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CASE STUDY - Unilever Jumpstarts Growth Strategy, Increases Revenues

Commentary by Chris Broe, Information Program Director, and Steve Applegate, Program Manager, Information Systems Integration, Unilever

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Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of consumer goods, including household favorites such as Persil, Knorr, Hellmann’s, Lipton, and Dove. To keep up with consumer needs and increase operating margins, Unilever wanted to consolidate its 1,600 brands to 400. By consolidating its brands, Unilever plans to focus on stronger product innovations, strengthening marketing efforts, building a world-class supply chain, and simplifying business processes. Dubbed Unilever’s Path to Growth strategy, the company has already saved €1.6 billion from global procurement efficiencies, and management expects to save billions more by restructuring and simplifying processes.

Maintaining 1,600 brands among seven regional business groups and over 300 operating units created a heavy burden on Unilever’s IT environment. Unilever had a decentralized IT infrastructure with multiple environments, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications from companies such as SAP, MFG/PRO, BPCS, and Fourth Shift, as well as legacy systems. To reach its Path to Growth goals, employees at Unilever needed fast, easy access to actionable information on both a regional and a global basis. To that end, the IT department launched the Unilever Information Program (UIP) to develop an infrastructure to support the Path to Growth strategy, with the key priority of finding a quick data integration solution to allow user access to any number of data sources for in-depth analysis.


To support the new Path to Growth information needs, Unilever set out to build an integrated information source to serve thousands of users around the world.

Unilever needed to extract data from a multitude of disparate systems from around the world, consolidate it into a single data warehouse, feed it into specific data marts, and then make meaningful data available to relevant end users.

To do this, Unilever evaluated several extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) tools through a rigorous proof of concept, and selected BusinessObjects™ Data Integrator. “We evaluated the ETL marketplace and chose Data Integrator for its ability to extract data, transform it into usable business information, and load it into the data warehouse,” said Chris Broe, director of UIP.

Business Objects data integration products are designed for quick installations to give organizations a jump-start on all of their data integration projects. Data Integrator has a data server that can access multiple sources and will intelligently manage and optimize the performance of Unilever’s data infrastructure. Unilever is also using BusinessObjects Rapid Marts™, which provides prepackaged data integration solutions that source data from customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM) applications.


“We’ve been able to do so much more with Data Integrator than we first anticipated,” said Steve Applegate, integration manager at Unilever. “It has enabled us to realize our objectives for the UIP and more, since we are now looking at replicating what we have done to help the other regions make information more accessible for end users via the deployment of a similar architecture.”

Currently, five other regions are working on data integration projects that Applegate expects will consolidate their data, using Data Integrator as the integration platform. Brazil has successfully linked some 130 operational companies to benefit from a single source of information. “Again, Data Integrator has been the glue that has enabled this geography to populate a single data warehouse,” said Applegate.

With Data Integrator, IT continues to play a significant role as Unilever moves down its Path to Growth. “So far, Data Integrator has proved to be indestructible. Data Integrator has transformed what we were doing and how we were doing it,” concluded Applegate.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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