INSEAD Participant Interview

Building Digital Partnerships and Ecosystems: “A checklist for success”

Ingrid Christolomme

Ingrid Christolomme came to INSEAD looking to update her knowledge on technology and gain insight into building digital ecosystems. She came away with a comprehensive checklist on what to do – and the pitfalls – to avoid to drive transformation.

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Leading marketing and product management efforts at a large public transport provider comes with significant challenges in an era marked by digital disruption and change.

Just ask Ingrid Christolomme.

Marketing and product management director with Geneva Public Transport (TPG), Christolomme is well versed in negotiating uncertainty. She understands the need for agility to adapt to evolving customer demands. And over the course of an international career that has spanned data mining, B2C marketing and operations, in organisations as diverse as TPG and RELX Group, she has developed the skills and frameworks to know when to pivot and change course as things change.

Christolomme also understands the need to build new knowledge and skills when new challenges appear on the horizon. And It’s this understanding that brought her to the INSEAD Building Digital Partnerships and Ecosystems (BDPE) programme in 2019.

“As an organisation, TPG is at an inflection point. We are aware of the need to build digital solutions in public transport, but it is not our aim or remit  to develop platforms for things like car or bike-sharing in-house. So the future is building partnerships and alliances to develop these complementary services, and to find  the right partners with the agility and freshness of mindset to drive differentiation,” she says.

With the marketing function within TPG shifting in orientation from service to strategy, and charged with setting the tone on the company’s future in digital partnerships, Christolomme acknowledges that she found herself in “unknown territory.”

“This was all new to me. And I knew I needed to find a learning solution that would not only help me update my understanding of digital innovation, and transport technology in particular – but also empower me to build the right strategic framework and digital ecosystem for my organisation. The BDPE programme struck me as being able to offer it all: real insight into the who, what and how of digital partnerships to guarantee success. And a checklist of what to do and which pitfalls to avoid.”

While she was confident that INSEAD as a school had the innovation credentials and faculty expertise to deliver the kind of learning she needed, Christolomme says that she felt some initial reservations about the online format of the programme – concerns that were very quickly allayed.

“Before I started the BDPE I wasn’t sure how the programme was going to deliver the kind of interactive dynamic I was looking for. But in fact, exchanging with my peers and with faculty was incredibly easy.”

She also found the programme structure expertly geared to drive progressive learning. “I loved the way classes were segmented around clear building blocks. The entire programme was organised around logical progression, integrating theory with practical and highly applicable tools and the key things to take into consideration in order to succeed.”

Being a “non-techie,” she also appreciated the clarity of the content and how INSEAD faculty were able to transform complex topics into ideas that were both easy to grasp and to apply.

In particular, Christolomme got a lot out of her  Action Learning Project (ALP) – a systematic, weekly hands-on learning and applying dynamic focused on real-life business challenges.

“The Action Learning Project really allowed me to use the programme to think about the different ways as an organisation we could embrace digital transformation. Every week I stopped and reviewed new ideas and concepts I was learning. TPG is a public organisation, but we still need to demonstrate growth and drive market share in mobility. The ALP really helped me to think about new aspects of this every week, and to decide which kinds of technologies and partnerships we need to develop to create the ecosystem we need in order to deliver our vision.”

The impact of the programme has been as immediate as it is tangible, says Christolomme. She has come away with the understanding, resources and a “common language” that is not only helping her build a strategy that transcends marketing – as she was charged to do – but to share a “common vision” of how to lead transformation across the organisation.

“The BPDE has had direct and massive impact on the way I work and on my ability to inspire other departments. We’re really on track in terms of vision, in terms of alignment and in terms of how we need to change our way of being to drive real transformation through partnerships. It’s been game-changing for me.”


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