The Penelope group specializes in welcoming visitors to companies and events. It also offers sales animation and call center services. Since 2015, it has been deploying an ERP in SaaS mode to organize the work of its hostesses and hosts. This evolution is led by a small team of five people, who must divide their work between production and development on a daily basis.
Meeting with Didier Pawlak Director of Information Systems of the Penelope Group
How is your digital transformation project going?
Didier Pawlak: To deliver all our services, the Penelope Group first developed an internal information system. In particular, the IT team has developed activity planning tools to organize the work of our employees. Payroll, accounting (suppliers/customers) and recruitment programs have also been developed. This is the core of the information system. Other applications are also available on tablets and in e-learning.
Our team must be multi-skilled and work on production, maintenance and development
We decided to migrate these in-house developments to standard software packages on the market, such as ERP. And since 2015, we wanted to outsource these ERPs to use them in SaaS mode. This ambitious project was completed in 2017 under the leadership of the IT team, which I was in charge of, which consisted of four employees at the time. It is a multi-skilled team, working on production, maintenance and development.
As in many small and medium-sized businesses, your IT production is integrated into the IT department. How can this small team handle both day-to-day production and ERP migration?
DP: This is indeed one of the complexities of this project. With a small and multi-skilled team, the risk is to neglect production to advance the transformation project. And we don’t want to cross that red line. But there are too few of us to split the team in two, with one part working on production and the other on digital transformation. I tested this type of distribution in a previous work experience. This can work, but with about ten collaborators. With only four people, we have to do things differently. Our solution consists first of all in optimizing the organization of the team’s work. Each member has a precise schedule indicating what he or she must do each day and where he or she stands in relation to his or her goals.
We rely on a virtuous relationship with publishers
Then we automate as many processes as possible to free up time. For example: when there are animations on the weekend, the animator must receive material. The management of this material was previously done manually, without an accurate tracking table, which was time consuming. This management is now automated via a web application that simply sends us reports, or warns us in case of a problem. Another example: we used to run regular backups of our data by hand. They are now all automated.
What other levers do you use to meet the challenges of IT production and digitalization?
DP: We have also relied on a virtuous relationship with the ERP vendors we deploy. For each collaboration, our teams and those of the publisher must form a perfect couple. They need to get along and understand each other easily. A good relationship with digital transformation partners saves a lot of time. We also chose the editors for their ability to understand our constraints and needs.
We involve HR, management control, local agencies…
Another lever: we involve the business units in the project, because they are the ones who must ultimately take ownership of the new tools. In the working group dedicated to digital transformation, we therefore have, in addition to the IT teams: representatives from the HR department, billing, management control, operations (in charge of day-to-day planning) as well as local branch managers. By putting them all to work, we also save development time, which we can spend on production.
In the end, is this digital transformation of your company more of a threat or an opportunity for IT production?
DP: This is clearly an opportunity. The implementation of standardized ERP systems, developed by third parties, will free up the time of the IT team. The main evolutions of the solutions will now be done externally. My team will be able to work on other subjects, for example on the development of new client applications.