ALTEN Labs: two years to carve out a position as digital transformation experts


Interview with Nicolas Brunet, Operations Director

Nicolas Brunet is Director of the Airbus Aircraft France (AAF) ALTEN Business Unit, which focuses primarily on aeronautics projects for Airbus France, and covers strategic development projects for the same customer. With a dual background in both engineering and business development strategy (MBA), Brunet spearheaded a plan to create the conditions necessary for the technological shift all businesses must now make. Airbus, which is currently navigating its own digital transformation, is on the front lines of this shift.


When the project first kicked off in 2016, we started by identifying engineers we could position on new technologies. “We were looking for people passionate about technology, regardless of their previous experience. In the beginning, we just wanted to give them the resources they would need to test out innovative technologies on smaller projects. Our goals were to create a core team and identify promising technologies like big data, artificial intelligence, UI and UX design, agile and SAFe methodologies, virtual and augmented reality, photorealistic rendering, and digital twins.
We were also looking at PLM1, which represents another organizational shift. It is a business-specific approach that leverages cross-functional tools. Dassault Systèmes’s 3DEXPERIENCE was the solution we ended up focusing on.”

The second phase took place in 2017. “We made the decision to create a core team with two areas of expertise working from a single location on our premises. A 300 sq. m facility was set up to house the team and to provide the necessary access to new technologies for testing purposes,” said Mr Brunet. The engineers selected for the project then joined the Big Data and PLM labs (read more on pages xx and xx). “I had a lot of faith in our people,” said Mr Brunet. “Statistically, there was a high probability of creating added value for our customers and consultants.”

ALTEN Labs have three missions. The labs serve as talent incubators for the consultants trained there. They also support the pre-sales phase of major and/or strategic projects (the positioning is very practical: engineers develop POCs2 with actual customer products and data). Finally, they are a great differentiator from a strategic standpoint. Mr Brunet said, “Our competitors on the market are either very IT-oriented or very technical.
We, on the other hand, are capable of applying our technology know-how and our knowledge of our customers’ businesses to our digital projects. Unlike purely-IT companies, this positions us as a comprehensive partner for our customers’ digital transformation strategies.” Digital transformation also brings continuity to design, scale-up, and support. It aligns perfectly with a cross-functional or “end-to-end” approach.

One of the reasons that ALTEN Labs very quickly became a success was a startup-like organization backed by the capabilities of a large company like ALTEN. “We attracted a lot of top talents,” said Mr Brunet. “Nearly 150 consultants are currently involved in ALTEN Labs, a figure that is expected to grow to almost twice that by year’s end—while we continue to serve Business Units across the company.”

ALTEN Labs will also create new opportunities in terms of large RFPs, especially internationally. Mr Brunet’s strategy turned out to be the right one. ALTEN Labs have positioned the company to penetrate new markets and carve out a position as a key partner in its customers’ digital transformation projects.


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*PLM : Product Lifecycle Management
**POC :  Proof Of Concept


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