You may have never heard of Sealed Air, but if you’ve ever used bubble wrap, then it’s more than likely you’ll have come into contact with one of their products. The inventors of the now ubiquitous packaging aid have been selling the air-filled wrapping since the 1950s and are a global player.
However, the company has been undergoing a major transformation since 2012, where it wants to shift from solely selling packaging products to its customers, to selling knowledge-based solutions. What does this mean? Instead of turning up and asking how much bubble wrap a customer needs, Sealed Air wants to advice on issues that impact not only businesses efficiency, but global waste.
I got the chance to speak to Naveen Kandasami, Global IT Executive Director, Business Partnership & CRM Strategy at Sealed Air, at SAP Hybris’ annual Global Summit in Barcelona this week, where he explained how the company is using the CRM/e-commerce platform to standardise on processes and support transformation goals.
Kandasami explained that the shift for Sealed Air is not just a technology-based one, but one that focuses on transforming commercially and adjusting the mindset of the company – which is underpinned but new technology. He said:
What I mean by that is that we have really converted ourselves from a products company to a knowledge based solutions company. We really had to flip the conversation around about how we engage with customers.
We would traditionally go to a customer and say ‘how many rolls of bubblewrap do you want today?’. That’s just not the way we engage with customers today. Those days are gone, they’re all commodity products. Today when we talk to our customers, we talk about operational efficiency, we talk about optimisation, we talk about freight cost optimisation, we talk about how we reduce damage in e-commerce channels.
The problems we are solving today are pretty significant problems. We know we have huge problems with food waste today, from farm to retail we lose billions of dollars. And then once it gets from retail into our fridge, that’s more billions of dollars. How do we tackle these problems? It starts with packaging, but it really is looking at the customer’s entire value chain, and not just what’s happening at the point of packaging. So we are thinking outside the box and we are engaging with our customers in a very strategic fashion. And that’s how we are differentiating ourselves.
Sealed Air began on this journey in 2012. Prior to this point, it had been going to market through the use of multiple outdated and admin-heavy technologies – SAP CRM on-premise, Lotus Notes, Excel, Google Sheets, and some home grown CRMs.
Kandasami said that these tools were mean Sealed Air was “not exactly in the best situation…to execute a commercial transformation strategy that’s trying to sell value”.
Since then it has been migrating to Hybris Cloud for Customer, Sales and Service, which is enabling it to not only consolidate onto a single global platform, but also standardise on its clunky processes. He said:
In order to transform like that commercially, you’re going to need applications to support and execute that. When you have disparate processes and when you have disparate applications, that will choke your ability to transform in an agile fashion. You’re not going to be able to execute and spin up processes on the fly. You’re going to have challenges communicating, singing the same tune, talking the same lingo, being proactive.
If you talk about core sales processes, like managing your pipeline, being able to do forecasting, being able to do business reviews, you need to have a common language, a common platform. We do this with Hybris. When you want to execute service in the field, you need to be executing service in a standard fashion. You can’t be executing service differently from one state to another. We are a global organisation, we need to roll the data up in a standard fashion.
Careful of customisation
Sealed Air has approximately 3,000 users that are being migrated to the new Hybris platform, which Kandasami said is gaining significant traction. He added that the move to cloud has been game changing for the company, when compared to on-premise, as the users feel more competent using an application that resembles what they would use at home, at work. He said:
We need to deliver the same real-life, user experience that they have on a daily basis in their work life as well.
And whilst Kandasami admitted that Sealed Air has had to leave some processes in place for the time being, it has been undergoing an extensive process to unpick processes where it can and standardise on the Hybris platform. He explained:
You’re going to get cultural resistance regardless of any sort of technology you go to, because there is going to be legacy processes that are going to be hard to tackle. There’s a lot of legacy knowledge in there, where you need to be very mindful of, in terms of ‘what was the actual purpose of that process?’.
But when we went through our blueprint sessions, we were very prescriptive with our users, saying that they should go as standard as possible. Because the reason we are in this situation today is that you go through mergers and acquisitions, you’re going to adopt various different processes. It’s something that’s inevitable, unless you have a very strict policy.
But it’s a very fine line balancing that strict policy and being able to spin up agile business processes as well. So you need to understand what’s standard, why is it standard, and if you’re going to customise, do you really need to? What value is that customisation going to bring you?
Because customisation doesn’t only come with a unique process, but it comes with a certain cost of maintenance to it as well. And you as an organisation need to be prepared to manage that cost.
Finally, I asked Kandasami if there was anything Sealed Air was hoping to achieve through its use of Hybris that it wasn’t yet able to do. And rather than anything specific about the technology, Kandasami admitted he’d like to better be able to directly attribute the future potential uplift in revenue to the use of the platform. He said:
Ideally, I’d like to get to a place where we can clearly identify accountability in terms of what a platform has really delivered from the business case. That’s a little bit of a difficult thing to do when you have multiple initiatives competing for the same financial metric. When you look at the benefits and you say that by building Hybris, I’m going to lift my revenue by 4%, it’s a bit of a bold statement to make.
I think if you’re a revenue leader or you own a P&L, it’s something that I don’t think that a lot of people would say.
But the real question is: what happens if you don’t? Will you still get that 4%? What sort of churn will you get? And what sort of difficulties will you run into? If anything, by embarking on these sort of initiatives your platform strengthens and reinforces your ability to deliver on that uplift.
Image credit - Images free for commercial use
Disclosure - SAP is a diginomica premier partner at time of writing.