On top of a new business strategy, the ambitions for IT have received a huge boost in Danish Crown. Less focus on cost, more focus on business development – but without compromising on operations and resilience.
IT must be an enabler. This is the clear message from Danish Crown, where CIO Elo Bromer is leading efforts to develop a new IT strategy. The strategy does not stand alone but builds on a new business strategy that will support a move away from decentralized management towards a greater degree of unity through increased centralization.
– The clear objective in the future is to create a stronger Group approach across all business areas. In my department, this means that we are significantly increasing the level of ambition for IT and digitalization, Elo Bromer explains.
He points out that, historically, Danish Crown has focused on IT as an instrument for generating cost savings, but in the new IT strategy there will be a greater focus on IT as a business development asset. That is why he and his team are working to promote digitalization across the board.
Automation solves recruitment challenges
One of the places where the new IT strategy is manifesting itself is at Danish Crown’s many factories. In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for Danish Crown to attract labor, and therefore the factories can now look forward to a huge investment boost for initiatives including automation with robots.
But Danish Crown will also go full speed ahead in their digital transformation through administrative IT. In particular, the IT department works to create added value in existing processes – among other things by supporting sales and strengthening transparency in the organization’s ongoing performance.
– Fast data and digital dashboards mean that, as an organization, we can react quickly to fluctuations in both the sales process and production. Quite simply, we can look forward instead of back, Elo Bromer points out.
‘Free play’ challenges standardization
At Danish Crown, the ambition for IT is driven by top management, on a clear mission to strengthen the group perspective across the organization. Where Elo Bromer and the rest of the team in the IT department previously acted almost as an internal consultancy serving six different customers, the efforts are now much more streamlined:
– A united approach to IT is a clear strategy that comes from top management. In order to act effectively, it is simply necessary to have a certain level of IT standardization, where previously we had no mandate beyond making recommendations to the subsidiaries. The idea of ‘free play’ is good in theory, but in practice means that it is difficult to create consensus and steer the business in a common direction.
With a stronger mandate from top management, IT creates far more value for its investments:
– Now the whole organization is moving at the same pace, and we can make better use of our resources, Bromer explains.
Virtual collaborations and TV reports
The common group standards already proved their worth when the new coronavirus prompted all administrative staff to be sent home in the spring of 2020:
– With the more centralized strategy, we had already invested massively in a common platform, and that meant that we were almost ready to go from day one in our home offices. We just had to bring the last of the equipment home and prepare people to use it – then it ran without issues. We experienced a few minor challenges during the very first days, when loads placed Teams and Skype under pressure, but otherwise, we have not actually had any dropouts, Bromer says.
In fact, the shutdown has helped to advance the digital mindset in Danish Crown.
Virtual meetings cannot replace all ‘classic’ meetings, but there is no doubt that having online meetings entails interesting opportunities. Danish Crown is a cooperative, and among other things, the otherwise large meetings of the Board of Representatives have been moved online with TV-like reports with studio set-ups and professional recording quality. The event is shared live, and participants can still interact with each other and ask questions. This approach makes the experience far more interesting to follow than if it took place traditionally, in front of a Teams camera.
– It is important to utilize the communication channels that exist – even if they are not optimal. We make it work, says Bromer.
Resilience in turbulent market conditions
This is far from the first time Danish Crown has successfully navigated a storm. As a global actor in the food industry, the group is used to getting hit when crises arise around the world. Whether it is African swine influenza, Brexit or a European market pushed to the extreme by oversupply, Danish Crown has proven that they are good at getting through turbulence by adapting to the new conditions.
– While we are ambitious, we never just dive in at the deep end. It applies to the entire business that we do not push ourselves further than we can go – and to IT as well. We focus on proven technology, and we lean on best practice. And we have a lot of focus on not just installing IT, but actually implementing it. So, we are used to having a handle on our organization – and that just makes it easier to steer it in a new direction, if market conditions suddenly change, Elo Bromer explains.
Therefore, he also emphasizes that control does not stand in opposition to agility. Still, Bromer is looking to a future where he and the rest of the IT department at Danish Crown will increase their willingness to take risks a little, trying out new technologies such as blockchain, which is currently being tested in the Chinese part of the organization.
– But we can only do that because all the basics are in place and working, he points out.
Digital facts about Danish Crown
- The new IT strategy in Danish Crown has been developed based on the Group’s overall business goals with a view to ensuring consensus and a common direction. IT is there for the organization – not the other way around.
- In Danish Crown, it is a core task for IT to run a service and support function. On an employee’s first day, the entire digital setup must be in place to receive the new colleague. It’s all about the good Employee Experience.
Elo Bromer’s top tips for the well-prepared CIO
- Remember to keep IT incredibly close to the business when you are on a digital transformation journey. You must continuously adjust expectations, so that IT can contribute where it really matters.
- Find some good projects that create visibility with good results – then you can ‘blow your own horn’ a bit and position IT in the organization. That is important.
- Get the basics in place, develop a good service culture and a business that just works – that gives you the legitimacy you need to do more business development-related projects. No one listens to the IT department if their PC doesn’t work.