At Paris-based Veolia, executives see a bright future in helping to deliver the smart cities of tomorrow. Much will depend, of course, on the €26 billion company’s success in deploying digital technologies across its vast range of services and activities, from its core business of water supply and waste management, to newer areas such as plastics recycling.
At the announcement of Veolia’s fourth quarter and annual results back in February, chief operating officer Estelle Brachlianoff outlined the four pillars of the company’s digital transformation strategy as follows:
Digital for our employees, to further collaboration and give access to the best Veolia has to offer throughout the world. Then digital for our customers, to make life easier for them, so it’s as easy to do business with Veolia as to order something on their smartphone. Then digital for our operations, and that will fuel our operating efficiency plans with a number of real-time KPIs [key performance indicators]. And then digital offerings: We’re selling something different with digital, with new business models, something more disruptive at the frontier of what we’re doing.
Digital transformation workload
These goals mean more work for the company’s IT team, which accounts for 2,600 of the company’s global workforce of 169,000 people, according to Martin Black, head of Veolia’s IT service management centre of excellence.
Speaking at this week’s ServiceNow event in Las Vegas, Knowledge19, Black explained how that team supports some 1,700 business-critical applications and 120,000 end users. Digital transformation, with its goals of better employee experiences, more use of the cloud and removing technical debt, piles on the pressure still further, as he explained:
We have hundreds of projects, potentially thousands. We have hundreds of business apps - big ones, small ones, massively expensive ones that we have taken three to four years to grow. The pace of change is increasing across these projects and apps and, as an enterprise, that’s quite hard to deal with.
The volume of business projects and business change is vast within Veolia. That drives a vast volume of supporting IT and infrastructure projects.
With that in mind, Veolia is using ServiceNow Application Performance Management (APM), part of the provider’s wider IT Business Management (ITBM) offering. This enables the IT team to keep track of the business applications in its portfolio, understand their value to the business and their interdependencies with other applications in the portfolio and, perhaps most importantly, identify which need investment, which simply need maintaining and which should be retired. Said Black:
What we want to do is use APM to help us with that problem of how we sift through the volume of demands that we have for both projects and replacements, and continue to innovate and drive through digital transformation projects. It’s about putting all that into some kind of context.
The APM initiative at Veolia began about one year ago, said Black, with APM used to do the analysis and drive decisions about where to make IT investments. (The company was already a Now Platform customer, using performance analytics in ITSM to monitor and report on how the company delivers IT services.)
It’s been important to achieve a company-wide view of the applications portfolio, since almost all countries in which Veolia operates (around 48 in total) has its own CIO with their own budget, explained Prabjoth Saimbhi, Veolia’s global ITSM product manager. Clearly, that has the potential to lead to a lot of wasteful duplication in applications and spend.
To mitigate this risk, the team has built a CIO portal based on APM, giving them access to a full inventory of applications across the company and details of how these are used and by whom, as well as associated costs and relevant contractual terms. It also shows how they are integrated with other applications.
Beyond that, APM also enables applications to be allocated a score, based on their business criticality and their alignment with overall business objectives.
The overall goal here is not only to reduce application costs by eliminating duplicates and focusing on the most efficient delivery methods and contracts, but also invest in the right applications, based on a clear idea of their significance, usage and the business processes they support.
That’s working well for Veolia, said Black, but only because the company firsts laid the right foundations, he says, in recognition that APM is a discipline, not just a tool. Training is essential. Assessments of apps must be gathered from the business owners of every single app. Overall business objectives must be defined in IT terms. Only then can decisions be made in terms of whether an application should receive investment, be maintained or be retired.
At Veolia, the inventory exercise alone resulted in the realization that were approximately 2.5 times more applications at work at Veolia than had previously been declared. As Black pointed out, that all costs money. Today, the inventory is immediately available and kept up to date, whereas previously, an inventory report took three months to assemble. On top of that, Veolia has been able to launch three significant transformation initiatives in the first nine months of using APM, he added.
For us, project portfolio management and Agile are about doing the right thing. But application performance management is about identifying the right thing to do.