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Client Story

Unilever: HR IT strategy and roadmap

Working together to create a clear and comprehensive HR IT strategy and roadmap

Identifying the way forward for the next five years

In order to deliver their strategic growth ambitions, Unilever, a leading global Consumer Packaged Goods company, needed a robust HR function capable of scaling to support the business going forward. Despite significant improvements in recent years to establish global processes and systems in a number of areas, they faced a growing amount of challenges.

Berkeley have worked collaboratively with us to navigate some tough challenges in our endeavour to refresh our HR IT Strategy and Roadmap. Our consultant managed to strike the right balance in driving the process forward whilst listening and adapting the approach based on business demands. What sets Berkeley apart is that throughout this demanding process, I’ve felt the only agenda on the table has been the agenda.”

IT Business Partnering and Innovation Director, Unilever

More integration

Product support for their core HR platform was due to expire within 18 months. Their learning management system was so heavily customized that it was proving difficult to deliver the required new functionality to support emerging trends such as social collaboration and ‘gamification’ (interactive game-like learning environments). And their multi-product landscape had created numerous interfaces and lacked critical integration to broader business functions such as finance. The client wanted help to step back and assess the entire picture, to map a solid path to success over the coming years.

Looking to bring in outside help

We were asked to help Unilever with their HR IT strategy and roadmap. Unilever didn’t have the in-house capacity and skills to handle all the work themselves so they were looking for outside expertise. They wanted independent experts who could put together a purely Unilever-focused view of the world, allowing them to stay in control of defining their strategy, rather than give the responsibility to someone else.

Expert, independent and collaborative

On all counts we were an ideal fit – combining the necessary strategy-building expertise, the desired independence and our natural way of working very closely with clients to ensure they are involved in and own solutions. The work involved engaging numerous stakeholders across the business and IT, all of whom had different areas of concern and priority, to create a shared view of the way forward for the next five years.

We agreed an initial six-week phase to review and gain an understanding of their situation, and subsequently created an approach spanning the next six months that key stakeholders bought into. By getting this upfront buy-in to the approach, we could set clear expectations on the way the final decision on the HR IT Strategy would be taken, and by whom, and improve the likelihood of getting through the process in the agreed timeframe.

A clear staged approach

We initially ran a series of workshops to agree a robust set of requirements that could form the backbone of their HR IT landscape, both in terms of current capability and future needs. These workshops incorporated trends and best practices from other organisations to encourage Unilever to think in the broadest possible terms. 

We then turned these requirements into an RFP and worked closely with the client to orchestrate the process and evaluate the responses.

We also set out a formal business case for the core HR and learning platforms as part of the overall IT strategy and roadmap, clearly highlighting critical decision points for other, related systems. The case for change needed to show how the investment in HR systems and services would tie back to the longer-term objectives of the overall business. For example, supporting its commitment to sustainability and embracing key trends in social collaboration and digital interaction.

Aligning the business and IT

We worked with the key stakeholders in IT and the business to align everyone around a shared commitment to explore the options carefully and fully. Inevitably there were differing views at the outset and it was vital not only to take account of these views but also to find constructive common ground. To this end, we helped bring people together in support of a rigorous, fair and independent process focused on developing an HR IT strategy and roadmap in the company’s best interests.

Tailoring our approach

Our consultant worked with a project team of around 20 Unilever people, the broader stakeholders and steering group. We took a highly tailored approach to each area, accounting for the very real differences and priorities across, say, talent performance and learning. With learning, for example, we knew we had to broaden the net and deepen the exploration. It was the opposite of a one-size-fits-all big consultancy approach, and all the more effective for it.

Building knowledge and skills

As part of the process, we combined in-house knowledge with outside views and explorations to broaden the team’s perspectives and inform future thinking. We also supported the development of team members – building individuals’ project management and leadership skills by giving them autonomy for specific activities and deliverables, then working with them behind the scenes to make sure everything was tracking to plan. 

Managing interdependencies with other in-flight strategic initiatives

Working closely with our client, we helped align and connect the dots between other in-flight strategic initiatives such as the wider payroll strategy. We brought these activities into the overall IT governance in a sensitive, collaborative way. As a result, we opened the way for more coordinated work streams and more effective use of money over the long term.

Better, more connected decisions

The creation of a coherent strategy and comprehensive five-year roadmap for Unilever’s HR IT enabled better decisions based on a fully informed view. Rather than taking reactive decisions in isolation, they can see the big picture and take well planned, connected decisions that support the broader business objectives and ambitions.