This year, three women from ENGIE took part in the 66 Miles programme, led by the open innovation consultancy firm Five by Five and the women’s incubator, Willa (formerly Paris Pionnières). After four months of intensive work, the year group from 2018 completed the programme on Tuesday 12 June with a big oral exam in front of an audience of ENGIE teams, personalities from outside the company, including Mounir Mahjoubi, Secretary of State for digital, and the press. Three women, each responsible for a very different project, inspirational and inspired, all of whom have adopted Isabelle Kocher’s motto, "the company is part of the solution... and not the problem".
Optimising stocks, promoting exchange and simplifying supply to the maintenance teams by using a border-free solution. It was with a double dose of experience in IT systems management and in purchasing that Sophie Guignard came up with her project for a marketplace based on a study by ENGIE Digital. Portrait of a pragmatist determined to change the rules of the game.
Tell us about your project in a few words.
Energy Bay is THE platform for the circular economy dedicated to the energy sector that gives a new lease of life to the sector’s spare parts. The idea came from a situation encountered by ENGIE (but not only ENGIE): on one side, we have stocks of spare parts (motor, valves, parts of plants or renewable energy sites, hot/cold...) which weigh heavily in the stocks, and on the other, teams that must carry out the maintenance of this equipment, planned maintenance or unforeseen failures and quickly have to find the spare part they need. Often, and especially in the plants, the sought-after parts are obsolete and no longer manufactured by the suppliers: you have to make do by finding the required part in the second-hand market. The idea is to create this second-hand market in a structured way to both lower the cost of inventories and find, simply and quickly, the parts you need in second-hand markets. One can imagine that eventually Energy Bay will be a new supplier for ENGIE, a supplier of second-hand parts. There’s a possibility in the project to find other industrial companies and parts manufacturers, beyond ENGIE, to connect their inventories of spare parts and thus promote exchange. I presented this project both to allow ENGIE to reduce its costs and to create a new business, one of a marketplace operator.
How did you have the idea for the project?
I spent three years in the purchasing department and then joined the ENGIE Digital team a year and a half ago. Before that, I spent several years in the IT department of the group Thales, where I was responsible for the applications of the group. The starting point for Energy Bay is a study by ENGIE Digital of the digitalisation of the Group's industrial assets. The need to reduce the costs of our inventories by selling them emerged at that time. After that study, I took up this project, and my experience and my sales network were very useful to me. By talking to the operational entities, I discovered entities that needed to sell stocks that did not necessarily correspond with the needs of other entities. For example, in Latin America, there are parts of a coal plant for sale that ENGIE is not going to buy. Hence the idea of opening up the stock to other industrials and taking the opportunity to create a new service, a new profession.
When did the marketplace come into being?
I first had the idea about a year ago. A few months later, in November, after having talked to several entities, I had the idea to open it. Today, a first version of the solution exists and we are starting to get parts in. That’s the challenge for the next few weeks.
How do you combine this with your daily work?
My situation is different from other entrepreneurs because my job is to create this platform for ENGIE. My intrapreneurial project is therefore a continuation of my job.
What do you get out of the programme?
It's extremely structured, there's a method. We started from the problem of our users to arrive at the solution. There is also an extremely open mindset. Sometimes, here, it can be difficult to allow yourself to interview certain people from the organisation, or to go and meet people outside. In the incubator, that's the rule: you have to talk, communicate, explain your idea to a lot of people. And the more you explain, the more feedback you get and the more it develops your idea. It’s interesting to put yourself in this mindset, to share, to go and get the people you think you need without stopping yourself because of their hierarchical level or internal/external status.
Did you have a sponsor?
In the programme, Hélène Verbochkaven, Deputy Director of Engie Digital, was my sponsor. Hélène knows my project well and totally supported this intrapreneurial approach. That was important for me. I can also count on Yves Le Gélard, General Purchasing Director of the Group, to support me in this adventure. He encourages me to show that the concept makes sense internally, before opening it externally to Engie, which will ensure greater relevance of the marketplace.
How significant is it that this programme is 100% for women?
This programme helps to promote women, to boost them, to show that it’s possible, that others are doing it. It’s important to be able to identify with successful women, beyond Isabelle Kocher!
What kind of relationship did you have with the other programme participants?
A rich one! We were 8 in total, from 4 different companies. Our subjects weren’t at all the same; that said, our problems were sometimes identical, as were the difficulties encountered: finding the answers we needed, identifying the right people... This creation of a group has been a great support in helping us keep up the pace, and I hope it will last.
How do you see yourself 6 months, 1 year from now?
Over the next 6 months, we have to validate the concept to be able to open it on the market in the autumn. Then, depending on the project’s success, we’ll have to think about its evolution, in terms of services offered, deployment and structures.
How did you become an intrapreneur?
I like the challenge of creating a new profession and following this idea through to the end. I also want to change the way we work, to be able to encourage the emergence of new ideas within the teams and to transmit them to the departments to see if they work. It was good timing as well: at the end of the year I received messages from the Innovation, Communications and Talents departments proposing to get involved in this intrapreneurship programme. Moreover, it was a programme for women and, as such, was in line with what I wanted: to change the ways of working, to promote the position of women in the company. This message came as an answer to what I already had in mind.
Is it a risk or a challenge to be an intrapreneur at ENGIE?
It’s not a risk, because we aren’t entrepreneurs, but I find it challenging. Initially, there’s always a little reluctance, regardless of the subject... For my particular subject, I didn’t pay too much attention, I just carried on going! You mustn’t stop at the first hurdle, that’s the lesson. The group effect also makes it possible to re-motivate yourself when you’re feeling a little flat, because relationships inside the group of intrapreneurs are nothing if not benevolent. And then there are also quite a few people in the company who want you to succeed, who also want to show that it is possible. That’s motivating.
What puts a smile on your face when you go off to work for ENGIE in the morning?
I joined ENGIE 4 years ago, and I feel things changing. ENGIE has a vision, which is clearly communicated. I have the impression that everyone is given the right to do their bit and to create things in a way that reflects that vision. This is what Isabelle Kocher says a lot. It also gives you the right to make mistakes when she says that all those who want to pursue this vision can take initiatives. I feel that a lot of initiatives are being taken to "go looking for talents", people who want to try new things, different ways of working, different ideas. That’s what puts a smile on my face.
What would you say to the next people who want to be intrapreneurs?
You have to dare, not be afraid, and never stop, no matter what other people think. If one person doesn’t think it’s a good idea, there are two others who may think otherwise. Those are the people you need to go and look for. Often, during the programme, they said "You don't get what you don't ask." That's pretty true. Sometimes we tend to wait for somebody to come and get us, even though we have ideas and desires. We have to say them out loud, and in general, what we ask for, we get.