EI-Technologies wishes to combine the human and digital elements at the core of its development strategy
Béchara Raad, head of EI-Technologies, wishes to turn his company into the “leading French digital and human-centred consulting company” for his clients and employees. Explanation.
Information expertise: companies stronger than governments
A few years ago, government agencies such as the CIA and the NSA held the key to information; therefore, the key to power. Today, with digital technology, some companies are more powerful than governments. “I am mainly thinking about GAFA (Google Apple Facebook Amazon), which collects, stores and analyses mountains of data on billions of Internet users throughout the world.” According to Béchara Raad, thanks to the democratisation of data science and social networks and to the lowering cost of digital technology, all companies will soon have a certain form of power. The problem with data, however, is that it is borderless: it is difficult to regulate its circulation through national laws. What are the consequences? “Companies have a moral responsibility regarding the use of this data.”
For Béchara Raad, all of the staff, from top management to sales professionals and IS management, share this responsibility. “The company values must be clearly stated and shared with its employees as well as with its partners and board, and most of all, with its clients.” This is not just a matter of morals, but of economics: “In the 21st century, in the era of the Internet and whistle-blowers, a company without values will lose its clients. All it takes to realise it is to follow the news a little and learn about the various scandals.”
Is digital technology good or evil?
Concretely, which “company values” are we talking about? “Values beneficial to the company and its entire ecosystem, which foster better living together and respect for the individual,” explains the CEO. The problem is that the temptation to misuse digital technology is strong when doing business. As always, at the heart of current issues is, again, data. Béchara Raad takes the example of the Monetico cards which are replacing French meal vouchers. “When put to good use, the data on food consumption behaviour allows employees to track their spending and food habits. But it can also be misused by certain managers wanting to track their employees, or by unscrupulous insurance companies which will adjust contract prices based on daily calorie intake.” Another example is that of a major chain store located at Place de l’Opéra, where the CEO noticed that most of the purchases are paid for in cash. “Does the store keep this information about its clients? If so, what guarantees its proper use?” These two concrete examples show that digital technology is a wonderful tool…in the right hands. “In the end, what will differentiate companies is how they use data. Using it to reinforce client relationships promises better customer service. Using it for unlimited monetisation and data purposes means breaking the relationship of trust.”
Management and client assistance: EI-Technologies initiatives
To go further than words, Béchara Raad wants to apply these ethical values daily in his company. Again, an example will be worth more than a long speech. “We are a consulting firm, and most of our consultants are usually away in the clients’ offices. To foster team building, one of our consultants recently suggested developing an application which will use geolocation to allow colleagues to meet up for lunch or after-work drinks. The issue is that if such an initiative came from top management, it could be perceived as “policing.” Therefore, we gave our approval, but this application will stay solely in the hands of the works council. Management will have no access to it.” For Béchara Raad, applying digital technology ethics internally starts with “small” initiatives like these. He even takes it one step further: “We will apply the same ethical rigour in our offer and in the way in which we accompany our clients by working only on projects which will help end-users rather than work against them.”
And in conclusion?
“At EI-Technologies, we firmly believe that digital technology ethics are just as important as other CSR (corporate social and environmental responsibility) subjects, because they deal with fundamental human rights. Today, we, at our level, wish to start the debate on these matters and would be glad to be able to discuss them.”