Consumer Goods Technology (CGT) Magazine profiled my team's work in mid-2015, and we highlighted our tight linkage between IT and Marketing. I'm pleased to be able to share the article here. Click on the image to be taken to the original article.
Channel lines are blurring, media is becoming fragmented and the consumer experience is becoming truly 1:1. New marketing is no longer a passing fad in the world of consumer goods. To become effective marketers in a digital world, organizations must chart a new course using new marketing machinery. Technology lies at the heart of this new machine, and IT is grinding the gears, developing and delivering solutions that are tailored to the Marketing organization’s immediate and long-term needs.
In this exclusive interview, Jennifer Sepull, chief information officer and vice president, IT Services (ITS), and Mukund Kaushik, vice president of the newly-formed IT Services, Global Marketing unit, reveal how Kimberly-Clark Corporation is redefining the rules of collaboration between Marketing and IT to succeed in a world where the term digital marketing has evolved into “marketing in a digital world.”
Q There is more than 50 years of IT experience between the two of you. Can you comment on the evolution of IT’s role within the consumer goods industry?
In the past, technology seemed mysterious and complex to many of our business teams and consumers. The way we connected with our consumers was much more limited. Our IT planning and development cycles were longer and more cumbersome. In addition, our business had lower expectations and was not as demanding on our IT organization.
Now, technology has become a natural part of our daily lives. The digital world we live in gives our consumers access to detailed data that allows them to make decisions and act quickly. Our business is more tech savvy, and they have big expectations and opinions about what kinds of technologies they want to use. That is why it is so important that we move fast and make a powerful and personal connection with our consumer. We want them to have a seamless positive experience with our brands. The bottom line is that moving fast and executing flawlessly rules the day.
Q Why was Kimberly-Clark’s new IT Service, Global Marketing unit formed? What are the unit’s main objectives and/or opportunities?
In 2013, I [Sepull] joined Kimberly-Clark because I knew there was an opportunity to partner with the business and drive incredible value for our company. Kimberly-Clark understood the importance of the intersection of IT and Marketing, and that is the kind of company I wanted to be a part of. Once I was in my role, I began working with Kimberly-Clark Chief Marketing Officer Clive Sirkin to create a new dynamic and innovative partnership between our teams. We agreed that we had to come together in a powerful way in order for the company to win in the marketplace.
Shortly thereafter, Kimberly-Clark was lucky enough to have Mukund Kaushik join the ITS team. And together, we joined forces with the marketing teams to leverage our joint leadership, expertise, and ability to collaborate on the global technology strategy and ongoing capability.
The pace of technology growth and business change will always make this a dynamic environment for our teams to work within. So, we have to remain flexible and collaborative. This isn’t always easy. But, we try to stay focused on the ITS vision to leverage technology to help our teams win locally, anywhere in the world.
Q How is your team challenged on a daily basis given the sheer speed of change that occurs in a digital world?
We live in a time of disruption of business models and technology is everywhere! At Kimberly-Clark, we believe this disruption of technology in the marketplace is a game changer for us. Our businesses operate in a digital world, and our IT capability has evolved to help us connect with our consumer and provide business value. This is a big opportunity for our IT teams to help integrate and analyze data, pay attention to consumer insights, and provide cutting-edge technology to create powerful solutions for our consumers and Kimberly-Clark business teams. This makes it a very exciting time to be in Information Technology!
The challenges our teams face are both about prioritization of resources and speed. The amount of requests that we receive requires us to continually balance the need to move fast against the need to deliver the most strategic work. We are supporting current initiatives, and we have to be strategic so that we can stay a step ahead to provide value for our business.
From a technology point of view, there is a lot of technology for any one department or one team to wrap their arms around. So, we tend to focus on two dimensions: long-term and experimental short-term. In the long-term view, we look at technology that will enable new capabilities to help us create a repeatable and globally scalable process. In the short-term view, we look at how technology can help in improving the current marketing programs that we are working on. The second view is more experimental and focused on learning; we’re not afraid to take risks. If we fail, we fail fast, and apply our learnings to the next effort. This approach helps inform our long-term view and enables us to have a continuous learning cycle while implementing at a scale that works in the real world.
Q How has new technology helped to enable you to interact directly with consumers?
Technology is enabling us to have a closer relationship and a better understanding of our consumers. We are bringing together data, analytics, social media, and e-commerce technology, to increase consumer insights and create the ability to make meaningful connections with the consumer in a digital world.
Change is the new constant and technology is at the heart of this change. IT has the opportunity to leverage technology to drive disruptive change in our business models that achieve breakthrough results.
This technology has created a closer connection and allowed us to create a seamless experience for the consumer with our brands. Marketing in a digital world requires our brands to be present in multiple digital channels ready to engage and enable our brand promise. In an omnichannel model, we share information with our consumer, learn about our consumers and create regular purchase habits.
Q How must your approach to adopting technology differ from an ERP or enterprise implementation?
The mindset and process for working in a digital environment is completely different from the pace of an ERP or enterprise system. The speed and agility required is much different because we are working in a dynamic environment of the consumer in real time. At Kimberly-Clark, we created a separate technology marketing team in ITS to function in this way. However, we are challenging our entire organization to adopt this agile approach for speed and agility. This takes a change in culture, mindset, skillset, and a passion to deliver a balance of speed, value, and maintain the right rigor and security to create the best experience for our consumers.
Q What are the keys to a successful collaborative relationship between IT and the business?
It starts with leadership. Our ITS and Marketing leadership made a decision to work together on the best model for Kimberly-Clark. We worked together to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and determine the best way to leverage our collective strengths. We created a “working model” that helped us understand our roles in areas that overlapped. We agreed to direct our competitive spirits toward the market and not one another. Additionally, we made a disciplined effort to follow-up and follow-through.
Next, we established high level roles and responsibilities that we used with our teams as guidelines to help facilitate decision making. We aligned closely with our marketing capability organization to collaborate on the technology strategy, and then worked to develop and implement this capability on a global basis. This began our journey to jointly develop digital platforms for Kimberly-Clark.
As of today, ITS is doing a lot of great things together with the Marketing team and we know there is more to do. Our relationship is like a journey, not a destination, and the pace of technology growth will make this a continual work in progress.
The keys to a successful partnership are always the same: transparency in what you are doing, honesty in what you can do, and accountability to do the right thing. In a digital world, you just need to do this much faster and be able to explore jointly some unchartered territory where everything may not be black and white.
Q What will Marketing in the consumer goods industry look like in five or even 10 years?
The world of marketing is changing as we speak. There are more ways for us to reach our consumers than ever before. In IT, we are embracing this new reality of change, and we are committed to transforming ourselves by adding new talent, adopting new agile processes and experimenting with new ways of doing things so that we can be strategic partners to our business as they travel on their digital transformation journey.
The future will be smarter, faster and cheaper. Growth with be exponential, not linear. We will have to leverage technology disruption to our benefit. Promotion and advertising will require active participation from the consumer. Customer empowerment through content and data insights will be the key. Video will be ubiquitous. We will connect with our consumers on even more touch points than we did previously (i.e. wearable devices, holograms and real time immediate gratification will be stronger than ever).
All of this will push for the need to have internal strong technology and marketing teams that leverage specialized experts. From a technology perspective, we will need open architectures and the ability to leverage an inter-cloud model to move workloads dynamically. Basically, we will have modular continuous delivery that goes beyond agile and leverages an inner-connected network of capability and talent with technology partners, internal teams, contracted resources, and crowd sourcing, to create a strong eco-system of support and expertise.
Projects in the PipelineKimberly-Clark’s IT Services organization collaborates with brand and marketing teams to help strategize about digital, e-commerce and marketing for the future. At the same time, it is implementing foundational elements of a marketing eco-system that will help Kimberly-Clark to market in a digital world, including:
Efficient process to collect and disseminate product information;
Flexibility in the way they create content independent from where it is consumed;
Better understanding of Kimberly-Clark’s consumers and their interactions with the organization, its brands and products;
Support for direct-to-consumer business to enable transactional learning about how consumers buy its products;
Enabling a data foundation by which they can understand the
ROI of marketing programs and investments.