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Reckitt Benckiser CIO: creating a connected company

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Reckitt Benckiser's CIO, Darrell Stein, is working to make the company more connected. Here’s how.

“You’ve got to make sure that you get your plumbing right. So you don’t get blockages when extracting data out of your systems.”

That is according to Reckitt Benckiser’s (RB) CIO, Darrell Stein. The man who has overseen a fundamental overhaul of one the world’s largest health, hygiene and home consumer goods businesses, re-iterates the importance of returning to basics.

This is paramount explained Stein, not simply as a company operating in an environment under the close watch of governments around the world (particularly after the European Court of Justice invalidated the Safe Harbor agreements between EU and US data transfer), but also in aiding RB’s digital transformation initiative to become what Stein calls a “connected company.”

Stein’s digital vision is to allow RB to glean the most use from both internal and external data sources. To that end, much of Stein’s role has involved engaging in a simplification of RB’s IT estate.

The start of which was kicked off by a single question:

“What do we need to do to our products in order to make them more digital?”

Stein identified 3 areas that would require an overhaul in order for RB to be propelled into the world of digital, and by extension become future proof, for now at least.

RB’s products line store shelves in nearly 200 countries worldwide, from Mumbai to Mexico City, with its foundation built around 19 Powerbrands.

Strepsils, Nurofen, Dettol and others have been central to a strategy that concentrates a large proportion of resource on a handful of strong products which contribute the majority of revenues.

Stein explains that the transition towards becoming a connected company has been split into 3 parts.

Part 1 – connected planning

Given the pace at which retail store shelve requirements can change, ensuring RB has a robust and flexible supply chain planning system with the capability to manage demand and accelerate product returns has been at the forefront of Stein’s connected company initiative.

Stein stresses the importance of flexibility and suggested, “it is something that retail has learnt pretty quickly. As it becomes a lot more complicated you’ve got to be able to provide goods faster and more flexibly than perhaps you did previously.”

“You’ve got to look at things like cross border purchasing. Consumers want to shop in one country and have the goods delivered to them in another country. So you have to think about your pricing and supply model for these places as well.”

Stein explains that finding a solution to this is most definitely not as simple as the “bricks and mortar” world delivering products to the same warehouse or using different retailers.

Rather, it is the underlying foundations that prove to be the most valuable.

“You need to have more intelligent systems giving you a slicker supply chain that provides you with more personalized information predicting what consumers will want.”

Part 2 – connected data

The next connected company initiative, says Stein, is called “connected data”.

Which he succinctly described as helping RB leverage “super-powerful analytics.”

“We’re finding that by connecting data together in different ways, we’re getting different insights on our business.”

Stein explains that some of this may be through combining internal data together, so for example, rather than sales and marketing looking at independent data sets – pooling information in real time.

Such information is certainly useful when having to make quick fire decisions based on external factors. Stein references the patterns around weather or high intensity seasons as two factors that can influence product planning.

Part 3 – connected talent

The final area Stein is turning his attention to in order to propel RB into a more connected company is through a focus on talent.

With millennials fast becoming the majority of the global workforce, organizations and IT departments have to adapt accordingly. A recent Nielsen Survey stated that millennials are the most diverse, globally aware and care orientated generation.

With this in mind, Stein has built the foundations required to support the right talent for a digital future.

RB is dedicated to providing innovative solutions to enable healthier lives and happy homes and it attempts to live by that mantra in its own office.

Instead of creating an environment where 9-5 is normal, Stein wanted to help craft something considerably different.

Mobility is at the heart of this initiative and Stein wanted to enable his employees to easily work from home, from different geographies and at different times of day.

“Our mobile first initiative really helps support this connected talent concept. Everything just has to be available on mobile, so people can work much more easily.”

Stein’s initiatives allow RB to act as a connected company within an increasingly connected world.