Information systems key to supporting business functions
The time of monolithic ERPs, stovepipe applications and protracted development schedules is over. In an organization like Safran undergoing digital transformation, information systems are becoming more agile and efficient to focus on adding value and supporting business functions.
Digital technologies are transforming how Safran works across the board, from human resources and production to purchasing and product support, and the role of its information systems is evolving accordingly. “It’s no longer enough just to provide servers and network connectivity for our people,” explains Charles Manin, In charge of the Business relationship management team at Safran‘s Corporate IT Department. “Today, data management is what drives the company’s performance, so data must be correctly ingested, efficiently transformed, and stored in a secure and reliable manner before being delivered to business functions to extract value. The purpose of information systems is to ensure all the steps in this process are fast, smooth and efficient.”
While the mission sounds quite straightforward, in practice things are more complex. First of all, IT has to cover a very diverse spectrum of functions. “We hear a lot these days about the Factory of the Future concept,” says Charles Manin. “But from an IT perspective, it’s a notion that encompasses a large variety of applications, such as production monitoring, parts inspection and machinery maintenance. And when you look at a part’s complete lifecycle from design through to repair, the scope of action is even broader.” Safran’s international dimension is another factor. “Data needs to be transferred across continents and be accessible to our partners and suppliers while complying with security requirements,” he adds. Last but not least, users are mostly non-IT specialists looking for intuitive and easy-to-use tools.
More agility and closer relations
Safran IT recently reorganized to meet these challenges and work more closely with business functions. The department has also revamped its portfolio of services to become more partnership oriented. “We no longer think in terms of technical solutions but rather how to address users’ specific needs,” observes Charles Manin. “That requires good listening skills and a ‘business partner’ approach that we’re helping teams to adopt.” This new mindset is also fueling a revolution in work methods, with the traditional V cycle replaced by more agile development and project management approaches like Scrum or DevOps, guided by the need to adapt continuously to evolving requirements and fluctuating work rates.
New jobs are also emerging, like that of Information System Urbanist, whose role is to define the information system’s overall structure and underpinning logic, while the IT architect is tasked with applying these plans and translating them into business processes and tools, and improving and scaling them over time. Furthermore, DevOps-type development activities are undertaken to create in-house applications and prototypes built around emerging technologies, and to integrate open source solutions. “We’re helping our teams to upskill through training, but we also seek opportunities to hire from outside the company, for example when we need specific skills in areas like architecture, data management or API* development,” says Charles Manin. “The web giants are obviously snapping up a lot of young talent in these fields, but a firm like Safran can also be very attractive to them. We need pioneers to help us redefine how our information systems work and how we use them. It’s a challenge worth pursuing!”
* Application Programming Interface, an interface that allows software to exchange data.
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