The CIO of $35 billion Mars Inc. reflects on how IT helped the company seamlessly transition thousands of new employees and services after a major acquisition.
By Vittorio Cretella
In 2014, Mars Inc. acquired IAMS, EUKANUBA and NATURA from The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) – a $1.2 billion carve-out acquisition that was critical to its Petcare division’s future success. As a century-old company and a leader in the consumer packaged goods industry, Mars has executed many acquisitions; yet not many compared to this. Ensuring a seamless transition of services and benefits for 1,000 new associates at 20 North American sites in 120 days – with no data errors and no interruption to the business – was no small task.
So how did we succeed in executing a seamless integration (and the fastest close in P&G history)? As the dust has settled and we approach the two-year anniversary of this milestone, it’s clear to me that our experience holds important lessons that can be used to guide similar integrations across a variety of organizations.
The single most important success factor was investing early in scalable systems. In fact, the bulk of the work that enabled the integration – notably our transition to a cloud-based email and collaboration suite and our adoption of a common global enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform – began as much as a decade before.
If you consider the “must haves” for business continuity, getting paid and being able to communicate are the two basics – two of the areas where IT really has to deliver seamlessly. Transitioning our new colleagues from their P&G email addresses to Mars addresses was one of the first things we delivered as part of the transition, and it was possible because of a major transformation that we undertook in 2012, which included moving from an internally-hosted legacy infrastructure to a widely-used cloud-based email and collaboration suite. Adopting this platform gave us a more dynamic, scalable and easily-administered collaboration space, one that allowed us to stand up key repositories to create a “one-stop-shop” for benefits, company policies and other important information. Equally importantly, by going through the process of migrating 40,000+ Mars Associates to the new suite in 2012, our team gained invaluable experience and best practices – experience that gave us a template to use for the P&G acquisition two years later.
End-to-end business processes
Another early investment that paid dividends during the acquisition took place in the early 2000s, when we developed a common ERP platform for end-to-end business processes. Leveraging that platform to reflect standard best practices across our global Petcare business, we developed a common set of business-enabling tools – covering everything from HR and finance, to manufacturing and procurement – tailored to Mars’ compliance levels and operational needs. This template had been road-tested and put into place at each of our existing Petcare sites, so by the time the P&G acquisition happened, it wasn’t a question of “will this work?” or “what’s the best functionality?” but rather “how quickly can we execute our established process?”
By making investments like these early on, we’ve been able to create an IT environment that is more nimble, flexible and responsive to major business changes. We see the potential of technology and data to solve our toughest challenges and seize our biggest opportunities, and we’re proud that IT has become a true partner to our colleagues across the business – becoming both a growth-enabler and a source of competitive advantage.
Vittorio Cretella is the chief information officer for Mars Inc.