Global CIO Willem Eelman is at the centre of a transformation in business focus at consumer goods manufacturer Unilever, famous for PG Tips tea, Persil washing powder and Bertolli olive oil. The company is transforming its supply chain into a demand-driven value chain that shifts the corporate focus away from how many units of product can it sell to retailers and instead focuses on the end customer.

“It is more important to have your stock out there than to try to reduce distribution costs,” said Unilever's chief supply chain officer, Pier Luigi Sigismondi.

CIO Eelman is delivering a data strategy to provide Unilever with product on shop shelves data, which will reduce manufacturing wastage and therefore increase profitability for the rivals to Proctor & Gamble. Terra Technology and Capgemini have been selected by the CIO as partners in this strategy. Terra Technology is providing demand-sensing software into the supply chain.

Capgemini recently secured a three-year deal with Unilever to provide a business intelligence platform across the global company. The Enterprise Data Warehouse will provide Unilever with real-time data on customers, markets and its operations and will migrate Unilever off its legacy data warehouses. Capgemini will develop new data-mining and analytics tools.

“This programme is one of our top strategic initiatives, not just for IT but for the Unilever business worldwide. It will transform the way our businesses around the world access and use information, bringing enhanced insight and consistency,” CIO Eelman said.

A factor behind Eelman’s strategy is the stagnant markets in Europe and the US, Unilever chief executive Paul Polman believes there will be no growth in these markets for a decade. Instead Unilever will focus on developing markets and expects 75 per cent of its turnover to come from emerging markets in 10 years-time.

Ade McCormack and Mike Altendorf of the CIO 100 panel have both had insights into the Unilever CIO’s strategy and felt that although it is early days for the strategy, its transformative vision guaranteed Eelman and Unilever a place in the top 20.

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