Aimé Achard, ECA: “Having a dedicated committee makes it possible to deal with IT topics in a more detailed way”

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Why is digital transformation a topic for the ECA Board?

IT is relatively poorly correlated with topics addressed by boards of directors, as it generates risks, costs money and improves the profitability and operations of the company. By taking up the subject, the board of directors hit an anomaly. Beyond IT, digital transformation is of interest to the board of directors in many ways. First, a transformation process represents a significant weight for the company and the board can hardly deprive itself of having an eye on it. Then, this change generally has a strategic dimension and the board of directors is responsible for nurturing strategy, helping with planning and making sure we do what we decided to do. . It is also an irrevocable duty of the Board to manage risks and digital innovation brings with it many of them.

The ECA Board of Directors has set up a committee dedicated to digital transformation and cybersecurity. Why is the structure like that? What is his role? Who makes it up?

There are many ways for the board to address the issue of IT and innovation. You can assign someone on board with expertise and experience in the field and who is the type to wear the IT hat – that’s one of the reasons why ECA approached me. The danger of this approach is that this member is relatively alone to become interested in the topic and ask questions while other members are bored. The board also does not have enough time to devote itself deeply to the topics and tends to address digital transformation and cybersecurity issues only from the angles of costs when discussing the budget, and risk through audit. committee. & risk. The digital transformation and cybersecurity committee makes it possible to approach IT from different angles and in a more detailed way. The structure has several advantages. First, he facilitates the board, by bringing relevant information to it without taking advantage of his time. Second, the committee not only has a monitoring function: it is also an advisory gremium. We investigate topics, we prepare them for the board of directors, we discuss the best way to explain them. For example, we did this recently for the insurance IS transformation project, one of the three pillars of the ECA along with prevention and protection. For these exchanges to be truly beneficial to the organization, the general manager and the head of IT are part of the committee along with three members of the board of directors. This hybrid composition has more than a third advantage. For board members with no background in IT, the committee has a formative effect. And the committee takes advantage of the fact that as outsiders, they are better able to challenge things that seem normal to people closer to the field.

How often does the digital transformation and cybersecurity committee meet? What topics do you usually discuss there?

We meet about five times a year for three hours – more than the time the board has for these topics. There are two mandatory meetings: the preparation of the IT budget at the beginning of the year and its implementation at the end of the year. Then there are recurring themes. We take stock of major projects, we look at where they are, we make sure they stay in line with the strategy. And cybersecurity, both from a strategic angle and in the analysis of major incidents and the response to them. Apart from these topics, there are also ad-hoc topics. It could be a project in preparation where the leadership wants to announce the committee, or trending topics, such as the metaverse, where we organize a meeting with external experts.

How are the management committee and the board seen?

Feedback has been positive from both sides. Management understands that the committee can help with this and facilitate the delivery of projects to the board of directors. As for the Board of Directors, the work of the committee saves time in meetings, it gives peace of mind to its decisions, and allows it to approach the issue from a strategic perspective. Remember that, like other committees, the IT committee has no voice in decision making, it prepares a topic and informs the board.

How do you find the right level between the strategic decisions that interest the board and the operational responsibilities of management? Let’s take the example of a project to migrate certain systems to the cloud …

The thing is simple, because the canton does not allow us to go to the cloud. Now assuming this is possible, I would say that the decision to go to the cloud was an eminently strategic choice. On the other hand, choosing Amazon or Microsoft cloud is an operational question. At most, the board of directors can put a few red lines. But I recognize that the difference is not always easy. Let’s take the example of a CRM system migration to a market tool. If it is just a question of changing the CRM supplier, it is an operational option, but if we want to go further by using it as the basis of the information system then it becomes a strategic option.

What factors do you think deserve particular attention in digital transformation projects?

Like all change projects, change management is an important part. The Board of Directors is highly committed to ensuring that this dimension is considered. It is not enough to consider the budgetary and technical aspects of a project, it is necessary to ask whether users are capable of allocating new systems. This is a condition for the success of a project. We also requested that the cost of this adoption – in terms of resources, effort, communication – be included in the project and monitored by the PMO. Change management is also concerned with other changes. ECA has a major moving project and the topic is also up -to -date.

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