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Renewing the customer experience: the GEM Business Unit launches the first B2B Innovathon

Other innovations
23/01/2018

While hackathons have become one of the mainstays of innovation, the format created by ENGIE's Global Energy Management Business Unit (GEM), which provides the Group's market interface, is original in more ways than one.

Grace Sizey, Director of the Customer Energy Management Division, and Mircea Caratas, Director of the Commercial Trading and Origination Division, are members of the GEM Directors’ Committee. They spearheaded this innovative event and agreed to answer our questions.

Q- Can you first remind us what GEM does?

Grace Sizey: Global Energy Mangement is the ENGIE Business Unit in charge of supplying and optimizing energy for our customers, whether major industrial customers or utilities, and also for the other BUs that sell this energy.

Mircea Caratas: In addition to the services that GEM provides to the Group’s various BUs, we have our own portfolio of 700 to 800 customers. GEM specializes in energy management on the global markets. Our core business involves the challenges of risk management and optimizing portfolios covering various types of energy. We work at the global level and our ambition is to develop even more internationally.

 
Q- Where did the idea for this Innovathon come from?

Grace Sizey: At GEM, we decided to launch a Client-Centricity program that puts customers at the heart of the system, from the point of view of business and our offers. We decided launch an Innovathon with some of our clients as part of this program.

Mircea Caratas: Client-Centricity is a structural process in which innovation gives helps us go "the extra yard" to outpace our competitors. For GEM, innovation is not a question of fashion: it’s a question of survival.
We believe that to be innovative we need to move from a product-centric culture to a customer-centric culture. The Client-Centricity approach corresponds to this change of orientation and culture.
We cannot innovate without our customers, since innovation is dictated by the customer and it is the source of inspiration for a company that wants to be innovative.

This Innovathon is one of the keystones of our Client-Centricity initiative. Our customers will give us good ideas and will help shape our strategy.

Grace Sizey: This approach is closely linked to the customer experience. Although the term seems a little overused today, we find that it’s still a key element in our ability to retain customers. Given the ongoing revolution in the energy sector, with new players arriving and new services being offered, it is fundamental for GEM to differentiate ourselves.

This differentiation can only be achieved through innovation and thanks to our ability to renew the customer experience. It’s not just about digitizing the customer interface, but also about creating proximity with the customer and the ability to jointly create new products by meeting their expectations first.
To answer you directly, you have to be attentive and that's why the Innovathon is interesting. It has a disruptive format that meets a basic need: how to listen to our customers, being attentive to them and responding to their needs.
This is the challenge we intend to face through this Innovathon. Being a pioneer allows us to project a positive image, which is key from a business point of view. It allows us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.
 
Q- How did you choose the customers who are going to participate in the first phase?
 
Grace Sizey : We chose these clients based on the criteria of diversity, to avoid being to concentrated in one sector or geographical area. Seven international customers accepted our invitation. They include giants like Owen Illinois and Boréalis, local players like GasUnion, Gaznat, or partners like Illumia and Gruppo API.
We also tried to select for the receptiveness of the person we’re going to have in front of us. We asked customers with rather technological, curious and open profiles.
 
Q- What do you expect to achieve with this Innovathon for GEM and for ENGIE as a whole?
 
Mircea Caratas: In terms of image, this Innovathon provides a tangible demonstration of our ambition to be innovative, to be pioneers and of our ability to take risks. For an entity that works on risk management, that makes sense!
To return to the subject of the seven customers we’re bringing along for the adventure, it’s essential that at the end of these few weeks, they come out not only with tangible responses to their pain points and the needs they’ve otherwise expressed, but also that they’re enthusiastic about the experience, namely that "one of my suppliers listens to me, they bring resources to the table to meet my pain points. "
This is our main goal, and this Innovathon is the first of a series of events we will be jointly designing with our customers.
 
 
The stages of the Innovathon

An initial 4-hour inspiration workshop will be held with the seven participating clients and some 30 GEM employees. Their challenge will be to identify themes and pain points that need work or improvement.
An online ideation platform will then be opened to GEM employees for 6 weeks to gather ideas to improve the customer relationship or resolve the pain points raised during the first workshop. This phase will end on January 18th with the ideation workshop, where each team will present their projects. A selection committee will then choose five of those projects.
The final two-day sprint will be the Innovathon  itself: the first day will be reserved for members of the GEM team only to work together on their projects. The second day will bring the seven customers in again for the final demos, the tests and the judges’ assessment of the project.