Pierre Audoin, founder of PAC and pioneer of digital, left us ...
On 10 January 2018, Pierre Audoin, founder of PAC and digital pioneer, sadly passed away at the age of 86.
These days, the development of information technology seems so intertwined with Pierre Audoin’s own life story that it is hard to imagine him as the unassuming graduate of Paris’ prestigious Institute of Political Studies he once was. When he joined the BIPE (Bureau d’Informations et de Prévisions Economiques) in 1960, he very quickly became strong in the conviction that ‘Electronics and Information Processing’ (the term ‘IT’ was not yet invented) was going to change the world and its industrial and public strategies. This was a time when the USA was dominating the field of technology via its immense military and space programmes, while the French industry was scattered and only just emerging.
In 1965-66, Pierre made a decisive contribution to a report by the French government’s Strategic Planning Committee (the Ortoli report), which recommended an ambitious strategic programme designed to rebuild French industry following the acquisition of Bull by General Electric. In 1966, Plan Calcul was born, approved by President de Gaulle. Pierre Audoin became the Commission's second in command and the ‘guru’ of this strategy.
In 1971, Plan Calcul P expanded its scope towards Europe. Unidata was created by merging the ‘Computer’ departments of Siemens, Philips and French company CII. The goal was to become the ‘Airbus of Information Technology’.
However, in 1974, after the death of President Pompidou, a new alliance was formed: Unidata was abandoned in favour of an American alliance between Honeywell (which had acquired Bull in the interim) and CII. Pierre Audoin fundamentally disagreed with this move, leaving the Plan Calcul and, a few months later, creating Pierre Audoin Conseil (PAC), later renamed Pierre Audoin Consultants.
From then on, PAC become the vehicle for Pierre Audoin's prescient vision. The company and its strategy was built upon 2 key principles (written in 1975):
- Networks will play a fundamental role in the future,
- The services and software industries will become dominant industries (NB: at the time, Microsoft had only just been created and the largest services company had just 1000 employees).
Under Pierre’s leadership, an initially small team led PAC on an epic journey that can be broken down into several key eras:
From 1976 to 1983: PAC actively contributed to public initiatives
Amongst other things, it produced the Nora-Minc report on the computerisation of the French society, created the Agence de l’Informatique (French government IT agency) and launched the Transpac and Minitel networks. Post-1981, it helped to restructure the IT and electronic components industries following their nationalisation.
From 1984 to 1991: Expansion into IT services
This era was characterised by the explosion of the IT Services market. In France, companies were seeing rapid growth. These included Capgemini (a consultancy client of PAC's since the early days), Unilog and Sopra, as well as subsidiaries of large groups launching themselves onto the scene: CEA, Thomson-CSF, France Telecom, Société Générale, Crédit Lyonnais, the list goes on… Pierre Audoin and his team contributed their hard-won expertise to the development of these new business models, publishing the first ever studies on these markets in France .
From 1992 to 1998: International expansion
The majority of PAC's IT Services clients were ramping up development in Europe in order to assert their leadership, with Capgemini notably dealing on a strategic agreement with Daimler Benz. This new Franco-German collaboration was a stated PAC goal, and one which Pierre Audoin felt passionately about achieving. A few years later, Germany had become a benchmark market for PAC, which had successfully exported its leadership in its field of expertise to this new region. At the same time, PAC was developing SITSI, its major study programme for IT Services markets. SITSI was the first global study in this sector ever produced in Europe, and served as a reference for 90% of the world’s top 20 companies.
From 1999 to 2007: The internet, globalisation, and the evolution of PAC governance
Despite the bursting of the dot-com bubble in the early 2000s, the internet was fast becoming a vehicle for much profound transformation. Pierre Audoin’s prediction from the 1970s was coming true, and it was influencing the strategies and needs of PAC's clients. New services emerged and the industrialisation of the IT services sector was top of the agenda in an attempt to compete with the rapid growth of Indian IT services. During this period PAC diversified its portfolio, developing a presence in the UK and Eastern Europe, among other places. Pierre Audoin also reorganised the company’s governance structure by leaving his operational responsibilities and taking on the role of President of the Supervisory Board .
From 2008 to 2014: The financial crash and the strategic CXP/PAC alliance
The IT Services sector was badly hit by the 2008-11 financial crash. For the first time in its history, the market was in decline for 3 years, not fully recovering until 2013-14. The rapid growth of ‘digital transformation’ drove PAC to expand its business activities and prioritise new booming market segments: cloud computing, cyber security, analytics, etc. In 2014, Pierre Audoin made his last strategic decision: a merger with CXP Group, in the mutual interests of complementarity and continuity. It was in this context that Pierre sold his shares and left his duties within the company and the new group.
1960-2014: Pierre Audoin has forged a remarkable path over his 55 years at the heart of digital's epic journey He spent 15 years as a key actor in government strategy and over 40 years as a consultant to French industry, most notably to the IT services sector. Pierre can be extremely proud of his contribution to the remarkable success of this industry, and particularly (although not only!) that of his closefriend Serge Kampf's company (CapGemini).
Pierre, your past and present collaborators, fellow travellers, and of course, your clients and partners, would like to say: THANK YOU AND FAREWELL.
15 January 2018
Former Managing Director then chairman of the Board of Directors at PAC (1977/2014)
Deputy Managing Director of CXP Group