When it comes to developing and selling consumer products, data is everything. So it should come as little surprise to see Church & Dwight—a company known for brands such as Arm & Hammer baking soda and Nair hair-removal solutions—move to revamp its data warehouse, the better to provide workers with dashboards and other self-service business intelligence tools.
That revamp is part of the company’s broader rethinking about data and IT. Speaking this week at the 2012 Chief Information Officer Leadership Forum, Church & Dwight CIO Michael Del Priore said that standardizing on an SAP data warehouse made it possible to become more aligned around business processes rather than technologies. IT architects are now assigned to manage specific processes, such as order to cash, across the organization.
By outsourcing the management of almost every routine IT function, Church & Dwight can focus its 75 full-time employees on critical business processes. “We flipped the model for delivering IT services,” Del Priore said.
Church & Dwight also identified a small group of “super users” that used to work within various business decisions. Those employees are now part of a group that reports directly to Del Priore, where they work with the company’s full time employees. “Now two thirds of the new queries we run have been created by end users,” noted Del Priore, adding that each business unit “has its own OLAP cube within the SAP data warehouse to help make the developing and running of those queries manageable.”
That same tight coupling of business and IT expertise helped facilitate the cleaning up of the company’s master data management (MDM) efforts. Because Church & Dwight decided to standardize on an SAP data warehouse, it became easier to assign IT architects to manage specific business processes spanning different divisions within the company. For starters, they all use the same set of SAP applications.
Del Priore acknowledges it took some time and effort to tightly link the IT infrastructure to rest of the business. More than a few IT staff members were uncomfortable taking ownership of a business process. At the same, that approach made Church & Dwight a lot more attractive to external IT professionals that were looking for a place to work that valued IT as a strategic business tool.
As business processes become more dependent on IT than ever, the role of the IT organization needs to evolve. Information has become a strategic asset; it’s the job of the IT organization to work with experts within the business to find ways to maximize the value of that asset. But as Del Priore notes, there is no way to really accomplish that goal if IT is spending the vast majority of its time managing routine IT functions.
By relying on third-party service providers to manage those functions, Del Priore believes it becomes a lot easier to focus the institutional knowledge of the internal IT staff on issues that matter most to the business. Obviously, that approach requires having a lot of trust in those service providers, and the IT organization still needs to find a way to manage them effectively. But more importantly, it gives internal IT people the time they need to focus on the actual business.
At a time when many business leaders routinely question the value of IT, the rise of analytics has made the business more dependent on IT than ever. What many executives have discovered is that it’s not necessarily the IT equipment and software that creates business value, but rather the data about the business that IT allows them to access.
Fortunately, as it becomes easier for the business and IT to collaborate, the discussion about value of IT becomes more about helping to increase profit and revenue, as opposed to the return on investment of a particular piece of hardware or software. The real challenge, Del Priore said, is changing the mindset of IT about the business, while simultaneously getting business people to better understand what’s now possible using IT. Once that’s accomplished, the role IT plays within the organization substantially changes as it morphs into a broker of information across the enterprise. With the advent of new analytics applications, that goal is clearly now more attainable than any time in memory.
Image: Church & Dwight