In December last year, PepsiCo Australia and New Zealand completed its Agile transformation.
The company’s Chatswood headquarters has undergone a complete overhaul; office walls have been literally torn down and replaced with open workspaces or ‘neighbourhoods’ where staff can collaborate at hot desks, in meeting rooms, huddle spaces, and purpose-built video conferencing ‘screen rooms’. A central and open mission control area with mini-auditorium seating was also installed which features a social listening display which uses machine learning to recognise true consumer sentiment.
Along with the cosmetic changes have come new ways of working for the sites 300 staff, and the rise of a new culture characterised by flexible and collaborative working.
The traditional, hierarchical environment that fuelled siloed ways of working is gone, replaced with a digitally enabled, agile working environment that enables cross-functional ways of working.
Leading the transformation has been chief information officer Ursula Phillips who has been with the company since 2012 and in the CIO role for close to four years.
“Our objective for the move to an agile work environment was to deliver a head office space and way of working that better reflected who we are as a company, and what our brands stand for,” Phillips says.
“From a productivity improvement point of view, it was to enable better collaboration across functions to deliver greater agility and greater responsiveness for our customers. Finally, from a culture perspective, we wanted to provide our people with the tools and technology necessary to make doing their jobs well, easy. And to provide everyone with the flexibility to be able to make their worklife better fit with their home lives.”
Key to the agile transformation was the enabling of a truly mobile workforce. Everyone, including CEO Robbert Rietbroek, would now hotdesk each day, and received a laptop, mobile phone and Bluetooth earpiece to help them work from anywhere in the office space.
But staff weren’t simply handed new gear and then expected to get on with it, Phillips explains.
“We recognised that some people embrace new technology more readily than others and there was a level of uncertainty from some employees who felt they were not digitally savvy and would struggle with the new technology,” she says.
To address this, Phillips and her IT division worked with HR and communications on a comprehensive change management and training program.
Change champions were appointed and more than 50 training sessions took place in the lead up to and immediately following the move. Yammer was adopted as an office-move communications tool, for staff to receive updates and guidance before, during and after the move.
“It’s a whole of company process,” Phillips says.
Alongside the transformation, Phillips’ team has continued to innovate, with a tranche of initiatives delivered over the last year.
“The innovations represent a comprehensive move to digital enablement. Rather than be focused on just one area, we have been able to support Supply Chain, Sales, Marketing and Finance, and in fact our employee base as a whole, through a wide variety of digital solutions,” Phillips says. “The investments that we have made have helped us to stay competitive in a challenging operating environment, and in turn to reinvest in our customers, our workplace and our associates.”
The company’s field sales force – those that sell to and service customers – have been given iPads to handle admin and digital tools focused on instore execution and merchandising compliance.
“Both have removed significant hours in administration from our teams and enabled them to spend more time selling and perfecting execution in the field,” Phillips says.
Work in the area continues with the creation of a virtual reality store, which “allows us to engage our customers by bringing perfect execution to life” Phillips adds.
There have also been a number of automation activities, in both the digital and physical realms. As well as a pilot of robotic process automation on back-office admin tasks, the company implemented automated filling and storage capabilities in its multi-pack hall at Tingalpa near Brisbane.
“Fully integrated with SAP, this drives efficiency in what was previously a highly manual area, which also drove higher rates of injury to other manual tasks,” Phillips says.
“Our latest step in automation uses IoT technology to collect and analyse data, helping to manage highly automated fast-moving processes. The Manufacturing Efficiency System, underway at our Regency Park site [near Adelaide], automates and integrates the information-related activities for managing production execution and performance optimisation holistically, helping to identify and improve the effectiveness of our equipment.”
Phillips makes sure her technology team “feels very connected to the wider business”.
Guest speakers from other departments are invited to talk about their role and needs at monthly IT team meetings, and the favour is returned with IT team members running weekly informal technology based ‘Pepsi Learns’ and monthly ‘Explore Educate’ sessions with the executive leadership team.
The diverse team – which has 13 nationalities represented out of a team of 20, and a growing female representation (50 per cent in IT leadership and 32 per cent in the team as a whole) – is also encouraged to improve and celebrate themselves.
“Diversity is our strength, be that the variety in our cultural backgrounds or the wealth of different skills we bring to the table. My value proposition as a leader is being able to tap into that diversity, champion the team’s achievements and clear the way so that we all succeed,” Phillips says.
While the business benefits of the major move to agile continue to be realised in full, Phillips’ team and the wider business are certainly happy in their work with employee engagement scores continuing to rise.
More than any metric, the technology team is very much a team where the whole is greater than any individual.
“My team will deliver in excess of 140 initiatives this year across analytics, automation, ERP, EUC, IoT, mobile, networks, security, and web. No single person can be expert in all these areas, but as a team we can. My role as leader to set the strategy, align on priorities and remove obstacles that would prevent my team from delivering,” Phillips says.