With its 100-year history of creating market-leading skin care products, including the NIVEA, Eucerin, and La Prairie brands, Beiersdorf AG has a rich heritage of innovation. In keeping with this tradition, the Hamburg, Germany–based company recently co-innovated with the SAP Consulting organization to develop a game-changing market intelligence tool.
Working with experts from SAP Consulting, Beiersdorf used a “design-thinking” approach to create an easy-to-use solution that gives the company’s marketing team fast access to in-depth market insights. Since going live in November 2014, the project has already won an SAP Quality Award for its implementation of the SAP HANA platform.
Here, Martin Böhm, head of market intelligence at Beiersdorf, and Volker Haltenhof, principal business consultant at SAP, discuss key success factors and lessons learned from this award-winning initiative.
Q: What were the key challenges you faced that prompted this project?
Böhm: We needed to make informed decisions about key strategic areas such as pricing and promotions. To do that, our marketers require detailed information about how our products are selling; this includes knowing the market share of hundreds of product categories across numerous different regions worldwide.
We used to have a team of “number crunchers” who spent hours manually combining data from numerous different sources to obtain the market share information we needed. This work was laborious, time-consuming, expensive and – all too often – prone to error. And even after all that effort, our marketing team didn’t always get the level of detail needed.
We decided to put in a place a solution that would streamline the process of compiling and harmonizing the data. And we wanted a tool that would deliver exactly what our marketers needed, when they needed it, intuitively at the touch of a button.
Q: Why did you turn to SAP Consulting for help?
Böhm: We’d previously taken part in design-thinking workshops run by the Business Transformation Services group of SAP Consulting, so we were already familiar with the approach. We also knew that SAP had an experienced team who could help us develop a truly creative solution that would meet the needs of our business users.
Q: How does the design-thinking approach differ from traditional design management methodologies?
Haltenhof: With the design-thinking approach, the user is at the very center of what we’re doing. This wasn’t an IT project; it was a business project, providing a solution to a real business problem. So, from start to finish, we made sure that we listened to the pain points and to what the users really wanted. We ran a series of workshops and interviews with marketing personnel to understand their specific requirements, and we kept going back to them to check that we were on track.
Another important aspect of the design-thinking approach is the way one perceives failure. Each time you fail, you learn. By creating an environment where failure is seen as acceptable and even useful, you encourage greater creativity.
Q: What were the main factors that led to the success of the project?
Böhm: I think that the team dynamic was crucial to our success. We had a relatively small, dedicated team made up of IT and business personnel from SAP and Beiersdorf. The chemistry was great and we developed a very strong working relationship.
Haltenhof: Another reason for our success is that we kept things simple. At the beginning, we had a plethora of ideas but less is more. Consequently, we forced ourselves to focus on the key “must haves.” That meant that we didn’t make the solution too complex from a user perspective.
Additionally, my background of 20 years in the fast-moving consumer goods industry helped me communicate with users at their level. I believe it’s very important to “talk business” and not talk IT
Q: What benefits is the market intelligence tool delivering to the business?
Böhm: With a solution based on the SAP HANA platform, we’ve now fully automated the consolidation and harmonization of product-purchasing data from multiple sources. This saves both time and resources. We estimate that we’ve saved up to 40% of data harmonization costs alone, and we anticipate a significant reduction in the global data processing budget overall.
From a user perspective, marketers can now access detailed reports on market share by product category and region quickly and easily, even when they are out of the office, using a specially developed mobile app.
And because the tool lets us analyze market-share data at a very granular level, we can actually explore the trends behind the figures. By understanding what the market is doing in this detail, we are better placed to make effective decisions on areas such as promotions or adapting the marketing mix. In short, our market intelligence tool helps us respond faster and more appropriately to a very dynamic market environment.
Q: How has the project been received by the business?
Böhm: The solution is very intuitive, so the marketers don’t need any training, and this has helped ensure rapid adoption. Because we put the user at the heart of this project, the tool delivers exactly what our marketers were looking for.
Recognition for the project within the company has been quite amazing. We received the internal Beiersdorf Simplicity Award and I feel this really reflects the fact that the tool has helped our marketers to streamline the way they work.
Q: What other innovation projects do you have in the pipeline and will you be using the same approach?
Böhm: The Business Transformation Services group is supporting us again as we look at additional Big Data opportunities. We’re using the design-thinking approach to explore innovation opportunities for our business within this area. For us, the design-thinking methodology that the Business Transformation Services group brings to innovation projects is tried and proven.
The co-innovation approach of the SAP team means that we can influence the development – and benefit from early releases – of SAP software. This allows us to go further to explore new possibilities and ultimately find exciting new solutions that will help Beiersdorf to become even more competitive.
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