How Mondelez International’s Global Business Services Achieved Excellence in Automation

Caroline Basyn is the Senior Vice President of Mondelez Business Services at Mondelez International. At the time of last years awards, Caroline had joined the company three and a half years prior with the mission of building global business services from scratch. Here she provides an insight into the story of Mondelez Business Services and how they won the award for Excellence in Automation. Watch or read the interview below:

Caroline Basyn (CB): When we started, we had literally zero people in the organisation. I started on my own and, bit by bit tried to attract people from within Mondelez to join alongside those from outside of the business. We created a good match of people that had internal expertise of the business and its different functions alongside those who came in with expertise on shared services.

SSOW: You decided to launch immediately with GBS, how did you make the decision?

CB: The decision was very simple for the company. At that point in time, Mondelez was struggling to get the growth that they wanted to provide to the shareholders. So it began to question how we can improve the margins. One of the ways to do this was to review the organisation’s design and leverage the capabilities that typically global business services provides in terms of savings from labour arbitrage and productivity.

The productivity savings come from a couple of components: (1.) Leveraging scale, because you get the smallest country, like Nigeria, and do business for them next to the biggest country like the US, so you try to leverage that scale. (2.) At the same time, as you centralise everything, you have good visibility of how you can simplify and standardise the processes. (3.) the third one was how do we automate? How do we digitise? How do we take benefits of technology going anywhere from invoicing, EDI, to what I call sexy part which is robotics and artificial intelligence.

SSOW: Could you go into each of those three and give a short summary of the thinking behind them?

CB: So with the automation aspect, before the global business services organisation was organised and was centralised, it was very difficult for some markets to justify investments into certain technology and find the benefits of investing that technology 

Due to the fact that we assembled everything together and that the leverage and business benefit of implementing certain technology would have different scales, it was easier to justify those investments. It’s also easier for the GBS to benefit while you implement that from the standardisation component because the more you drive standardisation, the easier it is to drive digitisation as well. And then the scale comes naturally.

An example I can give you, if you go to India, to our delivery centre in Noida, you can go to a big floor where we have all operations and what we do in each market. You can see labels on the top of the floor: There is Belgium, the US, Venezuela and more. But, in reality, regardless of the location, you have the same processes. So, instead of continuing to deliver the processes by market, we started to deliver the processes by subject area. For example, you have now one corner with fixed assets, another corner with inter-company billing and another to do the journal entries. That’s the way that you leverage scale - by transforming from a market-driven process to a subject matter expertise process.

SSOW: What does your global operating model look like in terms of the actual locations and how did you decide where to set them up?

CB: That’s an interesting question. Our global operating model is a three-tier model. We have people in what we call ‘on-shore’, so close to the front office, either in a manufacturing site or in headquarters. We have people in what we call ‘middle offices’ that are, let’s say, in a lower cost location but in the same time zone, can speak the different languages that we have in that time zone and can understand the legal framework. Then we have the third tier, which is radically offshore, typically India or Manila, where we provide the services mostly in English and mostly in a different time zone to Europe or North America. 

To leverage that, we make sure that different procedures, in terms of how we handle the operations, work according to the same cookbook, as we call it. Officially we call it a handbook, and that handbook has ten chapters and every single delivery centre, whether it’s an internal delivery centre or an external one, or whether it’s somebody in our front offices, is leveraging those same chapters and same definitions of operations.

SSOW: What kind of people do you look for?

CB: It depends on which job, but if you take the majority of the leadership, I always look for three characteristics. One characteristic is pure leadership. What is the kind of drive? What is the kind of communication? What is the kind of project management? What are the leadership capabilities? One of the leadership characteristics we were looking for is entrepreneurship. This was obviously very much needed as well as people who were ready to take some risks, and people who were ready to invent the new way of doing, because within Mondelez it was not that way. 

The second characteristic is that we want business leaders. We want people who have deep, functional expertise. So when we talk about finance, those people are coming from a deep finance background. When we’re talking about procurement, they’re coming from a deep procurement background. The same for marketing and I can go on for every single function. HR particularly as well. We want deep, functional expertise and people who understand those processes end to end.

Then the third characteristic is that we desired people who understand what it is to run shared services. And that expertise I needed to get outside Mondelez because we didn’t really have it inside. So we were looking for people who would come with integrated Lean Six Sigma skills, who would bring those skills of running big, large delivery centres, potentially having created them, and understand what it means to drive operational excellence as well as what it means to drive services that customers would love to adopt and would love to use. So, individuals who have the end-user or the end-customer in mind

What I would like to say is that the lead team that I have built bit by bit since I started this, is the best lead team I ever have had to manage in my whole career. Interestingly it’s also the most diverse lead team. From all parameters you can think about: geographic, religious, gender, subject matter expertise as well as age. I have millennials in my lead team as well as people with more than 25 years of experience, myself with more than 30 years of experience. We all work together and I think the collaboration between this group has been phenomenal and is one of the big reasons for our success.

SSOW: Why was automation the solution and what was the process to get where you are now?

CB: Interestingly, we started to do a lot of automation in our delivery centres, and we started to use a lot of robotics in our own scope within Mondelez Business Services and we got really great results. We were scratching our head and said: There is a lot of work that we did not move to our Mondelez Business Services, but there is still a lot of manual work that is done out there. Whether it’s in the supply chain organisation or the manufacturing organisation. Even in finance and some other organisations as well.

We asked: What is the model that we should put in place to help those organisations optimise without necessarily moving the work into MBS? So we came up with a solution that we called Robotisation as a Service. It is a deal that we closed with one of our partners that gives us a total solution. Its sometimes called it a ‘key on the door’ kind of solution that has the infrastructure, the software, the support of the robotisation solution and also the maintenance.

This solution is a fixed price for a fixed year, providing all those services but integrated. So the only thing we needed to do is go and identify the opportunities and then, if the opportunity exists, develop and build the solution. Then, in terms of running the solution, it would already be totally settled. The pricing would be settled, the service levels will be settled and the support will be settled. So, we started to deploy that with pretty much success, but to be honest with you, I am still looking for a more exponential growth going into the future.

We also set ourselves a target, which is a little bit a self-inflicted target, to say: Okay, let’s go after $10 million of savings just generated by this Robotisation as a Service. And so we’re in the middle of this journey. We have had a couple of early successes, but a lot more success is to come.

SSOW: How is scaling a challenge for you?

CB: If you have fragmented processes or processes that are not standardised, it’s very difficult to go for robotisation projects and leverage a big ROI out of it. So what is super important is that you understand very well what you can automate and then how you can re-apply it in an exponential factor from service to service or from organisation unit to organisation unit or country to country. So here the scale is not about doing the same thing at a large scale, but it’s doing the same thing repeatedly

SSOW: What does something like that do for your customer recognition?

CB: It’s a good question. I’m still looking at how to do the internal marketing of the early successes we’ve had, and so we’ll add this award to this whole marketing component. I think it recognises that it has value. It could also be an entry door with some top managers, to say: Hey guys, not only is this a good solution and we implemented it there, but this was recognised across a large industry set of peers and we won this award. So it will probably spark the interest and open the door to start with. But, knowing my company, we’ll need to continue to prove, to be able to deliver at the same time. The other thing it generates, it generates a lot of pride for our own organisation, and you may have seen that we have a people strategy, and that is very important. And that second pillar is the win pillar, and so in that win pillar we’re going to make sure that we blow it up and that we celebrate and that we make a lot of fuss about it so that people can be proud of what they have done. Because a lot of different people have contributed to this, from the moment of the idea up to the moment of building and then now supporting it

SSOW: What is your opinion of the European Shared Services and Outsourcing Week 2018?

CB: Just fantastic. I think it’s a terrific event. Its super well organised. The whole organisation of SSON is so friendly and so attentive to the details. There are some very high calibre speakers. I enjoyed listening to several of them. Nicola, who is my friend from P&G. Also Stephen from Akzo Nobel. Those were really high calibre people with really deep thinking.

The other thing I like is the booths, they are terrific. I like the interaction with the vendors who are providing solutions. Obviously, they’re here to sell, and we’re here to listen and understand and learn. They have a lot to teach us and the beauty is that you see that a lot of smaller companies are coming here to present some of their solutions. I think it’s wonderful because we need to listen to them, as they’re small today but they can be big tomorrow. 

I think companies like us need to be able to explore this and be a little bit more on the front end of how to adopt new technology. I must say the maturity level where we were in Mondelez two to three years ago, we were heads down delivering, we knew exactly what to deliver. Now we want to be open to the world and say: Okay, help us. Help us. Give us new technology, give us new hints, we want to learn.

Learn more about how you can take your shared service centre to the next level at the 19th Annual Shared Services and Outsourcing Week in Lisbon, Portugal. Network with 600+ industry experts and learn from 80+ at Europe's largest SSO event. Download the 2019 agenda below.

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