Data Wrangling: How Procter and Gamble Maximizes Business Analytics

In Summary

WHO: Filippo Passerini, CIO of Procter & Gamble and President of P&G’s Global Business Services organization

WHAT: Since 2008, Passerini has led the company’s efforts in advancing business intelligence and analytics.

WHERE: Cincinnati

WHY: Passerini has placed P&G on the cutting edge of business intelligence and business analytics. His insights and lessons learned can be used to shape your organization’s BI/BA strategies.

Back in 2008, analytics was all the buzz in the IT world. Business intelligence providers were being gobbled up by technology sector leaders eager to add heft to their enterprise products, and CIOs were scrambling to understand and implement new methods of turning data into actionable insights for their businesses.

At the same time, Filippo Passerini’s team was knee-deep in developing a groundbreaking analytics system that today is widely considered to be one of the best in the United States. Passerini, CIO of consumer products giant Procter & Gamble and president of the company’s Global Business Services organization, had spent 17 years by then with the company in IT, marketing and operations, giving him a unique window into which business needs the company most urgently had to address.

Passerini recently shared details of this journey with CIO Insight contributor Brian P. Watson. This is an edited, condensed version of that exchange.

CIO INSIGHT: What has P&G done on the business intelligence and analytics front, and when did it all begin?

Filippo Passerini: We have transformed all our standard business reporting into a visual, one-stop shop illustration of the business status and trends. Key features include control charts, drill-down capabilities, automatic alerts and on-the-fly analyses. [These are] what we call Decision Cockpits, because they have enabled us to make better, faster decisions [than were previously possible].

Not only has this new capability driven immediate alignment on what is happening to the business, but also why it is happening.

We began investigating the use of Decision Cockpits in July 2008. Decision Cockpits support fast, real-time decision-making across all brands and business units. P&G’s Global Business Services (GBS) shared services and IT organization led the development of the system architecture to support a global launch of the Decision Cockpit, which would enable end users to design their own portal. This required design and alignment across internal platforms, as well as collaboration with external vendors to meet this challenge.

Did you stop there?

Passerini: Once we discovered the power of having access to real-time data, the idea of the Business Sphere was born. It started with a design in a shoebox, and through many timely iterations, it evolved into the innovation it is today. The Business Sphere is an in-house business intelligence tool that is transforming decision-making here at P&G. It helps us make fast, [informed] decisions by combining expert analysis of real-time information and data visualization within an immersive environment. This patent-pending system is being deployed in various formats throughout P&G’s network of sites. The system utilizes a set of business intelligence capabilities that integrate complex, real-time global data, analytic models, advanced visualization and IT-analyst facilitation.

Insights are displayed in [P&G’s] Cincinnati headquarters on two 32-foot-by-eight-foot concave screens, physically surrounding business leaders with the data they need to make actionable decisions. The visualization of the data makes it easy to focus on the exceptions and realize business opportunities and where interventions are necessary.

Our IT organization (which internally we call Information Decision Solutions, or IDS) has created an embedded analyst network, which is a key ingredient to our success. We leverage our analytic models and advanced visualization to manage the business by exception [a practice whereby only the information that indicates a significant deviation of actual results from the planned results is brought to management’s notice] and focus on forward-looking projections.

We now have more than 50 Business Spheres around the world. I am proud to say that the patent-pending Business Sphere just received notification from the United States Patent and Trademark Office that our application cleared the opposition phase in November 2011.

What was the overarching, primary business problem you were trying to solve?

Passerini: Instead of spending our time debating the data, we eliminate the need for those discussions. The data is the data, and leaders can spend their time concentrating on the business and the decisions that need to be made to move the business–instead of which set of data points is correct. This speeds decision-making and ultimately improves time to market. It allows us to manage by exception. The power comes with the combination of existing technologies packaged with visualization and business analysts. The analytic models are the “secret sauce” to help us accelerate decision-making.

What was P&G doing with analytics before these new developments?

Passerini: In the past, there was no one-stop shop for all information, but today, with Decision Cockpits, all the data that had been collected through emails, letters, phone calls and reports resides in this system. This has dramatically reduced the cost and complexity associated with creating reports and the duplication of data.

What difficulties did you face in implementing these tools and getting user buy-in?

Passerini: Culture change is never easy. There are some people who are used to seeing information displayed a certain way, and by digitizing our data and having it available in such a powerful way, it was different. Another initial challenge was the availability of the same information, to everyone, at the same time–call it
”information democracy.” But it did not take long for leaders to understand the value of the Business Sphere and adopt the new technology and [new] way of doing business.

What results have you seen since utilizing these tools?

Passerini: The Business Sphere provides executives the ability to leverage the more than 500 million data points a month [available to them]. These include point-of-sale data from retail partners, syndicated data on markets, and internal ERP, shipment and inventory data. We have a more managed way to approach the immense amounts of data available [than we previously had]. We have a fast, accurate way to identify opportunities and areas where inventions are necessary. And we have an innovative solution that delivers on our CEO’s goal to digitize the company from end to end. The Business Sphere is part of our business intelligence program, and BI is one of the four pillars of our digital strategy.

With Decision Cockpits, we cover 56 percent of processes, globally. We moved from 18 to 90 percent distribution in our global business units and market development organization. We moved from 2,000 users to 58,000 users accessing Cockpits weekly. We drastically reduced the number of emails generated (the equivalent of 400 miles of paper per year), and the Cockpits give decision-makers and knowledge workers [those P&G employees who don’t work in a plant] a “clearer version of the truth,” which eliminates the need for multiple requests for data.

Strategically speaking, what are the biggest benefits P&G has received from the use of these tools?

Passerini: The intent is to anticipate what is going to happen in the business, rather than looking at it from the rearview mirror. The end result of digitizing the company end to end is creating an environment that is [functioning in] real time. We can respond to the market faster [than we previously could]. By having access to the right data at the right time, we are able to make informed decisions and address the needs of our customers and consumers.

Do you have any specific plans to expand or extend the use of these tools in 2012?

Passerini: Yes. Business intelligence is an area where I believe we have a competitive advantage. Today’s environment moves so quickly–you must keep improving, or else you become irrelevant. Our BI capabilities have proven to deliver a unique advantage, and we will continue to invest in BI to build on those advantages.

We have plans to further leverage our business analysts, so that this approach becomes pervasive in all we do. Our business analysts are IT professionals who have expertise in data, systems and analytic methods, and [they have] deep business-domain knowledge.

They are considered trusted advisors for our presidents and GMs and provide objective insights and recommendations on our business. Business analysts add the human factor to the new breakthrough analytical tools and data visualization. They help transform information into knowledge.

We want to have business analysts become pervasive in the business. By having these experts available to help us analyze the information that is available, we are able to bring value to the business by speeding decision-making and getting to market quickly. By adding analysts to our businesses, it adds capability. We are also looking at expanding BI/analytics to other domains inside of P&G, including supply chain and channels.

What advice would you give to CIOs who either have not utilized BI/analytics tools, or have not begun utilizing them to their fullest extent?

Passerini: It is not about the technology–it’s about the business. We must be businesspeople first and technology experts second. BI is a great capability for us because it has value for the business. We will not adopt technology for technology’s sake. We have IT experts embedded in the business units to understand the business and the needs of the business, and then offer solutions with what is possible with today’s–or tomorrow’s–technology.

For those who can benefit from real-time data, BI is a can’t-miss. For us, our investment has been well-justified, and it has brought immense capabilities to the business and allowed us to run in real time.

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