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Two thirds of French citizens feel that digital public services are too complex. This is doubtless what pushed DINUM (the inter-ministry digital department) to create the observatory of online service quality, which aims to move all administrative services online by 2022. The 250 most-used services will be targeted first. This demonstrates a strong ambition to enable everyone in France to carry out their administrative formalities online. There is definitely a long way to go, but where there's a will...

Of course the health crisis has only strengthened the need for continuity of service, particularly via digital means. Many of our customers are congratulating themselves on having put the tools for digitalization in place in their organizations. Some have even seen their projects completed in a few days, despite a variety of obstacles that had previously blocked the way for months or even years – I am thinking of a phone call from an IT director who told me that she had rolled out our EDM system in a few days during the pandemic, having been prevented from doing so for months due to unknown internal reasons.

The lights are green to accelerate the much-discussed digital transformation and offer more solutions and digital services for users and customers.

However, at the risk of pushing at an open door, it is important to remember that the organization itself must have completed its digital transformation in order to digitalize its services. We still see too many keen advocates of online services and digital operations for users (or customers) who have not yet begun to convert the processes in place within their organization, continuing to use paper invoices, signature books or memos.

Although it may be tempting to paint the outside of the house without touching the interior, you cannot offer added-value digital services without rethinking your internal organization in depth.

This is an area where many public administrations and organizations laid the foundations for digitalization some time ago, enabling them now to move on smoothly to offering online services. They could provide a lesson for many private companies, which have too often preferred to apply a digital coat of varnish for their customers rather than carrying out the real internal transformation they need, putting the cart of digital services before the horse of the organization's digital conversion.

Here, too, the current situation provides incentives for profound transformations, not just in working methods but in the tools that go with them. This is an opportunity to deploy solutions and practices that will then enable the internal transformation to be extended naturally on behalf of customers and/or users. This extension becomes all the easier if the internal management solutions are focused outwards from the beginning.

As a software publisher, we ask ourselves these questions every day – how internal practices can provide natural benefits for our customers' customers!

So while DINUM's goals appear ambitious, they are by no means impossible; they are inspiring. And the eminently sensible method of focusing first on the most-used services is also inspiring, for us as a software publisher, but more broadly for all our customers. As they transform their practices, they need to keep in mind the purpose of this digital transformation, which is not an end in itself but a way to improve services for customers and users.

Check back in 2022 – will we have done as well as our public administrations, or even better? Place your bets…

Pascal Charrier,
Chief Executive