Filippo Passerini, CIO and group president of global business services at consumer packaged goods giant Procter and Gamble (P&G), has a clear set of business priorities he wants to address. But one underpins most of the others: the sharpening of P&G’s critical capabilities in business intelligence (BI).
After one of its regular assessments of which of the most important changes in technology the company could most potentially benefit from, Passerini and his team say they came up with the insight that BI will be critically important, so is now investing heavily in analytics.
As a result, P&G’s leadership is benefitting from provision of real-time data feeds. Most managers now have a “cockpit” on their computer screen showing all the relevant data for their area of responsibility – from sales figures to internal news.
“We now have visual environments where we have the ability to see trends and get alerts,” says Passerini. “This way, we can manage by exception and eliminate all the redundant information that slows down the decision-making process.” By this, Passerini means that any data matching management forecasts and expectations can be passed over, allowing decision-makers to focus on areas that are over- or under-performing and so require the most attention. “This is transforming the way we do business,” he says.
And nothing shows that better than what he does every Monday morning at 8am when all the company’s senior executives gather. Some members of the group sit down together at the consumer packaged goods giant’s Cincinnati, Ohio headquarters, while others join from around the globe via telepresence videoconferencing. Wherever they are, they all have exactly the same set of business information in front of them – a dashboard populated with data in real time from all around the organization, which allows them to make rapid, well-informed decisions regarding the weeks and months ahead.
This weekly meeting is phenomenally productive. Instead of having to get to grips with the information before them and discuss which data sets are most current or significant, the leadership team members can spend all of their valuable time focusing on quickly identified problem areas and working on planning and strategy. And it’s not just the highest echelon of P&G’s management that operates in this way; having a consistent set of accurate, real-time data – a single, up-to-date source of the truth – is seen as essential throughout the entire $83 billion multinational business, allowing rapid and high-quality decision-making in the 80 countries in which P&G operates.
This is just one example of the way P&G has transformed itself in recent years to become – among other things – more agile and more responsive to market trends. Such business benefits would not, of course, be possible without the ubiquitous provisioning of effective digital technology.
Aligned with business priorities
But such transformation is not without its challenges. The two key hurdles that Passerini says are next in line are the sheer size of the business and the volumes of data it has to deal with and ensuring the culture of the business stays aligned to its changing priorities.
The two, however, are closely entwined. The company is in the midst of making P&G a flatter, leaner organization – and the way P&G’s management information has been digitized and made accessible internally has facilitated this. For example, there are now 15% fewer vice presidents and 15% fewer directors – and the number of management layers (from the bottom of the organization to the CEO) have been reduced from seven to five, for example.
Passerini points towards the convergence of consumer and enterprise technology as another of the shifts the company is following. “This has led us to reinvent the way we operate with our users,” he says. By applying to its global workforce the company’s tried-and-tested segmentation techniques it has used for decades to understand its customers better, it has been able to divide users into segments in order to identify their IT needs. They are therefore equipped with systems – laptops, iPads, iPhones, BlackBerrys or whatever device most suits their role – on which they can run the company’s globally-consistent applications.
When it comes to helping people to adopt such different ways of working, Passerini’s solution has been simple. “We try to avoid mandates,” he says. “Instead, if the quality of the solutions we implement is strong enough, then people will want to adopt them; they should be so compelling from a business standpoint, combined with attractive technology, that people will want to follow.” Visual charts and color-coded alerts, for example, form a major element of the management dashboards.
This approach also extends to consumerization and collaboration. “We are pushing the envelope significantly on pervasive video collaboration,” says Passerini. “So we have, pretty much, the ability to collaborate by video any time, any place.”
This includes the ambition to support mobile videoconferencing. “In a company like P&G, where you have teams spread out worldwide, it is essential to be able to get together on the fly,” he says.