As part of ongoing efforts to improve business productivity, French national railway company SNCF sought to better include employees in digital solution development—an initiative called “Digital for All.” To achieve this goal, the company adopted Microsoft Power Apps, Power BI, and Power Automate. Internal and online training fostered employee adoption and cultivated internal app experts. Tens of thousands of employees now use more than 150 apps to help simplify and streamline tasks, and SNCF uses real-time analysis in Power BI to reduce errors, increase reliability, and improve production processes.
SNCF uses Power Apps and Power Automate to rapidly build and customize apps and create automated workflows among its apps and services. For example, says Dupin, “We created tablet-based solutions that we now use to communicate more easily with each other. These tools help make business units autonomous and cut through bureaucracy.”
Henri Pidault, Chief Digital & Information Officer at SNCF, adds, “With the Microsoft Power Platform, we’re finally able to digitize our business processes using direct input from affected employees.” He further notes, “As SNCF teams examine their challenges during day-to-day work, they collaborate to define effective operational models.”
Continuing the explanation, Gabriel Chenevoy, Assistant Chief Performance Officer at SNCF, says, “We then digitize these models as different apps, creating and uploading them in an agile way.”
SNCF has 150 apps in production and more in the works.
Developing more sophisticated apps using SNCF’s new approach requires staff with more training, but it is still much more efficient than traditional development methods. For example, the maintenance task of rebuilding railcar bogies (undercarriages) includes replacing the corresponding springs—a delicate operation that relies on precise calculations.
A mechanic on the maintenance team says that SNCF used to rebuild bogies essentially from scratch. Doing some of the planning and calculations on paper increased the risk of possible errors. “Our goal was to reduce the error rate and streamline the work required to perform the rebuild operation,” he says. “The app we got has an intuitive user experience that gives us a list of recommendations and guidance around optimal spring placements.” Built using a combination of Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI, and SharePoint, this app is used by more than 20 workers.
Dupin says, “Previously, 70 percent of paired bogies ended up having unsatisfactory specifications, which forced us to start over on a labor-intensive process. We’ve reduced that number considerably now.”
As another example, drivers who speak different languages often had trouble explaining routine tasks to each other. Within a day, SNCF used Power Automate to give drivers a functioning app in the field that vocalizes typical phrases used by drivers. Drivers tap common phrases on a tablet screen and the Digital Linguistic Application (ALN) repeats the phrases in the needed language. ”The ALN app reduced tension among international drivers, who are under time constraints, so that they can focus on their jobs rather than on language issues,” says a bogie worker.
SNCF is conducting Microsoft Power Platform training classes throughout the company. Some are intensive; others are simple, aimed at getting workers up and running fast. Cassandra Cornilleau, Director of the Digital School within SNCF, says, “In a month, we trained more than 700 people on SharePoint, Power BI, and more recently on Power Apps. The classes are going really well.”
Says Sylvian Martin, Mobile and Digital Manager at SNCF, “Although I have experience creating applications, I am not a developer. I was able to learn Power Apps quickly, and now I help others in the division and company level.”
Summarizing the Digital for All initiative so far, Pidault says, “Using Power Automate, Power Apps, and Power BI, we can truly digitize our business processes, which benefits individuals and the company as a whole.”
Dupin adds, “When we implemented and explained the potential of these digital tools, we empowered each employee to innovate and share their ideas on how to improve their work on a daily basis.”