Let's rebuild our cathedrals! La Tribune (03/05/2020)

LETTERS FROM LOCKDOWN. In this section of testimonials from business leaders on the health crisis, Jean-Louis Bouchard, Chairman of Econocom, writes this post to share his experience of the crises with the younger generation and his hopes for the post-Covid era.

Since I created Econocom in 1973, I have faced major crises such as the stock market crash of October 1987 or IBM's decision to lower its rates by 80% on a large part of its offer that corresponded to our rental contracts and inventories, or the subprime crisis and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, which led to a global liquidity crisis followed by an economic crisis that lasted until 2012. For a variety of reasons, they could all have been fatal to the company I manage.

Each time, thanks to everyone's fighting spirit, Econocom’s warrior DNA, the transparency and sincerity of its internal and external communications, not only did our group come out alive, but it bounced back to a long period of growth, strengthened by what we had learned the hard way.

What strikes me in the crisis we are experiencing today is that for the very first time in my long career, IT, which has since become "digital", the core of Econocom's business, is viewed in a resolutely positive way. It is proving to be a key player in our ability to win this battle together. By enabling overnight a country to telework or tele-educate but also by ensuring the essential continuity of operation of a Nation's nerve centres, such as hospitals, research centres, nuclear power stations, law enforcement command centres and the state's regalian functions. Piloted and controlled by us, it becomes an "Aristotle's hand", an instrument of our defence instruments.

This “digital”, the one that allows us to help, to care, to work, to continue to live together in these periods that were unimaginable just a few months ago, will change its image and status. At a time when many business leaders are legitimately questioning their purpose, I am very pleased to be working together with our clients to invent effective digital solutions that will help them to strengthen their position in a world undergoing rapid change.

One of my greatest professional satisfactions was recently given to me when I read the warm and enthusiastic thanks of men and women from Engie, Allianz, France Télévisions, BPCE, Danone, SNCF, the Sorbonne and the Conseil Départemental des Bouches-du-Rhône, to name but a few.

What pride to see the spontaneous courage and self-sacrifice of these thousands of employees who developed applications during nights and weekends for monitoring patients at home, who installed resilient smartworking systems on a very large scale in an emergency, who supplied and installed overnight equipment to secure infrastructures and networks. For a very long time, at dinners parties, I avoided talking about my activity to my table neighbours, knowing full well that I would inevitably lose their attention very quickly... Today, I would not hesitate one minute to proudly claim our beautiful profession!

The course of a more normal life will resume. The lockdown, although crucial, will reach its limits and will no longer be bearable. The elderly people of which I am a part, will be able to contract the virus and will be hospitalized with a much better chance of recovery thanks to the measures that have prevented the saturation of resuscitation capacities and to the remarkable dedication of the entire care system.

The desire to live, to undertake, to work, to be of service, to be useful, to have a social life, will be there, probably different and stronger than “before".

It is when facing danger that we learn the most. We were served! So what will we have learned this time? That our model of over-consumption is wrong? That our production patterns are sometimes labyrinths that trap their own designers? That in the face of danger, authority, discipline, and above all solidarity are essential?

A thousand more questions will be on the table. Let us be humble and in good faith when the time comes for the diagnosis. Let us be open, creative and visionary in the answers that each of us will bring to collectively rethink the architecture of the world that will suit us better. And when the time of political, environmental, societal and economic action comes, let us once again become daring cathedral builders!

By Jean-Louis Bouchard, Chairman of Econocom - Translated text, from La Tribune