I just emerged from a fascinating presentation made by Sandy Ogg, former Chief HR Officer, Unilever. He addressed a packed auditorium of at least 300 people. I sat in the audience with my trusty MacBook computer in my lap, avidly typing away as he spoke.
Entitled, “The Role of Outsourcing in Business Transformation”, Sandy’s presentation underscored the fact that outsourcing is increasingly ubiquitous in not only esoteric disciplines such as information technology but in commonplace consumer products as well.
“One out of every two individuals on the planet use our consumer products, but we won’t be happy until it’s one out of every one,” Ogg said, to chuckles from the audience.
Unilever, a UK-based corporate behemoth, has much to brag about. A leading manufacturer and marketer of packaged consumer goods around the glove, Unilever products are sold in more than 170 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, and Western Europe.
Talk about Global Reach! The company’s portfolio of every day items encompasses an enormous range of categories, including dressings and spreads; ice cream and beverages; personal care; and home care. Unilever’s stable of brands includes 11 household names that rack up more than $1 billion each annually, including Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Lipton tea, Knorr soups, Lux and Dove soaps, and Sure and Degree antiperspirants.
The Greek mathematician Archimedes famously said: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Multibillion dollar giant Unilever moves the world – by using outsourcing as leverage.
According to Ogg, here’s how Unilever leverages outsourcing:
* Liberate Human Resources. “We’re able to consider what capability is really core, so as to better enable HR to focus on talent in the business, versus service operations,” he said.
* Better Technology. “We obtain reliable and powerful HR data streams for informed business decision-making,” he said.
* Standardization. “Outsourcing drives consistency, rigor and a single approach,” he said.
Ogg also noted the following:
• Accenture was selected as Unilever’s primary global HR Outsourcing provider in July 2006
• The Unilever deal leverages Accenture’s three-core BPO businesses: HR Services, Learning Services, Procurement Solutions, and Application Outsourcing
• Over 1,000 Accenture team members are deployed
• Services are provided in 27 languages
• More than 125,000 Unilever employees are being served in over 100 countries
Ogg conveyed to the attentive crowd the following outsourcing tips for managing large-scale HR transformation:
“The three keys are: Data quality, data quality, data quality,” he said. “Don’t sign up for a business case you can’t deliver. Get personally involved with each business leader till the ‘go-live’ date. Set the right expectations with the HR team from the beginning and keep some operational HR staff on the ground.”
Also noteworthy is the fact that HP is engaged in a seven-year, $675 million deal to provide Unilever with outsourcing services to manage the consumer goods giant’s technology infrastructure in the Americas, Asia, Africa, Turkey and the Middle East. Under terms of the contact, HP provides Unilever with an infrastructure capable of adapting to changing business needs by “standardizing, virtualizing and optimizing” Unilever’s enterprise computing environment.
HP also is charged with working with Unilever partners such as BT, Microsoft and SAP to enable reduced costs and tighter integration of new applications. HP operates as Unilever’s “single point of contact” for multiple geographic locations.
Despite the highly technical aspects of outsourcing, Ogg emphasized that he always remains mindful of the human dimension of Unilever’s consumer products business. “A customer once old me: ‘My hair is the most important thing that I own. My hair is instrumental in my personal life and at my job. I can’t rely on inferior brands.’ Think about that statement.”
It’s always important, he said, to remember the human dimensions to outsourcing and the very real human footprints that global companies leave behind.