Isabelle Kocher interviewed by Florien Debes for Les Echos Business


Isabelle Kocher, ENGIE CEO

The day she took over at the head of ENGIE, Isabelle Kocher was already talking about the digital transformation. Right from May 4 of this year, the new CEO signed a partnership with Accenture. That morning, the organization chart propelled to the Management Committee an ex-entrepreneur and creator of the Solairedirect start-up, and the Head of Information Systems became Chief Digital Officer. As a sign that the direct involvement of company managers has a major role in the digital transformation, this year the energy company won first prize in our eCAC40 awards. Since May of this year, ENGIE has signed other partnerships – with Thales and Microsoft. In this field, the company formerly known as GDF Suez has decided to increase the number of its relationships in order to maintain the upper hand on its megabyte future. “For ENGIE, it is as important to master digital technologies as the activities of the energy business themselves,” states Isabelle Kocher in an interview with Les Echos Business. Besides, they are both linked together in her transformation plan for the giant French company.

The hunt is on for the unicorns of the future

Following straight on from her predecessor, the company boss considers that if a company does not move over to the digital economy, it can expect a slow death. Partly underlying long-term trends, such as decarbonization and distributed energy production, the digital transformation is a prerequisite for responding to these worldwide upheavals. “Our growth is dependent on that transformation: within three years it will rely on technologies that are not completely mature but which we are investing in as of now,” she declares.

We can already feel the need for innovation when we see that in the last ten years the market has divided by a factor of ten the amounts contained in calls for tender in the photovoltaic field.

“We are investing in technologies that will enable us to enhance our current offers,” Isabelle Kocher continues, “as well as in breakthrough solutions, which – according to some – will one day be worth a billion dollars.” The Engie Fab organization, which opened this year, is hunting down and will breed these future internal unicorns, under the responsibility of Thierry Lepercq, founder of Solairedirect. He has set his sights on areas such as hydrogen and green mobility.

Digital technologies are refreshing the energy world

In parallel, ENGIE is sorting out its business activities. The organization is shutting down or selling off production plants that pollute and it is now seeking to supply power through the emission of the lowest possible amounts of CO2 – without claiming to be a 100%-renewables company. To be more streamlined, it is turning to software. “Digital technologies are already feeding our energy systems,” Isabelle Kocher notes. Inside ENGIE Digital – the group’s software factory – the IS-CDO teams under Yves Le Gelard have developed a platform for managing wind farms.

The adaptation of distributed networks requires remote monitoring tools. “The heads of the Business Units will come to ENGIE Digital to be inventive, with the help of the teams in charge of the software solutions they require,” Isabelle Kocher explains. The unit brings together developers, designers, data specialists and experts in the Internet of Things.

At the same time, ENGIE is decentralizing its organization to provide a better, custom-made response to its customers. Here also, digital technology is essential for the success of the operation. “Our greatest strength is our size, from the moment we are able to operate in a network and replicate the best local practices everywhere and as quickly as possible,” the company manager states. As every employee is closer to our customers and partners, they act as “detectors” for the group.


Cérémonie des trophées du eCAC40, en présence d'Isabelle Kocher