Unilever PLC is a British multinational consumer goods company with a product range that includes everything from ice cream, vitamins, and breakfast cereal, to cleaning agents, toothpaste, and beauty products. The company shares a joint board of directors between Unilever PLC in the UK and Unilever N.V.in the Netherlands and celebrated its 90th anniversary in the consumer goods market in September 2021. With headquarters in London and Rotterdam, its workforce of over 155,000 employees delivers products to 190 countries worldwide.
You Need to Be the First to Win
To meet its demanding and continually changing customers’ needs, Unilever needed to stretch its capacity to launch new products quickly and efficiently, without adding more people to its workforce. The company approached Xebia with a clear ask: to help them respond to changing market dynamics faster and more effectively. “Competition is increasing, and we need to stand out by quickly launching new products, like healthy ice cream and soft drinks,” explained Joost Hoben, the marketing director for the company’s refreshment division in Benelux. To achieve this, Unilever needed to change its way of working.
Free Up Project Capacity
Like many other companies in today’s dynamic world, Unilever was struggling to keep up with changing customer demands. The Refreshment Division, in particular, needed to do more with the same number of people. “If you can’t add more hours to your day, or people to your team, you need to change the way you work,” said the company’s marketing director. “So that’s what we set out to do with Xebia. Their expert consultants worked with us to develop a plan of action that was perfect for our needs. They advised us in choosing an Agile approach, which helped us achieve our goal. Ultimately, we were able to free up our project capacity by an estimated 25%,” said Houben.
Agile: A Means to an End
Agile was not Unilever’s goal, but a means to an end. With more focus and fewer distractions, employees could identify pain points and eliminate time-wasting frustrations. One of the most tangible changes occurred when the company introduced Kanban, which greatly improved the workflow by making it visible. Houben praised Jens Broetzmann and Riët Broekhuizen, the Xebia Consultants who led the change.“The mix of Kanban and Scrum was a perfect fit for our business. It is pragmatic and result-orientated,” said Houben. “We get more done, and our employees feel a lot less pressure. We can now realize a new product based on a time frame of just six months.”