations and transformations strategies.


Basically, I’m looking to link two diverse teams – technical and executive.


When I am not on my laptop or in a plane you can find me riding my mountain bike.


As a CTO of a very large enterprise, how do you facilitate widespread Enterprise Agility?


The term ‘agile’ in organizations can take many forms. For me, agile is basically enabling people to work together and improving efficiencies to deliver value to a customer or system user.


Given my background and my role, I don’t want to talk about tooling ecosystems which is an enabler to practices, but there is no supporting evidence of its success with teams. I know teams using tools which will not succeed or scale and others using a few practical tools that are succeeding.


Instead, I prefer to talk about culture, communication and mindset. Here, I have seen that sharing lessons learnt, tips and tools are very useful to supporting widespread agility. We also actively encourage a mixture of field skills. In particular with UI/UX, taking into account as much as possible the end-to-end characteristic of the project. One important item to share is the importance of collecting data as much as possible during the whole lifecycle to give teams an opportunity to understand what is happening on the project and measure the impact of its deployment on the business. For example, we built a data-driven software cockpit that cover build lifecycle to provide teams with real insights to make smart decisions on priority management and metrics. It also shows them where practices can be improved.

What are your biggest challenges today?


This is a complex question to answer as the challenges are quite dynamic and versatile with respect to the profile of our company. Orange Business Services is both a Telecom Operator AND an IS company. We support French and multinational companies to succeed in their digital transformation. We help them in each step of their data ‘journey’. This includes collecting, transporting, protecting, storing and computing, sharing and creating value from their data. We are moving relatively fast in a programmable business world. Storage, network, cloud, cloud native, data, artificial intelligence (AI) and so forth – all are now software, or will be in the not too distant future.


So, when it comes to software, it is critical to develop, automate and secure a strong, common foundational layer. From a technical stack point of view, even if cloud native drives the next decade, one must not underestimate the importance of brownfield, legacy projects and their delivery. The technical landscape as you can see by its definition is complex and highly dynamic in terms of vendors and ecosystems.


Considering the current pace of business, no vendor will take the lead on standardization outside open source ecosystem. It is the case for cloud native and it conversational AI is moving in the same direction for instance. It is good, but it changes major parts of the global ecosystem where layers are standardizing one after the other. This directly impact on skills and the necessity to train and transform people’s mind-set to answer customers’ questions.


This brings new challenges in terms of up-skilling and re-skilling that organizations will have to address. For example, we have chosen to build our own university on data. Between the technology required to deliver business value and employees lies the biggest hurdle for transformation. The ability to move fast, without breaking everybody or everything!


So from this you can see there are three main areas that must be tackled; transformation and culture, training and upskilling and defining sustainable technical stacks to support the business.


Many large enterprises have created Innovation silos which are not effective. What do you do to foster an enterprise wide culture of innovation and how successful has it been?


This question is very valid and definitely at the heart of what can be seen in the field. For me, this can be managed by a two-fold approach; firstly top-down to share the definitions, guidelines and strategy and secondly, starting from the field with a thematic animation that collects and merges the contributions as close as possible to the field.


The key is to make sure that every topic is led by the same person or team who feed the strategy. Animation is a pattern I use for technology matters. One subject owner animates Ninja teams who link to the community in the field of operation. Ninjas play a critical role as they are the transmission engine in an approach we could call “glocal”, meaning, with a global and local approach!


I will testify that more than half of the tools and practices we use in our software factories are coming from the field, with this very pattern.


What will you be talking about at SEACON?


I will share the Orange Business Services story which started 10 years ago with our software journey. It will provide an opportunity to share the goals and expectations which have driven us as a company, how we have built our tooling practices step by step and how we managed the transformation for 2,000 developers.


I will talk about some specific inner-engineering we did with the DevOps Enterprise Selfcare Portal and the data-driven software cockpit. Finally, I will look at engineering and transformation lessons learnt and examine key takeaways.


Last question, who else are you most looking forward to seeing talk at SEACON this year?


This is the most difficult question as it is a very exciting agenda!


It will also be a chance to look at new trends and learn lessons that could benefit us in our own transformation as well as our many customers. I’m interested in case studies and the Alexis Richardson’s session as I think Weaveworks are doing a good job on tooling the cloud native space.


Also, the final session with Jon Smart and Daniel Terhorst-North.


In fact, it will be also a great pleasure to meet you again, Barry! Congratulations on organizing this great event.


Find out more about SEACON by visiting www.seaconuk.com

Buy tickets from Eventbrite with Philippe's £50 discount code by clicking on this link.

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