CIO Spotlight: Philippe Bosquier, Exclusive Networks

What's the best career advice you ever received? “What I’ve learned as I’ve matured in my career is to take the time to listen to others’ points of view to make sure we all strive for alignment.”

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Exclusive Networks

Name: Philippe Bosquier

Company: Exclusive Networks

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: May 2021

Location: Paris

Philippe Bosquier is an accomplished international IT and digital leader with a track record of success across numerous countries in Europe as well as in the United States. He is currently the Group CIO at Exclusive Networks where he joined in May 2021.  He has been leading robust technology teams and has been driving innovation across large corporations over the last 30 years. Over his career, Bosquier has developed global competency centres in advanced analytics, consumer engagement and Artificial Intelligence He has been working across various industries and has a strong background in supply chain and IT Distribution.  He has been involved in large M&A initiatives and has developed strategic internal digital transformation programs. Over the last decade, Bosquier has also developed cybersecurity practices to better protect businesses against the increasing threat landscape as well as driving cloud enablement programs. Bosquier is now developing a digitalisation program at Exclusive Networks, with a focus on process automation and building a data-driven culture.

What was your first job? My first job was as a Network Engineer at the Ministry of Defence in France in 1986. My area of focus was networks and security; I developed a lot of technical knowledge and was trained in emerging technologies during my five years there.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, I was always passionate about IT and after graduating from high school I decided I wanted to focus on it exclusively.  During this time, IP networks were rapidly developing and companies like Cisco were up and coming in the marketplace. As the world was witnessing the rise of emerging technologies, network engineers were becoming highly valued and a lot of job opportunities arose in this space.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? After graduating high school, I took a bachelor’s degree in IT – this allowed me to learn the fundamentals of IT and information systems. Following this, I enrolled in an engineering college to further my knowledge of computer science and my understanding of configuring networks and developing applications. However, I didn’t want to limit myself to technical expertise only and decided to broaden my scope by doing an MBA in Management. I really enjoyed these studies as they helped me engage with people from different specialist areas and opened me up to a world beyond IT.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I always hoped to become a CIO one day but I chose to build my career steadily in the IT domain. I started off as a Network Engineer where I was in charge of establishing international networks and developing TCP/IP solutions by leveraging Cisco technologies. I treated every opportunity as a stepping stone to progress towards my goal of one day becoming a CIO.

Following a stint as Head of Production and Infrastructure, I decided to focus on Enterprise Architecture, and this is where I started working on transformational projections for Information Systems.

Throughout my career, I’ve progressively moved towards the software side of things, having managed the first applications developed in JAVA. I expanded my reach to managing competency centres related to enterprise-wide applications and EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), and developed my business-facing capabilities by providing solutions to the supply chain and later on the IT distribution industries.   

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Firstly, we are in the process of consolidating all our various applications into one single Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. As our company has grown mainly through acquisitions – we’ve had a fragmented application landscape as a result.  It is crucial for us to consolidate our information systems to improve our operational efficiencies and drive our ability to scale.

Secondly, we’re focused on developing data and analytics. We have an overarching business intelligence solution in place that provides us with the financial data required to drive our business in any country and at any group level.  We expect to leverage an enterprise-wide data lake to gain better insights. We’ve also been focusing on digitalising our business with a special focus on business process automation.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? IT has to support the business to enable margin growth and drive operational efficiency. After having managed a significant transition to the cloud for our global data centre, many priorities are set for IT in the upcoming year. However, the three key priorities are: enforcing cybersecurity, continue rolling out our ERP in our remaining countries, and growing our Business Process Automation discipline by leveraging Robotics Process Automation (RPA) technology.  

As mentioned, we’re also prioritising data and analytics to drive better insights into the business.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? The role of the CIO has been evolving in recent years, along with digitalisation. The CIO has adopted more of the responsibilities of a business partner, such as helping enable revenue growth and operational efficiency. We are getting more and more involved in business process automation, as well as optimisation. 

In terms of additional responsibilities, as the cybersecurity threat landscape continues to develop – the Board of Directors will need to monitor and assess the developments in this space. Also, as we’ve seen more importance placed on regulations such as GDPR and SAPIN II – it will become imperative for CIOs to be involved in these topics.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? We have started our digital transformation – with a focus on enhancing customer experience, revenue growth, and operational efficiency.  

Our new ERP implementation enables us to “go digital” and this is supplemented by a larger digitalisation program. Through implementing software applications, we are able to connect seamlessly with our partners and customers to develop self-service capabilities.  

Operational efficiency also plays a significant role in our program. In our new ERP, we have increased the level of standardisation and automation of our main processes and we have also initiated a strategic program that will take place further down the road. 

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? The maturity of our digital business is constantly evolving.  We have developed a set of KPIs to measure our digital effectiveness – these are less tech-focused and more on how we can contribute to business growth and efficiency.  For instance, we are measuring factors like the turnaround time for processing a quote to a customer, the number of invoices we can get processed by a FTE (full-time equivalent), and the evolution of our margin by FTE. We have developed some business intelligence solutions to track these KPIs to ensure we can consistently monitor their evolution.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Culture is a very important aspect of our organisation. We have a heritage of international entrepreneurship and work together as a family, building on “L’Esprit Exclusive.”

As an IT organisation, we strive to deliver the best service while still being pragmatic. Along with cultivating a can-do attitude, we have a principle of “eating our own dog food” – meaning we always try to leverage and work with the technologies we are selling to our customers. 

Learning is an important aspect of our culture as well; we ensure our team is always up to date with the latest technologies and has the opportunity to develop both professionally and personally.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? There are many roles in our technology sector that are hard to fill. I believe it is becoming more and more difficult to find cybersecurity experts as well as data scientists and good developers in new technologies. It is even tricker to find technical experts with good commercial acumen that we can put at the front of the business. Overall, the technology sector is short on resources and expertise. One way to manage this is to expand your search for talent overseas.

What's the best career advice you ever received? To learn from my mistakes and develop a growth mindset. But also, to remember to enjoy what you are doing as this increases your performance significantly. What I’ve learned as I’ve matured in my career is to take the time to listen to others’ points of view to make sure we all strive for alignment. 

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. I recently started working on my succession plan. I always try to hire people with some potential so that they can grow and develop themselves. From my personal development coaching, I’ve learned that if you want to be successful you need to build a team of talented people so that they can run your business without your daily support. This allows you to focus on where you make the difference.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? I would encourage people to stay humble, demonstrate humility and integrity as these are the key pillars for succeeding in senior IT roles. It is also about developing resilience, perseverance and most importantly to take failures as opportunities to grow.  We become IT leaders by learning from others and by influencing the people we work with in a positive way.

What has been your greatest career achievement? My greatest career achievement was at one of my previous companies where I managed to reconnect IT to the core business. I helped them move from a large SAP program mindset to a more commercial mindset - managing a portfolio of projects and enabling business development.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I don’t think I would have done things differently. I have no regrets. You make decisions that bring you onto a new road and then you learn by failing. 

The most important thing for me is to develop a growth mindset so that you keep learning and become stronger, regardless of the decisions you have made and the roads you had to take as a result.

What are you reading now? Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and survivor of the Holocaust. I also read quite a lot of personal development books.

Most people don't know that I… I am a former racing cyclist. My father was a cyclist trainer and I spent time with the most famous racing cyclists in the 80s.

In my spare time, I like to…Travel.

Ask me to do anything but… A parachute jump.