This year innovation and technology consulting firm Altran celebrates its 30th anniversary. Honoring this jubilee, contemporary CEO (PhiIippe Salle) together with co-founder Alexis Kniazeff spoke about the past, present and the future.
What was the situation when Altran was founded?
Alexis Kniazeff: when Hubert Martigny and I founded Altran in 1982, it was the dawn of the digital revolution, micro-processors and new technologies, with a host of major industrial programs starting up - the TGV high-speed train, Concorde, Airbus, the aerospace industry, the Minitel, etc. Industry needed to be put in touch with engineers to help them accomplish this technological revolution. And that is the role Altran has played.
Is it a profession you invented?
Alexis Kniazeff: we invented high technology consulting. We were not supplying classic computing services. Our value-added was our use of computer science to solve technology problems. Good engineers were scarce; we knew where to find them and how to attract them. That has not changed, but the market then was demand-driven. Now supply drives the market.
Did you have a special form of organization?
Alexis Kniazeff: we were organized in a very unusual way - in profit centers, around a business manager who was a real entrepreneur. This network-based organizational structure was our strength. It enhanced business growth, work motivation and savings more than a centralized organization could have generated.
Does this model still meet your clients' requirements?
Philippe Salle: we have to adapt our model to market trends, in particular the increasing internationalization of our programs. We need greater centralization to manage increasing risk and projects that are more international in scope. We have set up a Programs and Innovation department and redesigned our monitoring and tracking procedures. Central career management would be as beneficial to our engineers as it would be to the company.
How has Altran developed up until now?
Alexis Kniazeff: twenty years ago we were opportunistic. We were disseminating technologies, and business skyrocketed. We created markets that did not exist before by forming subsidiaries and buying up companies for which the Group provided the model or the driving force. In fact, chance played an enormous part.
Philippe Salle: we can no longer expand as we used to. We are completing the legal process of unifying Altran around a single company in each country and we have pulled out of Brazil. There are nine countries where we aim to be really strong: six European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom), India, China and the United States. We have to reach the critical mass to trigger a virtuous cycle between brand recognition, projects and recruitment for the six European countries by 2015 and for the other three by 2019. With its ability to manage complex problems, its specialization and its international presence, Altran will strengthen its position as an indispensable partner for all future international projects.