Doug Drinkwater
UK Editor

Twinings CIO brews connected supply chain with SAP’s RISE

News Analysis
Feb 13, 2022
Supply Chain Management Software

Twinings Ovaltineu2019s Global CIO Sandeep Seeripat explains how the tea brand chose SAP to build a connected supply chain which improves customer service, efficiency and cost control.

Credit: Twinings Ovaltine

Twinings Ovaltine has selected SAP to lead its transformation programme as it looks to better engage with its customers, while improving supply chain reliability and operational efficiency. The move signals a new chapter in the relationship between the two companies.

The tea marketer has signed on to the RISE with SAP subscription service on Microsoft Azure to digitise procurement operations and modernise core enterprise systems such as finance, manufacturing and logistics.

RISE with SAP bundles managed cloud infrastructure and services in one contract, and is based on S4/HANA, SAP’s flagship enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite. As part of the deal, Twinings is using the SAP Ariba supply chain suite and the SAP Business Technology Platform, which includes database, data management and analytics software.

The decision to go with RISE marks a change in direction for Twinings Ovaltine, which has had a lukewarm relationship with the German software giant in the past.

Speaking on SAP’s UK’s CXO Series podcast, SAP’s UK and Ireland managing director Michiel Verhoeven acknowledged that Twinings Ovaltine had not always enjoyed a ‘fantastic relationship’ with the company, with Twinings Ovaltine Global CIO Sandeep Seeripat saying that relations were once more ‘transactional’.

“We have been using SAP ECC [ERP Central Component] since 2014 in three out of our 10 business units,” Seeripat, formerly global IT delivery director at Kimberly-Clark, told CIO UK. “There was not much of a relationship post our go-live, and it was transactional.” ECC is legacy software introduced pre-S4/HANA, and which typically runs on-premises.

Building a connected supply chain

Twinings’ new transformation programme aims to adapt to changing customer demands, build a more resilient, connected supply chain across a federated business producing between 45 and 75 million tea bags a week, and drive greater efficiency and cost control. And that means turning over a new leaf with SAP.

“What we are doing now is to build a partnership with SAP to ensure our growth, efficiency and consumer centricity objectives are met,” says Seeripat. “We have seen through the sales cycle that the SAP team were looking to find solutions to our business problems, versus selling us new technology.”

For Seeripat, an engineer by trade who has also previously worked as an SAP consultant, the implementation of Rise by SAP will help elevate his technology function from back-office tasks, gain increased support from SAP specialists while generating new insights across the supply chain.

“We are approaching our transformation with the concept of building a platform for our business,” Seeripat says. “Our architecture started with us looking at how we could integrate our supply chain to generate insights and to build a connected supply chain. This connectedness will allow a reduction in inventory, improve customer service, reduction in costs and respond to consumer needs faster.”

“On the cost of running IT, I did not want my team to focus on managing our SAP environment and dealing with that complexity. Rise with SAP allows us to enable and extract value from our investment versus managing the back-office and get the hosted services managed by SAP experts,” Seeripat added.

RISE by SAP: Not just rebadging ERP

The announcement of a high-profile customer for the RISE programme is a feather in the cap for SAP. The company introduced RISE a year ago to help attract customers to its cloud-based offerings and get them to move away from legacy products built on ECC.

The effort appears to be working: In its fourth quarter financial report, SAP announced that cloud revenue rose 17% year on year to about €9.4 billion (US$10.7 billion or £7.9 billion) in 2021. CEO Christian Klein said there was an increase in CIOs renewing their contracts with SAP since RISE was introduced.

SAP says that the cloud-based RISE is a ‘game-changing innovation’ which provides more than just ERP, and this is something that resonated with Seeripat during the discovery and tendering process.

“On RISE with SAP, we can get upgrades in hours versus the traditional prolonged upgrades of the past,” says Seeripat. “We felt that this agility and reduction in business disruption made Rise with SAP a logical choice.”

“My CFO and I were clear on this … if this is an ERP project, let’s stop this — because it’s not about ERP; ERP is the means,” said Seeripat during SAP’s podcast, adding his organisation was looking for a tried-and-tested, plug-and-play platform that would drive improved consumer experiences at scale.

Twinings Ovaltine, which comprises historic tea brand Twinings and the milk flavouring product Ovaltine, following the latter’s acquisition by Twinings subsidiary Wander AG in 2002, also turned to RISE for a quick deployment which delivered on time to value, enhanced automation and data capabilities and more flexible upgrade.

Managing a hybrid environment

Seeripat says that Twinings Ovaltine will continue to work across a hybrid cloud landscape, with some exceptions as it continues to work with Microsoft Azure. “Having businesses in the East makes a single hyperscaler challenging,” he admits. “In saying that, we will maximise our partnership with Microsoft before looking at other cloud providers.”

“Our landscape is predominately SAP — Ariba, Integrated Business Planning (IBP), Concur, SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC), SAP BW/4HANA [data warehouse] — and our data and analytics is on Snowflake with [Microsoft] Power BI. Our hyperscaler is Azure for both.”

For Seeripat, who says the company is at the start of its transformation journey, it’s now about combining data and user experience to achieve better customer experiences.

“We are focusing on making data analytics and insights with the user experience at the heart of our transformation,” he says. “We want to ensure an enjoyable and rewarding user experience so that technology is not a distraction, but an enabler and powerful tool to help them achieve their outcomes.

“We have this tagline in our strategy — ‘BizTech Partners that deliver Wow’ and this has been our ‘North Star’ in all that we do; from our standardisation of infrastructure, automation of a number of processes, building a new data analytics platform to drive self-service and ultimately deliver our S/4HANA ambition. All of these initiatives will strive to deliver the ‘Wow’.”