Unilever Becomes a Cloud-Only Enterprise Following Massive Migration

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
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Unilever has cleared a goalpost it set over the past year and half, moving its entire business operation to the cloud as part of the company’s new organizational structure

The company completed its migration in about 18 months; it will help Unilever optimize operations and drive growth. CGT connected with Unilever’s chief enterprise and technology officer, Steve McCrystal, who shared that the company’s cloud initiative will “unlock new opportunities for digital deployment and innovation.”

The benefits include faster, more scalable, on-demand computing; more efficient IT that dramatically increases the speed, flexibility and scale in which Unilever can operate; and a competitive advantage across an industry in which very few companies of Unilever’s size and legacy can claim full cloud implementation. Additionally, the company will be able to accelerate product launches, enhance customer service, and improve operational efficiency. 

“Some examples of this are the availability of real-time Internet of Things performance data from our factory digital twins, and deployment of AI to support geospatial deforestation tracking,” says McCrystal.

The company expects to tap into even more innovation opportunities following this advancement, including leveraging industrial metaverse tech that uses real-time data from factory digital twins to accelerate lighthouse factories. 

Additionally, using artificial intelligence, Unilever will be able to advance its research and development, building on a strong data foundation and increasing automation. And as predicted, Unilever is undergoing a sustainability push following the leadership appointment of Hein Schumacher as CEO — an executive with a track record for innovative, sustainability-focused supply chain initiatives. As a result, the cloud strategy will also help Unilever reduce its carbon footprint and transition to a more efficient and sustainable data environment. 

A Migration Success Story

Unilever’s cloud transformation leveraged solutions from both Accenture and Microsoft. The project required balancing different cultures, time zones, and tech, says McCrystal. And by aligning IT and business around the same vision, Unilever’s migration resulted in minimal business disruptions. 

“The changes were largely invisible to the rest of the business,” says McCrystal. “Having a single common goal across the whole of Unilever enabled an incident-free, on-time and in-budget delivery.”

During an earnings call with investors last October, CEO Alan Jope said the company expected to move 95% of its operations over to the cloud by the end of 2022, having already successfully migrated its ERP ecosystem (one of the largest in the industry, according to McCrystal).

This is part of Unilever’s larger efforts to restructure the organization, moving from a matrixed enterprise to five business units that each oversee their own global strategy, growth, and profit delivery. Clearly a significant focus area for this transformation has been end-to-end digital supply chain innovation, including IT investment and data aggregation. 

“Unilever is a truly data-powered organization. We’re using advanced analytics to make better-informed decisions quicker than ever before,” said McCrystal in a statement, adding that its global transformation project is allowing the organization to “respond to ever-changing consumer needs faster, allocate our resources more effectively to focus on what drives growth, and bring services and products to the market faster.”

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