by Andrea Benito

Taking a risk on innovation: Fine Hygienic Holding moves to the cloud

Nov 11, 2020
Cloud ComputingDigital TransformationIT Leadership

Legacy IT systems were hampering FHH's goals to expand globally and launch an IPO, so CIO Yahyah Pandor embraced digital transformation and took the leap to the cloud, moving applications and data, revamping budgeting and supply chain operations on the way.

Yahyah Pandor
Credit: Yahyah Pandor

When Yahyah Pandor joined Fine Hygienic Holding (FHH) as its new CIO in 2018, he had his work cut out for him. The company needed to plan for the future, and quickly — its legacy IT architecture was hampering operational efficiency, plans for global expansion, and progress to its goal of launching an IPO.

“The challenge upon arrival that was obvious, was the expense of a very old architecture delivering very little value,” says Pandor, citing “the inability to complete upgrades, software additions and empower business change.”

The company required a fundamental digital transformation. FHH was doing “temporary and tactical” fixes when what was needed was “a radical shift for a company getting ready for an IPO and expanding globally,” Pandor says.  “This affected technology perception and to some extent created a non-productive way of working in the tech teams.”

FHH is one of the Middle East and North Africa’s largest FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) companies, founded in 1958 and now operating across 75 countries. Founded in Jordan, with headquarters currently in Amman and Dubai, It has achieved visibility and expansion, becoming a leading wellness company for its now-famous face masks and range of health and wellness products

Move to cloud is part of core strategy shift

A major shift, not only in IT, but in behaviour and thinking — not just in deciding what to upgrade, but how to adopt and implement new technology and business processes — was urgently required.

After a broad analysis that included staff workshops and evaluations of technology and functional units, FHH made the strategic decision to migrate everything, data and applications, to the cloud.

“Oracle had the widest portfolio of products on the cloud and was proven on the cloud with customer references,” Pandor says. “This was a risk for FHH being an FMCG company where traditionally other vendors were chosen, but we adopted a cloud-first strategy as the benefits are clear.”

The business case, Pandor says, was clear. Moving to the cloud would enable  operational expenditure reductions, new system processes, better system integration and most importantly, a complete business process re-design across HR, finance and manufacturing — all leading to the goal of IPO readiness.

Putting an aggressive plan in place in less than seven months, Pandor led FHH in implementing a global Oracle HR system as well as migrating all on-premises financial data to the cloud. Benefits have now been measured and presented to the board to clearly show the ROI.

“To efficiently predict and meet customer demands and achieve our business objectives, we selected Oracle to transform and automate our core business processes,” says James Michael Lafferty, CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding. “Oracle Cloud Applications will help us achieve our goals by driving integration across our organization.” For example, now 97% of HR processes are automated. Moving to the cloud has also allowed FHH to connect the entire supply chain, from factory to shop floor, and analyse the resulting data using Oracle ADW (Autonomous Data Warehouse) to make real-time business decisions.

Digital transformation involves budgeting

The next phase of FHH’s digital transformation journey includes implementing Oracle’s Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (EPBCS) and a transformation of its supply chain processes. These two projects are expected to help make the company more productive, make better financial decisions, and also complete the transition to a  100% cloud IT platform.

Financially, spending on cloud technology moves IT from being capital-expense (CAPEX) to operational-expense (OPEX) based, since the pay-as-you-go cloud model eliminates upfront capital investments. Meanwhile, EPBCS allows operational data for supply chain processes to be shared among corporate planners, enabling collaboration and strong controls and governance.

“We also migrated all of our desktop software to the cloud and seamlessly carried on with our business as we saw major demand for our products — It was the best test of all of our systems a CIO could have,” Pandor says. “Every employee [is] remote, using [new] devices, security, ERP systems, HR systems, supply chain systems, and we have now seen the ROI of doing this,” adds Pandor.

Embracing change leads to IPO goal

FHH CEO Lafferty is now thinking the company may be able to go public as early as next year, a testament to how the move to the cloud has transformed the company.

Reflecting on the transformation of the last few years, Pandor has clear advice for tech leaders working with outdated legacy systems, who face a decision on making the leap to emerging technology and digital transformation:  “Take the risk, you do not have another option”.

 Even when COVID occurred, FHH was able to keep its business operations and its procedures in place, as all were using cloud technology. “If we did not migrate to the cloud then we would have faced serious system issues as people migrated to home working and thus would have put pressure on aging systems and in terms of HR systems, our aging T&A [time and action for product management] would need constant manual intervention, and this leads to fraud and human error,” Pandor says.

Key to success is support from company leadership. “You need the CEO and board support; no question, as CIO as you will be changing the entire business and it will impact every person as well as the process,” Pandor says. “This must be done at the highest level and you need to be part of the leadership of the company to make this a success.”