Three years ago, Unilever was suffering on two fronts: a soft top line and an elevated cost structure. The company made a radical choice to embark on a total transformation program, emphasizing an approach it dubbed “One Unilever.” Throughout Europe, the organization strove to achieve a single ERP platform, a common European supply chain, and a number of outsourcing initiatives in IT, HR, and finance that would unify the firm’s many iterations across international borders and myriad cultures.
According to Jean Stephane Payraudeau, director and F&A outsourcing senior project executive for IBM ’s Unilever EMEA account, “It was a radical transformation from the Unilever Europe point of view. Unilever needed external help to execute the changes. By enabling people to focus on core business, they were releasing their energies there, exercising their real expertise, and leveraging the scale of outsourcing vendors.” And because the company wanted to achieve a turnaround on the grand scale in a very short timeframe, outsourcing seemed the obvious solution.
Gijsbert De-Zoeten, Unilever’s managing director for Unilever finance business services – Europe, said the real story had three programs for the three different business units of Unilever Europe in every country—food, home, and personal care—all moving toward a single, cohesive operating unit.
“In the European region, Unilever Europe operated as a loose federation of countries,” De-Zoeten said. “We wanted to integrate them into one European organization, whether it was for the supply chain or sales and marketing, but we needed to implement the systems to enable that. At the heart of the program is an SAP standardized platform we rolled out, as well as common systems in finance and HR.”
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