Veolia describes itself as an organization that provides solutions for ecological transformation - a one-stop shop to help other businesses and organizations meet their ESG and sustainability commitments, in the bid to fight climate change. Veolia’s solutions are designed to help organizations reduce carbon, as well as preserve natural resources and product biodiversity.
It serves up to 7 million municipal residents and businesses, collects waste from 175,000 locations, which equates to 2.3 million tonnes on an annual basis, and recycles more than 60 million coffee cups a year.
Central to Veolia’s ambitions to help customers improve on their sustainability goals is Veolia’s own digital systems. Paul Watkeys, Head of Digital Products at Veolia UK & Ireland, explains how the company is largely operating in the cloud - making use of Salesforce, Workday, ServiceNow and Google as its key platforms of choice. On the role of digital, Watkeys says:
I think it's been widely recognized for a number of years at Veolia that digital transformation is one of the key drivers for delivering improved sustainability services, whether that's through data driven optimization, or whether that's through analytics, services and improved customer experience or business optimization.
Particularly if you look around today at the need, for example, for reducing carbon overheads of fleets and vehicles, and the ability for route optimization in real time - this doesn't just improve customer experience, but it also reduces net carbon overhead.
We think it is a key driver. I don't think it's entirely dependent on digital transformation, but certainly digital transformation is a key driver and a contributor and an ingredient in that mix.
Veolia has a key policy across the organization: ‘secure, anytime, anywhere, any device’ - which means employees, colleagues, partners and workers have to have the ability to be able to access key business information and customer information in a secure way at any location.
This proved particularly helpful during the pandemic, Watkeys recalls:
I think that flexibility enabled us, particularly through the challenges of COVID-19, to respond to our customer’s needs in a sustainable fashion, but also to provide a continuity of service that was not exhibited to the same standard in many other places.
So, for example, if you can imagine there were certain industries that were on stop or reopened based on the initiatives of the government at the time. That meant, for us, reorganizing our route rounds, understanding our customer needs, ensuring we've got the right resources and disposal processes in place to serve what was happening on a 24 hour real time basis.
We probably wouldn't have been able to do that had we not had that core backbone, that digital new age technology, which was a strategy we started in 2017.
The role of Salesforce
Veolia has been using Salesforce for a number of years for CRM, sales and marketing. Watkeys explains that the platform allows the organization to benefit from the best in class CRM in the market today, but also allows Veolia to innovate - whether that’s through a no-code, or code-driven approach. He says:
It has enabled us to have a level of flexibility that allows us to maintain differentiation in the market. So even though Salesforce CRM is a popular application, and lots of customer companies and competitors have access to it, they don't necessarily have access to the processes, the triggers, the flows, the customizations that we've invested in the platform.
So it's a platform to harness innovation. It's a platform for us to develop intellectual property. It's a platform for us to drive our business optimization, business growth, reduce customer churn and improve customer service.
One such example of this is how in 2017 Veolia started to develop a customized end-to-end, cloud-based operational system focused on the collection and disposal of hazardous waste - the most complicated waste types that exist. Watkeys says:
Hazardous waste can range from oily rags from a mechanic shop all the way through to petrochemical waste, it could go all the way through to pharmaceutical waste. So there's hundreds and thousands of different components of waste types.
Salesforce allowed Veolia to develop a compliant cloud-based system that not only improved the experience of hazardous waste collection, but also saved the company millions of pounds. Watkeys explains:
The transportation of those goods, the management and disposal of those goods, are the most highly regulated within the waste management industry. So we've developed a system that goes all the way through lead nurturing, to typical opportunity management, all the way through to appointment creation, vehicle routing, waste collection, customer notification, all the way back to our disposal site and to the chemical analysis that takes place in the labs.
All the way through that whole journey, Salesforce generates, in a paperless fashion, all of the necessary compliance notes that are required. All of the necessary regulatory requirements, consignment notes, digital signatures.
The system has enabled us to generate at least £1.8 million, year to date, in internal optimization and overhead savings. And that is based on an investment of £350,000.
So we have generated £1.8 million expected EBITDA benefits through an investment of £350,000. Just this year alone. So it improves our customer service and it gives us a platform that operates and offers a true differentiation.
Watkeys argues that Master Data Management has been key to Veolia’s digital strategy, in terms of integration across the company’s key cloud platforms, in order to get the right data to the right people at the right time. To do this, the company has developed its own middleware, whilst minimizing the amount of data transformations that take place, in order to provide holistic reporting to its customers:
[Without this] it would make it almost impossible to report adequately on carbon metrics, for example, in order to support our customers with their sustainability objectives.
Ultimately, from an ESG perspective, reporting and transparency is key. So we see data as the lifeblood of the mechanism.
In terms of learnings, Watkeys says that for Veolia, getting senior and mid level stakeholders involved as early as possible has been key to helping with change management:
I'm a great believer in the fusion team approach. I think that projects and programme delivery teams should be equally a mixture of technical people and business people, and also our customers. I think in the past we've failed to understand that early enough and we've sometimes created a gap between the expectations of the business stakeholders and ultimately what's delivered from a technological sense.
I think again in the past we've probably looked at things from and ‘inside-out view’, starting with the technology first. Whereas I think the approach of design thinking from the ‘outside-in’ and always asking that question ‘why? why? why?’ is critical.
I think if you start off small, deliver something, deliver quickly, iterate, iterate, iterate, you start to build confidence, you build momentum. And you also afford the opportunity to fail fast. Don't be scared to fail, but if you're going to fail, fail fast. It contains costs, concerns, emotions, and maintains effort and endeavor and belief.
For more diginomica stories from Dreamforce 2022, visit our dedicated Dreamforce event hub.