Unilever is an Anglo–Dutch multinational consumer goods company, with co-headquarters in London and Rotterdam. Its products include foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. It is the world's third-largest consumer goods company measured by 2012 revenue and the world's largest maker of ice cream.
Owning 400 brands available in 190 countries and a dual-listed company consisting of Unilever NV, based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Unilever PLC, based in London, United Kingdom. Both companies have the same directors and they operate as a single business.
Former CFO Willem Eelman was appointed CIO in April 2010 with a remit of bringing the business closer to technology, and IT closer to the business, and recognised for his achievements in last year's CIO 100.
When did you start your current role?
Have you completed an MBA?
Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:
1. Peer group
Technology strategy and spending
What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
A rebalancing of IT to strike a balance between exploiting Technology to drive competitive advantage in our business whilst at the same time drive effeciency in the core of out IT landscapes.
Overall we are driving a Digital agenda jointly with the Chief Marketing Officer, the Chief Customer Officer and the Chief Supply Chain officer as key allies in the top leadership.
What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
At four key levels:
Allowing our brands to build a much deeper relatoinship with our consumers and drive innovation;
Connecting seamless with our customers and creating an integrated supplly chain to support our brands in the market place with excellence in customer service and availability on shelf (perfrect store / shelf initiative);
Enable continous improvement, both by delivering cost leverage of direct IT costs but also by sweating the large investment in core ERP capabilities to drive effeciency and organisational effectiveness;
Driving the people agenda, embracing agile working, collaboration both within the organisation and with partners.
What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
The creation of collaboration assets in marketing and a 'marketing clould' jointly with SalesForce.
Continue to build on a key big data capability joint with Teradata and a number of other partners.
Name your strategic technology suppliers?
SAP; SalesForce; Teradata / BI partners.
What is the IT budget?
Euro 1,1 bn OPEX and 0.3bn in Capex.
How much is the IT operational spend compared to the revenue or company turnover as a percentage?
1.85% of revenue.
What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Land game changing innovation with focus on Consumer and Customer effectiveness.
Sweat the large investment in core system capabilities (read ERP);
Drive resilience and performance of core systems;
Continue to invest in big data and analytics.
Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
The CIO works closely with key functions and markets to drive the delivery of the overall Unilever strategy. This is about exploiting technology to drive competitive advantages in Customer, Marketing and an integrated value chain, but also in driving out cost as part of IT's contribution to the virtuous circle of growth which is core to Unilevers financial model.
Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
a. Move away from a geography based model for IT to a functional model on a global scale. This included an allignment of the IT engagement (business partnering) with the core business functions and entailed the creation of roles (and teams) such as IT for Marketing, IT for Custmer and Customer Service and IT for Business Intelligence.
b. Introduce an IT governance model that involves key senior stakeholders on a quarterly basis to ensure alignment of the IT investments, on a multi year basis, with overall company strategy. This involves key stakeholders such as the CMO, CFO, HR, Supply Chain and Customer.
c. A decisive move of our resource with the creation of a captive IT and services center in Bangalore India with co-location with key vendors. This allows us to exploit the india vendor base, has driven proxitmity to Developing and emerging markets and created an affordible service and innovation capability.
Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
IT is fully embedded in the business and the key business initiatives so hard to start to list them all. Many examples of this have been given in the answers above.
What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
Cloud (including SalesForce, Amazon Web Services);
Big data (Teradata / Hadoop).
What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
Depends on area of the business. In Marketing we mostly rely on cloud to provide digital solutions exploiting a Unilever platform and a hosting arrangement with AWS. In other parts of the business we have a combination from on premise, in particular in core ERP but reliance on third parties and SaaS for many of our services (for example: Finance, HR).
How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?
The biggest impact is the expectation that this is creating with regards to speed of innovation, user experience all at lower cost. This is driving a need to change the operating models in IT with examples the fast provisioning of infrastructure both through cloud and 'private cloud' capabilities. Agile development is gradually replacing classical 'waterfall' but we still have some way to go. Other examples are how they have 'forced' us to embrace enterprise social media, we implemented Chatter across the full enterprise with 100,000 users now activated.
Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
BYOD has been implemented for smart phones and tablets (but mandates compliance as the devices are managed in a corporate MDM solution). We have experimented with BOYD for laptops but have found it difficult to truly embrace this in an estate which is mostly based on Microsoft solutions. We are currently again reviewing this.
Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
Engagement with peers and non IT forums.
The CIO role in the business
Who do you report to?
Do you have a seat on the board?
How often do you meet with the CEO?
Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
No formal 'chief digital officer', a number of C-suite members are technology savvy and are pushing the digital agenda, in particular the Chief Marketing Officer.
What percentage of IT budget do you control and what percentage of IT budget does your digital peer hold?
The IT department
How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
1,700 internal staff; a multiple of this including third parties.
Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
All direct reports to the CIO are 'Vice Presidents'. The roles are: VP for Marketing, Customer and R&D; VP for Operations; VP for Business Intelligence; VP for Enterprise Solutions (core landscapes and ERP); VP for Infrastructure and network; VP CTO; VP for Employee Services (everything that impacts end users from a technology point of view, including collaboration, video, mobile, desk / laptop and the helpdesk.)
And how many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
What is the primary technology platform? ( for example ERP, Website, trading system)