How RTE, Europe’s Biggest Transmission System Operator Implemented a Collaborative Innovation Lab
RTE is an energy and utility provider, France’s electricity transmission system operator, responsible for the operation, maintenance and development of the French high-voltage transmission system. Approximately 100,000 km long, the system is Europe’s largest. We sat down with Ronan Minvielle, Innovation Manager at RTE, to hear about RTE’s strategic innovation project, powered by Qmarkets. On April 26th, Ronan will be a guest speaker at our Paris Innovation Leader Breakfast Tour, which will explore a variety of topics around the themes of innovation challenges and collective intelligence (click here for more details).
Qmarkets: Ronan, please tell us a bit about your role at RTE.
Ronan Minvielle: I control the J.Nov approach and set up the network of internal facilitators. This includes organizing competitions with start-ups, but I am also responsible for the internal and external steps which need to be taken in order to create total international integration – the actors, the technologies, etc. I am the national driver of the general market.
Qmarkets: What were the main challenges that RTE faced before the implementation of J.Nov, RTE’s iteration of the Qmarkets idea & innovation management platform?
R.M.: Before Qmarkets’ solution was implemented, we had no infrastructure for internal innovation. There were various initiatives dispersed throughout the company, but there was nothing that encompassed the company as a whole. With Qmarkets’ help, we integrated a digital innovation management platform that we used to streamline suggestions from our employees through to management, accelerating business development. This platform was launched in September 2013. The platform also provided us with a solution for employee engagement and was easily integrated into our daily business practices.
Qmarkets: How many employees are in your organization? Were they all invited use the J.Nov platform?
R.M.: We currently have about 8,500 employees, and they were all included in the process. As a result, there are currently 4,500 voluntary participants or about 55% of the company. This includes people who create ideas, people who comment in order to provide constructive criticism, and people who visit the platform, to view its functionalities.
Qmarkets was the only vendor who was able to meet our expectations with regards to both flexibility and scalability.
Qmarkets: How successful has the platform been at fostering idea creation?
R.M.: In the three and a half years since we launched, we have had more than 3,700 ideas, 12% of which have been implemented. This number increases to 16% when you include those that are currently being implemented.
Qmarkets: That’s fantastic. Moving on to Qmarkets’ solution itself, which criteria did you use to choose Qmarkets as a partner for innovation, and why?
R.M.: We needed a platform which was able to provide the integration we deemed crucial for our operation, by activity and profession, allowing us to engage both local and managerial employees seamlessly. It was also crucial for us to choose a partner which could be flexible, to be able to move with the technology and our requirements, while not rewriting the basic software from scratch. Qmarkets was the only vendor who was able to meet our expectations with regards to both flexibility and scalability.
Qmarkets: Now, after working together for nearly four years, you elected to continue with Qmarkets as a partner for innovation.
R.M.: There was a call for tenders, and other competitors applied, but we chose to remain with Qmarkets. Qmarkets had met all of our expectations and we wanted to continue the work that we had started together.
Qmarkets: I’d like to discuss your use of our platform. What gamification techniques did you use in the previous versions, and what are you going to do for the upcoming version 3?
R.M.: In the previous version, the crowd voting tool we used was a simple points system, allocated according to participation, and based on an idea’s status, users could gain points and progress from novice to master.
In Version 3 we will acknowledge the idea as well as the author. There will be a store with ideas which we want to promote, and we will make these ideas visible for short periods of time. There will be ideas that can be challenged by themes, or in reference to a hot topic. The best contributors will be featured on the home page. This will allow us to showcase the fun side of the platform.
Qmarkets: Ideas were created by employees within the company. What steps were taken to ensure managerial involvement?
R.M.: We realized the importance of involving managers, so we set up a monthly reporting system. We learned that if we sent a monthly e-mail with the summary of their employees’ activities, along with a link to the platform, directly to the managers, it increased their engagement.
Qmarkets: How did you choose which ideas to develop?
R.M.: We have several paths along which an idea can travel. The simpler ideas are directly set up at the local level, with the support of the local manager with a small budget, or they can ask a local start-up to assist. Then there are the ideas which are more complex. These had more value but also required more investment and technical expertise. For these, we developed technical collectives whose role was to support complex ideas. A third path is for the most complex ideas which require outside assistance: we have ideas incubating in our central offices, where our engineers support the development of the idea. If necessary, we can ask help local start-ups or SMEs to test with ideas. Some ideas are patented, for internal or external upgrading of the company. In each case, the idea is always linked to the employee who suggested it.
In terms of the organization, we created “le caïd”, a group for boldness and innovation. This group is made up of 13 leaders from within RTE who gather at regular intervals in order to define our innovative approach. Their role is to be “idea accelerators”. Employees who had an idea blocked can do a 5-minutes pitch in front of a manager to explain their idea, and why it was blocked. Then this group can choose whether to move forward or not. We’re online with the top management of the company.
Qmarkets: Did you use an internal communication or marketing system to promote and develop the use of the platform?
R.M.: We have access to the platform from our company’s Home Page. However, we must communicate about the platform, otherwise, there is little participation. Every two months we report on the platform’s development: main figures, progress on company innovation, creativity workshops, events, etc. We also communicate ideas which have been implemented, so other departments and individuals can adopt them. Every year, a trophy is awarded, and the results are sent to all employees. This makes it possible for the company to know which ideas were implemented and to give recognition to their creators.
Qmarkets: How are projects and ideas submitted on the platform?
R.M.: We have several different categories: performance, quality and workplace, sustainable development, digital, customers and economy. Another breakdown is division according to the different areas of professions in the company: maintenance, engineering, legal, finance, public affairs, etc. We are a company with maintenance employees, so half of the J.Nov ideas are provided by employees who are in maintenance; classical R&D with its researchers and its inventors. We have ideas that really come from people who are on the ground. As we upgrade to J.Nov Version 3, we will make filters which better match employee expectations.
Qmarkets: Have you received any feedback from employees about the platform?
R.M.: We’ve received extremely positive feedback from employees. They are highly motivated and enthusiastically participate in challenges and events. Our employees really feel that they contribute, they are the driving force of the company’s evolution. In this sense, they control their own professional development.
Our employees really feel that they contribute, they are the driving force of the company’s evolution. In this sense, they control their own professional development.
Qmarkets: How many challenges have you submitted to the employees using the Qmarkets platform?
R.M.: We use the challenge function constantly. Each local entity holds 2-3 challenges a year, and as a company, we hold 2-3 challenges a year, so there are 7 or 8 in total for each user. These challenges have led to over 3,700 ideas (922 in 2016 alone) submitted by 1,500 different authors. These drew 9,000 comments submitted by 1,800 different users and 43,000 votes from 4,600 employees.
Qmarkets: How many of the submitted ideas have been implemented?
R.M.:12% of them are implemented, 450 ideas in total. We’re currently evaluating the commercial value of these ideas.
Qmarkets: Can you share with us one or two of the best ideas so far?
Qmarkets’ platform has helped us respond to the needs and expectations of our employees, allowing us to identify ideas which not only deliver financial gains but also improve the wellbeing and safety of our workforce.
R.M.: One of the ideas is focused on explaining the complex principles of electricity transportation in a more understandable way to the general public. We’re innovating around the customer journey in order to allow them to understand the technical processes behind our offering. We’re also implementing very technical and operative ideas to fuel R&D and improve our facilities.
Qmarkets’ platform has helped us respond to the needs and expectations of our employees, allowing us to identify ideas which not only deliver financial gains but also improve the wellbeing and safety of our workforce. We also work with external start-ups to generate new solutions and services, so we are driven by innovation, wherever it comes from.
Qmarkets: What are your plans for your next project?
R.M.: Our upcoming project will focus on managers, and the next one after that will look at the construction of labs. We have also set up a satellite system to support idea implementation. To support ideas, we have spaces to cement idea implementation. This year we plan to combine the J.Nov approach with these internal networks of facilitators, and with studios to experiment with solutions. This will accelerate the idea incubation phase, leading to quicker implementation.
Qmarkets: What is your favorite thing about working with Qmarkets?
R.M.: For me, the best experience, and which pleasantly surprised me when I took office, was the reactivity provided by Sivan (Qmarkets’ Head of Delivery) when we made requests for improvement within the platform. She was always very fast and efficient.
Qmarkets: Can you provide us a sentence that summarizes your feedback on our Platform?
R.M.: Qmarkets’ platform provides the flexibility which we need to meet the challenges of our organization, and the close relationship we have built with Qmarkets team gave us the desire to renew our experience with them for the foreseeable future.
On April 25th and 26th, IFT and Qmarkets will be hosting an enterprise innovation leader breakfast, which will explore a variety of topics around the themes of innovation challenges and collective intelligence. Find out more about the Paris Innovation Leader Breakfast Tour here.