From Google to Unilever: A digital journey to the other end
According to Patrick van Balkom, Unilever’s Integrated Operations Director, the success of companies such as Alibaba and Amazon boil down to their tracking habits: They follow the customer, not the product.
‘Alibaba looks first at the Why and then the How and finally, they look at the What,’ he says. ‘At Unilever, we only follow the product, not the customer. If I do not have data on the how and why, it is like forecasting with blinders on. Great companies start from the inside out.’
In order to unlock the digital revolution, Unilever took direction from Google Maps. The three things Unilever learned? Own the End2End journey (integrated operations gave End2End ownership to forecasting and innovation delivery, amongst other things), track movements and engage autopilot. In short: Learn, automate, improve. And then repeat.
The challenge for van Balkom became convincing his salespeople to make the transition to customer-based tracking instead of product tracking. ‘It helps’, he says, ‘that we are all expert trackers, using our mobile devices to track our heartrate, our friends, our photos.’ ‘Start small, he advises, ‘and bring along those who are most interested in change first.’ Processes only change as fast as people change. And like Google Maps, do not tell people how to get somewhere, but empower them to get there.
‘We have just started our map journey,’ says van Balkom. ‘But we are unlocking the digital revolution in our operations on a road well-travelled.’