One of the largest consumer product companies in the world, Unilever Plc is co-headquartered in London, and Rotterdam. Unilever’s products are used by 2.5 billion people daily and its product range spans frozen food, beverages, personal products, cleaning agents etc. In 2012, Unilever became the world’s largest consumer product company according to revenue. Currently, this company owns more than 400 brands. Some of its iconic brands are Luz, Rin, Knorr, Lipton etc. These 400 brands contributed more than 50 billion Euros to its turnover. There are thirteen other brands in the Unilever stable that contribute more than one billion Euros. The Company sells and markets its products in 190 countries and the company business is divided into four main categories- Foods, Refreshment, Home Care, and Personal Care. Unilever was founded in 1930 after the merger of a Dutch company, Margerine Unie and the British soap maker, Lever Brothers. It being an iconic company, Unilever had to struggle a lot while coping with marketing, distribution and human resources disruptions brought by digital technologies.
P1: Project Aims and Objectives
This project aims to bring in focus the main challenges faced by Unilever while adopting digital technologies in managing its core business areas. The main aims and objectives of this paper are:
1. Understanding the core business model of Unilever globally
2. Understanding the transition of Unilever from a pure brick and mortar company to an organization adept in digital practices.
3. Benefits of digital best practices in the Unilever eco-system.
4. A rough understanding of the organizational structure of Unilever.
P2: Project Management Plan
Unilever is present in 190 countries around the world. Most of the bigger economies like United States, European Union and Brazil are headed by a CEO. The smaller markets are clubbed together and they form a collective market like West Asia and Eastern Europe. These markets are headed by expatriate senior marketing professionals.
Globally, Unilever is run by a Global Executive Council which is headed by the Global CEO. He is assisted by the Chief Marketing Officer, and the four category heads.
While the consumer product industry is growing at a rate of 8 %, Unilever is growing at sub-optimal levels. Another cause for concern is the growing costs in running the company. Over the years, some inefficiencies had crept up in the business leading to erosion of profit margins. While average profit margin of the industry stood at 5%, Unilever’s figures stood at 4.5% in 2017.
To address the twin issues of decelerating profits and increasing cost pressures, it was suggested that Unilever adopt certain digital initiatives like implementing ERP and marketing its products via digital platforms.
World over, enterprise resource systems have proven to be a game changer and have helped companies prune costs. Resources can be planned by keeping a sharp eye on their demand and availability and this monitoring can be done by managers who run individual departments. Thus, ERP is a democratic activity too.
To roll out these digital initiatives, a project team was set up that comprised members from various functions like sales, marketing, production, finance, human resources and logistics.
Every professional organization plans it projects according to a set of criteria. For every project, there is a team which is headed by a Project Head. In the case of Unilever, the Project Head was reporting to the global ceo of the Company.
One distinguishing feature of every project-based activity is that it has a timeline. Every project must be executed by a certain timeline. The second important feature of a project based activity is that it must be managed within certain budgetary and resource constraints. Lastly, any sound project management plan is also aware of its dependencies. This means that the project team must know about all the limiting and enabling factors. Some of these factors may be in-house while the others are extraneous in nature.
For its digital initiatives, Unilever broke its umbrella activity into several parts, each of which was assigned a team. Every sub project was given a budget and was supposed to be finished by a certain timeline. Periodically, the digital project was evaluated in terms of its progress, objectives, and challenges. Based on this feedback, the Company used to tweak its plan and sub-plans without changing the project deadline, resources and budgets.
For the success of any project, it is essential that the team be composed of employees from different departments. Thus, in the case of Unilever, the project management team comprised members from the IT, Marketing, Production, Sales, Finance and Administration teams.