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Interview with Michel Alsemgeest, CDIO: Chief Digital & Information Officer, LeasePlan

“Global transformation requires the courage to optimise your entire business from A-Z”

Bram Tijsseling and Stijn van de Laar interview CDIO: Chief Digital & Information Officer, Michel Alsemgeest, from LeasePlan about their work around digital transformation.

Bram & Stijn: What exactly does the digital transformation at LeasePlan entail?

Michel: “Leaseplan is transforming towards a global platform. To do this, you have to be willing to optimise a business from A to Z. This requires us to anticipate the latest trends; There is a shift from ownership to usership. 

Subscription models are 'hot' and our leasing model fits into this perfectly. There also is a major shift towards electric driving. The car becomes in fact also a driving battery and can serve in the future for example as an energy storage point, which can generate new business models as well; think of battery maintenance. Our drive is to establish a global platform and digital business to support our growth strategy and generate digital services with digital cost levels. Also, Internationalisation and the increasing regulation require a consistent approach, triggering the need for digitisation as well.“

How did you achieve this?

“To implement a digital transformation successfully, the prerequisite is that everyone starts working in the same way. To this end, we standardised all business processes. These are now recorded in the blueprint 'Next Gen LeasePlan'; A customer catalogue in which all products and services are harmonised so this can be facilitated by the underlying standardised global processes. This is how we discovered that we sell as many as 1,500 products and services defined at the lowest detailed level! The digital platform creates huge potential, we are gearing up for exponential growth. Currently, nearly 2 million cars are leased. There is potential for so much more in the coming years.”

What are you most proud of?

“The growth ambition of our company.

Think big and act very concretely is a mindset we all have here.

For a transformation of this size to succeed, it really takes leadership and commitment to win. It takes courage to do that.”

What are the steps you will take next?

“We want to have the platform, the full digital business model up and running as soon as possible for our three biggest markets. Apart from leasing, the platform offers many other possibilities that we want to leverage and are able to deliver by then globally; As you can imagine the market potential is enormous.”

How do you lead a transformation from a leadership perspective?

“A digital transformation requires a lot from the Managing Board and the Executive Committee. It takes time to get the knowledge level of the entire board and whole company up to par, which is also logical. You have to take that time, prepare the content well and then communicate it very consistently. Education and repetition and be open to be challenged and make it even better together are the keywords.”

How do you get people on board and how do you deal with resistance?

“I think the CEO has an important role to play. That is where it starts, at board level. These are the people who need to and can drive the story where in the end the CEO and I, as CDIO should ultimately take a step back, so that others start to spread the story. Through this pace and lead, movement is created that is needed for such a big transformation. This follows a pattern: first inform to create awareness, then give space for acceptance and real internalisation.”

What tips do you have for other CIO’s leading a transformation and dealing with 'legacy'?

“Active listening and transparency are essential skills one must apply. It is important to give everyone space to speak up, to learn and to challenge. This triggers the process from awareness to internalisation. Management can dream that story, but that does not lift the story off the ground.

In such a large company, it only really comes to life when people start seeing it as their own story, feeling that they almost invented it themselves.

Then they start claiming the story and the successes that comes with it.”

How do you see the role of the Supervisory Board?

“They have the important task of creating an atmosphere in which anything can be asked; one of complete transparency. New software is a long-term investment for the next 10 years. As a Supervisory Board, you have an obligation to set up a separate committee for this. Therefore at LeasePlan we created a digital committee. This follows all developments closely and leads to the right governance questions from a Business, Management and Risk perspective.”

How can the supervisory board add even more value?

“If you truly want to understand technology, software and hardware, digital change you have to dare to look under the surface. Continuously ask yourself: 'How can we demonstrate that Technology is made with the right underlying design?’. That is a process, and it took us two years to grow into it. It is essential to ask the right questions, which creates mature conversations and a sustainable digital business model.“

To find out more about how Odgers Berndtson can help with digital transformation, get in touch with Bram Tijsseling or Stijn van de Laar, contact us here, or your local Odgers Berndtson contact.

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