“Swiss people are often too cautious”

Digitalisation is a huge challenge for the Swiss economy. Which action companies need to take is explained by Christian Petit, who is responsible for Swisscom’s corporate business.

Hansjörg Honegger, 17

Hansjörg Honegger: Your job involves close contact with Swisscom’s corporate customers. What will be the main focus of these companies in the new year?

Christian Petit: The key objective being pursued by many companies is sustainably boosting their competitiveness both in Switzerland and abroad, and increasing their efficiency.

This is, however, nothing new. What does this specifically refer to at this point in time?

I am convinced that digitalisation will make it possible for companies to achieve both these objectives. Be this by developing new digital business models, or by boosting efficiency on the basis of process automation. There are, by the way, analyses that reveal that digitalisation allows savings of up to 90 percent to be achieved.

Christian Petit, Head of the Enterprise Customers Division

Christian Petit has been Head of the Enterprise Customers Division at Swisscom (Switzerland) Ltd since 2014 and is a member of the Group Executive Board. In 2000, he transferred from Debitel to Swisscom. He has held a variety of top positions, including Head of the Residential Customers Division from 2007 to 2013, where he was responsible for the rollout of Swisscom TV and the redesigning of the Swisscom shops. Christian Petit holds an MBA from the ESSEC business school (Ecole Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) in Cergy Pontoise, France.

That’s hard to believe.

It is now possible to build factories that are fully automated, right down to logistics and administration. Solutions like this need to be discussed by many companies. It makes an exact analysis of the opportunities necessary.

It does, however, also involve job cuts.

I see things more positively. You could also say that these companies are not migrating, and are instead staying in Switzerland, where they are creating highly qualified jobs. I believe that certain job profiles will disappear in future – and new ones will be created in their place. This development occurs during every technological revolution, and will take a similar course this time as well.

Where is Swisscom positioning itself during this transition?

We guide our customers into digitalisation. We have identified four major topic areas: Developing new business models, designing customer experiences, automating business processes and introducing new working environments into companies.

All of these are things that Swisscom itself needs to do.

That’s right, we are also facing these challenges. Accordingly, we don't just provide advice, instead we are also implementing all these things ourselves – as we have been doing for several years now.

Are Swisscom residential customers being made into some sort of guinea pig for corporate business?

No, the residential customer business is far too important for Swisscom. Our corporate customers do, however, appreciate that we are speaking from experience.

«It’s likely that we Swiss are often too cautious»

When it comes to software development in particular, the tempo is decisive. Are Swiss companies fit enough in this regard?

A quick go-to-market and the maturity of a product represent conflicting priorities. It’s likely that we Swiss are often too cautious, and want too much. In future, however, more and more products will be launched which have not been perfected, and will undergo further development, or be discontinued, according to customer feedback. We are, of course, talking about Minimum Viable Products (MVP).

In which industries do you consider Switzerland to be a leader in terms of digitalisation, and where are companies lagging behind?

All industries that need to compete on an international level are forced to take a leading role. SME in the industrial sector, along with major chemicals and pharmaceutical corporations, are true leaders. We see less progress being made in industries that operate on the domestic front, such as energy or, in part, banks as well.

Does the size of the companies make a difference?

No, digitalisation doesn't have to be expensive and can also be implemented by taking smaller steps. Larger companies are, in contrast, at a disadvantage, because they have more complex structures and are therefore less agile.

The risk of reacting to hype is a large one at the moment. What would you recommend to these companies?

It is essential that the companies take an interest in, and understand, new technologies. This is the time to try things out, and to take small steps. And starting out where it hurts is a good approach. This might means starting in customer contact at one company, while at another company, the workplace culture needs to be changed.

«Digitalisation puts smaller companies at an advantage»

How can companies locate these pain points and the corresponding solutions? They don’t have any experience with it.

Many customers know where the real problems lie. A consultant can provide technical support and help keep the calm. I can give you an example: After Google, Swisscom has the largest development team in Switzerland working on artificial intelligence. Our customers profit from this knowledge.

In which direction will Swisscom develop over the next few years?

Swisscom will be operating IT infrastructure for its customers with increasing frequency. At the same time, we will accompany our customers on their journey to a more agile IT that caters closely to the requirements of the different company divisions.

Have you lost interest in the traditional network business?

Quite the opposite. It will remain very important. Cloud-based networks allow us to develop and roll out complex network solutions very quickly. Three years ago, this took weeks, but now and in future it is only a matter of minutes

How do you motivate the employees when their working environment is evolving so rapidly?

The employees know that a lot of changes are happening. However, management needs to explain to them where the journey will take them, and how it will meet its social responsibility. Transparency is of key importance.

How do you inspire employee motivation even when positions are at risk?

It is not difficult to inspire motivation in such an exciting climate. However, employees need to believe in themselves, maintain a positive attitude and know where they want to be in five years’ time. This is what personal responsibility involves, and it is not something that can be delegated to the employer.

«We need to make an informed decision about whether to pursue everything that is possible»

How has digitalisation changed your leadership of your employees?

Nowadays, employees want managers who act as coaches. Managers should help qualify their employees, and open doors for them.

This is nothing new, and is something employees wanted 40 years ago.

Today, however, we have the opportunity to do exactly that. A management style based on giving orders is definitely becoming a thing of the past. This also involves having managers admit their mistakes.

What is your own personal passion?

Ethics. The way we approach the changes to come, and what we do with the technological opportunities. Today, scientists are discussing how to defy death. Which begs the question: Should we really pursue everything that is possible? This leads to tremendous areas of conflict for managers: Where do limits need to be imposed?

When the competition breaks through the boundaries and is doing business: Can a company like Swisscom intentionally refuse to follow?

Of course! Swisscom, in particular, can’t just do anything it likes. We need to hold an informed discussion about what we would like to do, and what we don’t want to do. We have, however, been feeling this pressure for some time now.

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