CIO Osman Enaam shares Reckitt Benckiser’s cognitive automation journey.
Editor’s note: This video and transcript is from an excerpt from a BearingPoint Seminar.
Just to start, could you please introduce to us Reckitt Benckiser and also the cognitive automation journey you've been on so far.
Thanks a lot. Thanks for having me. Yes. Sure. Why not? To start off with, from an RB's a multinational consumers, good company behind a number of brands that you'll be aware of, such as Finnish, Dettol, Lysol, Calgon, Manish, and many more with more than 40,000 employees globally, it sells around 20 million products daily in approximately 190 countries. The organization is unified around a single purpose, which is to protect, heal, and nurture in the relentless pursuit of a cleaner and healthier world. And all employees in the company are living that purpose every day. And they are also inspired by a fight, a fight, which is defined as making excess to the highest quality hygiene, wellness, and nourishment, a right, and a lot [of] privilege. RB brands . . . And if willing to three main categories: hygiene, health, and nutrition, each is in [a] unique position to make a difference in the world together. They protect, heal and nurture individual families and communities to enable people to live cleaner and healthier lives through the products and educational initiatives that we have.
Okay. I did a little bit about the [cognitive automation] journey at RB. That really started in, in a very close collaboration with executive members in the company and the hygiene business unit back in 2018 or so. And we all sat together and agreed on a strategy on how we really now take the organization towards more data-driven decision-making? Enabled RB to become a more simpler and faster organization. And we believe that automation and cognitive automation can play a significant role in that. That journey did not start with too many things in mind. We selected as a part of [a] big brainstorming exercise, two or three main areas where we would like to start our test and learn journey so that we can really have a clarity around how do we really take this phenomenon, build the capabilities around it and demonstrate the value that can come with it.
And those were the areas and the areas that we selected were around supply chain. So how do we really take organization towards predicting and forecasting supply chain products for one year through technology? So instead of going through your very traditional way of forecasting, could we do this where technology, whether you just have a record output that shows this should be your volume forecast within your supply chain. That can be done at the customer level, could be done at shipment level, et cetera. Then there was another use case that we looked at around the revenue generation. How do we really identify the opportunities in the areas of sales, promo, pricing opportunities. The premise was all around to really, how do you enhance the ROI and what type of capabilities we will need from a data analytics and automation point of view, to drive the value generation agenda, using these to me, main key use cases.
Great. So far in your journey, could you share with us, which are the key tangible benefits you've been seeing so far?
So for us, it all started with, with the, you know, the benefit in mind and we sat and we looked at how do you really create a use case, which is linked to a value proposition? So there were three things that we wanted to do. What we wanted to do were to drive the revenue, obviously the incremental revenue coming to the use cases, which are very much measurable to the main KPIs, which are linked to you either from a, for example, from a supply chain point of view, which are clearly linked to your inventory optimization, having the right products at the right time at the right place is, and if you can do that in a faster way, in a, in a more accurate way, you can clearly, link the value that can come to the business from an incrementality point of view.
But we also had a vision in mind, which is how do you really do that by bringing simplification and automation in the company. As we just saw a few minutes ago through the platform demo, the platforms like Aera can actually demonstrate very clearly now to the organization, a new way of doing things that we didn't think was possible by using technology. But this just does, as we all know, this does take time. It's not like you will turn on the switch and then these things will start to happen. So the things which are super important to be mindful of which worked for us as well, they're having those small milestones and clarity in mind what we were going after really helped us to ensure that we were meeting our short-term goals towards a bigger picture.
Okay. I'm assuming, and I know of course that during 2020 also had a very turbulent year. You may have had the opposite problem as some other people, but could you please explain to us how Aera and the cognitive automation supported you during these let's say turbulent times.
Yeah. I mean, you know, it's been a year, which many words have been associated [with] this year for us. It's also been a very different and a unique year. In many ways you're right in saying that the business, the product demand were huge. We could not, you know, meet the demand even until now in, in our main categories in the companies, in the countries that we exist. So from that point of view, obviously a lot of positivity, but you can clearly also understand that also adds a lot of burden and pressure on the organization. Things that we were doing in, you know, in weeks or months, we had to think about how do we do them in days and in hours, and be able to respond. Customers were reaching out. And they're still reaching out to us requesting information, more clarity.
So hence the need for our areas, such as supply chain, IT organization as well. How do we respond quicker to some of these challenges? How do we make sure that the products are really manufactured in a timely manner and supply to the ETD, to the customers? So supply chain organization really rose to the occasion and they did a phenomenal job, same as a lot of other functions.
But for us, since we had started this journey, luckily back in 2018, we were in a much better position to be able to adjust our decision-making processes. We had a lot of data visibility integration with a lot of system[s] that allowed our key markets, such as [the] US, which had a huge demand. I mean, lifestyle is one of the biggest brands in that country and globally as well. As an organization, I believed we were able to respond a bit more efficiently and productive[ly] in the end platforms. Like Aera helped us significantly in that, because we were able to have visibility and that we could provide to the business that really enabled us to make the right decisions at the right time.
Okay. And in your journey, because obviously I think scope and, and whatever you use the platform for is increasing. What's your vision towards the future? How do you see this evolving?
Yeah, I think for us, the vision is clear as like I said, we have obviously a data analytics, revenue generation agenda, simplification agenda, enhanced productivity agenda. So that is very clear for us. And I see that when we started, we looked very much internally. Which is the right thing to do, thinking about how do we identify the opportunities to become a more efficient organization, more productive organization, and how can technology help with it.
So that hasn't changed, but what I think we will be heading towards sooner, and the business has already started to ask for these things, how do we take this to our customer? How do we use this technology to build a bridge with the customer and to drive the decisions which created a win-win opportunity for both our customers, as well as our internal stakeholders. So taking sales as an example, how do you now, if you have promotion plans, if you have the pricing opportunities, if you think about more category lens, rather than just RB brand lens, how can the technology like this by having the right data, you can sit down and do your reviews with your customers and identify those opportunities, which we were not able to do.
And we still can't do, but that's where we want to take it as more and more we are becoming data rich, our ability to process this data, understand this data and drive those decisions. We want to now look at it from a very different lens with the customers and to the university at the heart of it. And that's where we want to be going. And we want to be going there fast.
Okay. Do your customers already, are they aware that you changed your platforms that you have now, new capabilities? Do they really see the results already, or is that something for the future?
That is still something for the future, but not too far in the future. What we are making sure that we meet our internal aspirations first, like I said, you have to make sure that you meet your shorter term goals and you continue to build against that journey in the time that you have set yourself for, but then that's where the conversations now will start to happen very soon with the selective customer in selective markets. But as you know, this is the journey and the organization still is going through the huge change as a result of some of these things that we do. And we believe that will be the next step that we do. But we also are very conscious of the fact that we want to make sure that we are walking first, before we start running.
No, that's clear. And just building on what you just said, just a final question. Would you have some advice for the audience on if they want to go on such a journey, how to start, what to do, how to scale, maybe what not to do from your experience? I think that will be very, very interesting.
Yeah. It's great that I've been part of it since the beginning [of] this journey. And if I look back and I think one of the things that we should always have in mind [is] that you got to have a strategy, it all starts with the strategy and the strategy can't be just a strategy of a function like IT. I think the strategy has to be very much business focused and there has to be very strong alignment with your key stakeholders with that, because that does help you significantly longer term and during your journey as well, to kick off some of these things, to prioritize some of these things. But more importantly, when you realize there are all of these things, which require a lot of change management in the business, these are the things which are required in many ways, transformation in existing ways of working.
It is. I think I feel now a bit more confident in saying that the technology is catching up really, really fast, right? The business is the mindset of the people. It's about making sure you have the right stakeholders at the right time, along with you throughout the journey, because things will go wrong, right? It's not going to be hunky-dory, things will go wrong. You will need a continuous collaboration with the business. But then there's also an additional element that if depending on the maturity you have in your organization, you may also require an outside in help because you will be venturing into some of these areas where you thought you may know a lot of these things, but again, you may be able to get some domain knowledge in this space from independent partners, technology providers are one, but consulting company is another one where this can help your knowledge and help you clarify strategy and lock it in a bit better way.
This is something that I find has had a lot of value to it as well, which if I look back, we did not do as well, but throughout our journey we realize that this is something that can also significantly help you in driving this agenda forward. And then less is more in my opinion. So we don't need to have too many use cases because yes, we all would love to change the world, but this has to be done in a way, which is a very much a few use cases, but really impactful use cases, have a clear view on how you're going to go about them. What are you trying to achieve? How are you going to measure them? These are simple things, but when you're venturing into new things, it's very easy to get distracted.
We can have a lot of ideas when you do these brainstorming sessions. So your ability to stay focused with [a] few things and make them bigger. I think [it] will generate a lot of traction in the business as well as helps you also deliver and stay focused. So I wouldn't try to do too many things. I would start small, but build incrementally, but have a big vision. I mean, you have to make sure that these things will require a lot of change in the organization eventually, depending on your use case. It will require investment, will require people learning new ways, so it is going to be all of these impacts that will happen. And hence stay focused, start small, and then build on top.
Okay. Thank you. Thank you very much. That was extremely helpful. I think, to understand how you, how you went through it and how you're still going through it actually.
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