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At the Core of Continuous Improvement Processes - By : Substance,

At the Core of Continuous Improvement Processes


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Talk for just a few minutes with Francis Bordeleau and you will understand how process improvement is central to his quest both as a researcher. In fact, the software engineering and IT professor views large parts of our society through this lens.

“I’ve always been more interested in the process than the outcome,” says the director of the Kaloom-TELUS Industrial Research Chair, seeks to increase the efficiency of software processes, particularly by facilitating the implementation of the DevOps methodology.

The “process” is what has guided his research work. “Digital transformation—and the recent pandemic—has highlighted a growing need for business agility in reviewing and adapting processes to meet new demands. And there is no set path to adjusting to these changes.”

The way forward lies partly in continuous improvement through automation. “What used to take weeks of staff time now only takes minutes, freeing up ‘humans’ to focus on creative or value-added tasks.”

A Career “Process”

Francis Bordeleau, professor in the Software and Information Technologies Engineering Department at ÉTS

Francis Bordeleau, professor in the Software and Information Technologies Engineering Department at ÉTS

Based on a continuous improvement approach, he reflects on his career as a series of enriching experiences that he chose as the doors opened before him. “You arrive at a crossroads, you assess the impacts, you take a left or a right, but most importantly, you make sure that you learn from the path you have chosen!”

A path, for Francis Bordeleau, that is far from linear, just as he likes it. He first held teaching positions in universities (UQO and Carleton), then worked at Nortel and Eriksson, among others, to create software modeling tools, and he even founded a company that he sold a few years ago. He returned to university teaching in 2018, this time at ÉTS, and continues to interact with international companies.

This dual industry-university route has led him to establish ties that have become familiar over years of collaboration. “If we want a company to get involved in our work, our objective should not be to publish scientific papers. The same goes for companies: they should not think that universities will develop products for them.”

He is not crazy about the strong tendency to emphasize publications as a measure for accomplishments. To him, research is a fascinating process of thinking and structuring ideas. “Even the daunting level of administrative work helps us in this process by forcing us to define all the aspects of our project!”

Youth, Passion, and Humility

This is where he feels that a researcher must be humble. “It starts with recognizing the importance of the youth perspective in moving our processes forward. With their knowledge of gaming and other applications, they are sometimes one step ahead of the researchers.”

He wants to get students to work in a collaborative environment where they can bring real value to the improvements of organizations. “We’re not here to solve organizations’ problems, but to help them solve them.”

Humility is also a factor in the researchers’ work, which he describes as contributing and, yes, as being part of a continuous process of interactions. “Science does not tell us what to do, it provides researchers who work on projects, who think and provide information to help in the decision-making process for governments, businesses, and citizens.”

As this software engineering specialist likes to say: “Success is not binary!”


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