Innovation advisory firm Altran exists 30 years

16 November 2012

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.

Altran - 30 Years Interview

And tomorrow?

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.


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Two thirds of UK employees not empowered enough to innovate

18 March 2019

A culture of equality can drive innovation at work, but only a third of UK employees feel empowered to innovate at present. This demonstrates a significant disconnect between workers and their bosses in the UK, with 76% of business leaders also claiming they empower employees to be innovative.

Despite innovation increasingly being seen as integral to the survival of businesses, innovation remains relatively difficult to achieve. A lagging disconnect between management and staff remains the driving force behind this. One study by PA Consulting previously confirmed that while 66% of companies believe they will not survive without innovation, only 24% said they had the skills needed for that, and only half thought they had the right leadership in place to change that in time.

In order to find a way around this problem, global consultancy Accenture has completed its own study into innovation, polling around 700 bosses and workers across the UK to do so. The key finding of the research is that companies with a culture of equality can see an individual’s willingness and ability to innovate improved by seven times that of the least equitable workplace cultures. At the same time, an innovation mindset is almost twice as high in the most-equal companies as in typical ones.

91% of employees want to innovate but just 34% in typical United Kingdom companies feel empowered to

What remains clear, however, is that most companies are failing to adequately create an equal culture, where staff of all ranks feel comfortable contributing new ideas. 91% of employees want to innovate but just 34% in typical UK companies feel empowered to. That is higher in the most equal companies, where 75% of staff feel confident making suggestions, compared to just 5% of the least equal, and 34% of typical companies. Since those equal companies are comparatively fewer, when averaged out, only a third of UK staff feel they are empowered to innovate.

That figure stands in stark contrast to the perceptions of UK executives, however.  76% of business leaders in Britain believe that they do indeed regularly empower their employees to innovate. As a result, it seems that leaders mistakenly believe that some circumstances encourage innovation more than they actually do. For instance, they overestimate financial rewards and underestimate purpose.

The opportunity which is presented by addressing this divorce is enormous. Accenture calculates that global gross domestic product would increase by up to £6 trillion over 10 years if the innovation mindset in all countries were raised by 10%.Top 10 workplace culture factors - by strength of impact on innovation mindsetAccording to Accenture, the best way to impact positively on a company’s innovation mindset is through the provision of relevant training – associated with a 10.5% uplift to staff’s confidence innovating. Allowing the freedom for employees to be creative followed, contributing an 8.1% boost, while ensuring that training times are flexible and the firm allows a healthy work-life balance both see a more than 7% improvement. Similarly, remote working being available and being common practice will buoy creativity by 6.9% – further demonstrating the importance of flexible working to improve innovation culture at a firm.

Commenting on the report, Rebecca Tully, executive sponsor for Human Capital and Diversity for Accenture in the UK and Ireland, said, “Our research reveals that a workplace culture of equality is an overlooked driver of innovation within companies. By understanding what motivates their employees and fostering an environment where people feel empowered, business leaders have the opportunity to unleash the innovation required to compete effectively in an era of disruption.”

The research came as part of a global survey by Accenture, which queried more than 18,000 professionals in 27 countries and 150 C-suite executives in eight countries. The overall research determined that an empowering environment is by far the most important of the three culture-of-equality categories in increasing an innovation mindset, which consists of six elements: purpose, autonomy, resources, inspiration, collaboration and experimentation. The more empowering the workplace environment, the higher the innovation mindset score.