Ayman Ezzat (Capgemini): “Not all ideas about metaverses will be viable.”

Automotive, commerce, energy… Technology has shuffled the cards in all economic sectors over the past ten years. A detour that isn’t always easy for companies to take, but which makes some ESNs happy, these digital services companies were popularized in the past under the name SSII. If rival Atos is going through a dark period with the group splitting into two entities, Capgemini finished 2021 in record numbers (18.16 billion in sales and 1.16 billion euros in net profit), underscoring the importance of the Altran acquisition. However, the digital boom is also generating a shortage of tech talent, which is particularly facing the group (23.5% of employees left last year). Its managing director, Ayman Ezzat, provides his analysis of these transformations.

LXpress: What technologies have transformed business in recent years?

Ayman Ezzat : The cloud has changed the game. This environment makes it possible to work faster because it has pre-programmed applications for finance, customer relations or management, especially logistics, on it. Instead of constructing a building, you can buy a building that is already equipped. The cloud has become the central platform for business management. Another area that has changed many economic sectors is artificial intelligence and data. Artificial intelligence has been around for a long time, but only recently have we acquired the computing power and storage capabilities to really take advantage of the large amounts of data available today. We often fear the fact that AI is automating certain jobs and thus making jobs disappear. But it also creates many new functions and new uses.

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What new uses is artificial intelligence creating in business?

Using artificial intelligence and a camera, one of our automotive partners can now detect engine malfunctions that humans cannot detect with the naked eye. So far, these defects have only been identified in use, so the vehicles had to be returned to the factory for repair, which was very expensive. We have built a large library of possible uses for AI, which helps guide manufacturers towards proven uses in their sector, even if we are also constantly developing new uses. Companies often dream of a job that will drastically improve their performance, but it’s more than just a set of small AI improvements that will make the difference when put together. However, at Capgemini, we have set ourselves some red lines on AI. For example, the European GDPR framework, we decided to implement it everywhere, because we do not want to cooperate on projects that do not adequately respect the privacy of the public.

What innovations are you following closely at the moment, those that you think will transform the business in the coming years?

5G technology will be fundamental as we move towards a world where intelligence is in all systems and products, whether it is cars or furniture. The most appropriate data storage locations must be selected. What do we process remotely in the cloud and what do we process locally because the process cannot suffer from latency? Securing this 5G connection will also be critical.

Quantum also has interesting potential in certain sectors, particularly finance and pharmaceuticals. It makes it possible to solve some calculations that are too complex for standard computers. This will be useful for developing new molecules, as this specialty requires complex computations. Quantum technology will also destabilize the security of communications: it risks being used by hackers to break existing security networks, but in return it can help create more secure communication methods.

Many companies are wondering if they should embark on the metaverse and the blockchain, what do you think of these innovations?

There is great excitement about metaverses. Not every idea explored will be viable, but there are plenty of exciting potential customers for the gaming and retail sectors. There are already people buying products in the metaverse. In the industry, more and more teams are being partially trained in virtual reality, or using digital versions of their factories – digital twins – to supervise them more effectively. Of course, all of this can be integrated into metaverses. But every sector will be able to imagine specific immersive experiences. At the moment, for example, we are developing a virtual reality app that will allow dealership customers to wear a helmet and virtually configure the vehicle as they wish. The color of the car, the seat upholstery … In this way, they immediately visualize the different designs.

Health is also a sector where immersive experiences can be useful, for example training in operational simulations. However, how manufacturers will succeed in perfecting their virtual or augmented reality glasses and headphones will be crucial: these devices can still – and should – be improved. On the blockchain and Web3 side, there are also uses with interesting potential. Blockchain can improve traceability by providing complete transparency about the source of an object’s components. This can be very useful for measuring a product’s carbon footprint.

As technologies evolve, so has your industry. You and other companies formerly referred to as “SSII”, have also been renamed “ESN” for Digital Services Companies. Concretely, how much has your profession changed?

When we talked about SSII, we immediately thought of “IT management” and “cost center”. And it is true that ten years ago, most of our discussions were with the IT department. It has varied widely. Now we also work a lot with departments responsible for marketing or customer relations. Internally, we had to significantly develop our expertise in data management, by hiring data scientists. The demands of our customers evolve towards searching for income, conquering customers, developing new products or improving the services offered, while helping creative people design new interactions with customers. Look in the automotive sector: 60% of the cost of developing a car now comes from software. The center of gravity of the vehicle development process has shifted.

We work a lot on the concept of smart industry where the physical world and the digital world converge. For example, digitizing the manufacturing process of a component makes it possible to reduce costs and make it more environmentally friendly. We’re working on this privately, right now, with a client that manufactures batteries.

The ESN segment has always seen a high turnover. But in 2021, it rose to 23.5% in Capgemini. What is its relationship and how to deal with it?

The attrition rate for companies like ours has always been between 15-20%. But this is not a hindrance. This talent movement allows us to renew ourselves. If the turnover drops below 15%, we will work less well. It should be noted that this trading is very beneficial for companies in other sectors. Groups like ours are strategic links in training technical talent. Startups and Gafam are hungry for our profiles. Most of our clients will not have the ability to train them in-house. Being able to hire these talents once they gain experience in groups like ours is vital to them. However, it is true that lately there has been more tension regarding technical jobs. This is related to the fact that there has been strong growth in this sector, but this tension must be reduced.

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However, many French players, notably the Numeum professional syndicate, warn that the number of French tech-trained is far below the market’s needs. Do you make the same observation?

Yes, digital professions are very diverse, and there is a lack of profiles compared to the overall needs of companies. This problem needs to be resolved. To do this, we must stop focusing exclusively on geometric formations. The entire economy has gone digital. We also need digital interns and people who have completed shorter technical training.


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