Interview with Nathalie PENFORNIS, Visiting Professor at KEDGE

Interview with Nathalie PENFORNIS, Visiting Professor at KEDGE Business School.

Nathalie Penfornis is a COO Executive in Digital and Transformation consultancy. For more than 15 years, she has held managerial positions on teams, linking IT to business, in the fields of agile project management, digital product management, business development and managerial innovation. 

She has worked for several sectors such as global travel, sports betting, media, smart cities, automotive, industry 4.0, mobility and autonomous vehicles, always with an international context. She led various digital and organizational transformations, especially in Renault as an Agile Product Manager, in JCDecaux as the Deputy head of IS strategy and in Apsia as the Head of Innovation and Transformation. Today, she leverages her organisational and collaboration expertise to sustainability, as COO of the consultancy company Quantis.

Question: Nathalie, can you tell us more about your background and how it led you to become a professor at KEDGE Business School?

Nathalie: I am an information system engineer, graduated from the UTC (Université de Technologie de Compiègne). This enabled me to experience several businesses from the digital perspective, and that was incredibly rich!  But after a dozen years, I was still not clear about my path: I was getting bored in my positions, faster and faster, and I was less and less tolerant to inefficient, hierarchical workplaces. I decided to enroll in Kedge Global Executive MBA to get some clue.  It boosted my boldness and helped me find my purpose. I’m grateful to Kedge and wanted to help improving the programme.  A specific insight about “Digital transformation on the field” was a good way as this is a must-have knowledge that every senior and executive leaders should be aware of it.

Q: In the Executive MBA, you teach Digital Transformation through a "Hackathon". How is this course organized?

N: The hackathon is a one-day intensive experience. The students compete in teams. Each team has to frame and plan a digital transformation business case, which has been selected among the participants’ submitted personal cases. They move from “what is at stake” to “delivering the transformation in sprints”, through “reinventing the company’s organization”. Teams simultaneously progress step by step, by producing business deliverables at each step and leveraging them in the following step. The hackathon is designed in such a way that teams have no rest: they are pushed to organize themselves efficiently and deliver the highest value they can in a limited amount of time. Participants have said that the atmosphere is insightful, challenging, exhausting and fun at the same time.

Q: What’s the story behind the hackathon, why pushing this approach in the programme?

N: I designed the hackathon with the key learnings I personally got from my own experience in digital transformation. Digital is everywhere and no company can thrive, without mastering digital. And yet, there are so many failures today, as many managers and executives lose focus and let themselves cornered by the numerous and complex possibilities enabled by technologies. The hackathon enlightens participants on common wrong understandings about what digital transformation is:

  1. Digital transformation is not an end: it has no benefit if it does not solve any pain
  2. Digital transformation is not only about digital: it requires organizational change and calls for managerial innovation
  3. Digital transformation is not always a big journey: it can start small, it should definitely deliver added value fast and regularly, to be adopted and sustained.

Q: Is the hackathon expected to change over the next intakes?

N: Yes, of course! As it is a practical course, I will keep it up to date with the best practices from the market. Besides, the participants wanted more and asked for a longer duration. We are thinking of starting the hackathon with a preliminary session on the evening before, leaving more time for methodological explanations and peer-to-peer reviews. Finally, I am eager to develop the sustainability imperatives into the course.