P&G gets real-time

26 April 2011

CINCINNATI: Procter & Gamble, the consumer goods giant, is enhancing its ability to operate in "real-time" by embracing a range of digital technologies.

Filippo Passerini, the company's president of global business services and chief information officer, told the Wall Street Journal that the evolving business climate demands new models.

More specifically, he suggested the overarching principle behind P&G's activity is augmenting in-house understanding of all the available data from its units worldwide.

"It is the ability to operate in real time, rather than analysing what happened yesterday, last week, last month, last quarter - trying to see what is happening now as we speak, and the ability to intervene immediately if we need to make an adjustment," said Passerini.

Among the main issues attracting P&G's attention are tracking and shaping in store trends, including displays and promotions, and implementing near-instant modifications whenever necessary.

"There's a real timeliness to what we do that is going to be incredibly transformational," Passerini said.

Alongside fostering a deeper insight into the current environment, P&G is in the process of developing tools facilitating highly accurate forecasting and assessing various "what if" scenarios.

"We're creating some automation to [analyse] what is happening, why it is happening, so that we can focus all of our energies on how to improve what we have to improve," said Passerini.

"This will give us an ability to predict or to stay in control of sales volume, market shares, much, much better and be more specific, surgical, in the interventions we make."

Given the advance of digital media and appliances like the iPhone and iPad, adaptability is increasingly vital for brand owners.

"It is becoming even more important to have the right strategies in place at the right point in time. I don't think it is any longer a game of choosing the right platform," Passerini said.

The imperative driving such moves has gained force as the flexibility required of multinational firms grows at a rapid rate.

"Having the right strategies now is so important because if you happen to be wrong, you will derail within months," Passerini said.

"In the past, to figure out you were wrong would take a few years. Now in three to six months, you may be in grave difficulty if you don't have the right strategies."

The manufacturer of Tide, Pampers and Bounty is responding to these challenges based on an appreciation that hardware does not constitute the central issue.

"The challenge is that there is now a convergence of consumer technology in the enterprise. And it is creating completely different dynamics," Passerini argued.

"We have a strategy we describe as application-centric, device-agnostic. We believe devices will continue to evolve, and the competitive advantage will not be there."

He added: "The competitive advantage will be in the application, which is what will differentiate us from our competitors. The applications will transcend the devices they run on."

One key benefit of progressing into this area is forging greater connectivity between staff around the world - although making rapid progress in this area could prove difficult.

"Because our mission is to transform the way business is done, I wish we could make some of the changes that enable that faster," Passerini said.

"The obstacle is capacity, it is affordability. It is resources, whether financial or human."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff