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Total’s Open Innovation Journey – How Partnership with Qmarkets Upgraded its Approachability and Accessibility

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When Total, a global energy company that serves more than 4 million end-customers per day, was looking for a new Open Innovation (OI) solution in 2015, they turned to Morgan Ohayon, who became instrumental in choosing and implementing the Qmarkets innovation platform at both the company-wide and business-unit levels.

Actively operating in more than 130 countries, Total is the world’s 4th largest international oil and gas producer and provider, and the 2nd largest solar energy operator. Founded in 1924 as Compagnie Française des Pétroles, Total experienced continuous expansion over the decades, to a staff of 98,000 today. With the energy industry now going through a transformative period, Total has a renewed, powerful commitment to leading innovation from the front, with better energy, and products and services that are increasingly safer, cleaner, more efficient and accessible.

In 2015, the French division of Total implemented Qmarkets’ Open Innovation (OI) platform to allow clients from France to share their innovation ideas in a welcoming environment, and to upgrade the company’s approachability in the eyes of the customers. In this interview, Mr. Ohayon shares the process and the results.

Qmarkets: Can you tell us about Total and the industry in which it operates?

Morgan Ohayon: Total is a leading energy powerhouse that discovers, processes, produces, stores, and distributes energy in a variety of forms, to millions of end-customers at service stations worldwide. It’s an enormous operation. 

Today, the energy industry is going through a green evolution, driven by the improvements in the way we all view and respect the environment. For Total, this can translate into a remarkable time of growth, as the company has been investing in better energy solutions, and it has a large eco-friendly solar energy business. It’s both a rewarding and challenging time.

QM: So, how has Total approached innovation in the past and today?

MO: The company has long recognized that an organized approach to innovation improves all outcomes, including company-wide knowledge, productivity, relations with customers and profitability. About ten years ago it began investing significant amounts of time and effort into innovation, creating an internal tool called Innova. But there was more room to explore innovative ideas, so the management decided to take the next step and look outside the company to tap into new suggestions and knowledge. 

QM: Can you tell us about your OI decision-making process? What were you looking for?

MO: After extensive research, my team and I shortlisted five or six different vendors that seemed suitable for Total’s needs, including other recognized innovation software companies, and a couple of French developer start-ups. We assessed by cost, delivery, application, and features; however, the prospective company’s level of experience was also a major influencing factor. We met with the representatives of each company, saw demos, and only then moved to the final analysis stage.

QM: Why did you choose Qmarkets?

MO: Qmarkets offered the perfect combination of features and functionality that would meet all of Total’s requirements, plus a team that had experience working on similar successful Open Innovation projects across the globe. Another important factor was scalability – we knew that there would be a strong possibility of rolling out the initiative internationally, so we were already thinking ahead and choosing a company which could easily achieve this with auto-translation and multitenancy sub-systems. Also, we had a very good feeling about the platform and the Qmarkets staff during the in-person product demos. It wasn’t an easy choice, with so many companies contending, but I strongly believe we chose the right partner for the company’s unique and complicated needs.

QM: Can you tell us about the implementation process?

MO: It only took 12 weeks from sign-off to create, configure, implement and initiate our OI platform. There were six internal committees that worked on it and continually reviewed it. It was launched during the Paris Auto Show where the head of our company was present. Thanks to the intuitive usability of the platform, a survey was swiftly launched at this show, asking attendees about the types of services they want to see at Total’s service stations. 300 people registered on the spot. In terms of participation, it was a great start.

Qmarkets offered the perfect combination of features and functionality that would meet all of Total’s requirements… I strongly believe we chose the right partner for the company’s unique and complicated needs.

QM: Please, can you briefly describe the platform and how it worked?

MO: The initiative was launched on Total.FR – Total’s French language website which receives over a million visitors monthly. The visitors would see a CTA on the homepage asking for ideas to improve the business. Clicking this would send them directly to the Qmarkets platform where they could easily submit ideas to one of three categories, each of which represented a side of Total’s offering:

  • My Home
  • My Car
  • My Fuel Station

Ideas that were submitted here were voted on by other users, and the best ones were sent to decision makers for evaluation.

Screenshot of the Total system

QM: How do you incentivize site visitors to submit their ideas?

MO: We primarily used Qmarkets’ best-practice gamification features, where users receive points for activity on the system. All 3 best ideas by challenges were rewarded with a physical gift, such as an iPad, iPhone or gas card.

QM: What are some company goals you achieved using the Qmarkets OI platform?

MO: Most importantly we were able to humanize the brand by making it more personable and approachable. The open innovation platform was a channel between Total and the customers which brought us us into the 21st century of digital communication. We wanted to let customers know that they can become contributors, reviewers, collaborators and beneficiaries all at the same time. All this was achieved and more.

QM: If we are to look at internal changes at Total, what was the impact of the OI platform?

MO: First and foremost, I think we managed to bring a shift in attitude towards innovating externally within the company. This was evident not only in the feedback which we received internally, but also through an internal award which we received for developing such an innovative solution.

QM: What were some of the bottom line results which Total saw in relation to the project?

MO: Due to the fact that I’m no longer working with Total, I’m not at liberty to share specific financial details such as this; however, I’m happy to share with you that we received over 1500 great ideas from our customers, and implemented over 50 of them.

QM: What would you say to other large companies who are considering investing in OI?

MO: I would definitely recommend it. The multitude of benefits which Open Innovation creates offer a huge potential ROI which cannot be replicated through any other channel or program. With the technological developments on the horizon, I believe it’s now becoming crucial for all large companies to continually invest in open innovation.

About Morgan:

After working for 6 years in a consulting firm as a project manager in digital strategy, Morgan recently founded his own company, NOAVA Digital, which specializes today in the realization of innovative digital projects with a fast implementation for deliverable results, including ideation, CRM and Data visualization.

Discover how your company can engage external stakeholders and customers through Qmarkets’ specialized open innovation software, Q-open.

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