Agile Consulting / Customer Story

Unilever refreshment benelux realize an estimated 25% project capacity growth

After embracing Agile Unilever Refreshment NL reduces the Time to Market and increases innovative power by choosing an Agile approach and done it right.

90 Years of experience with consumer goods.
In September of this year, Unilever was in the market of consumer goods for 90 years already. With headquarters in London and Rotterdam, its workforce of over 155.000 employees delivers products to 190 countries worldwide. The company is split up into two single businesses with a joint Board of Directors: Unilever plc, in the UK, and Unilever N.V., based in Rotterdam.

Why

Respond to changing market dynamics quickly and adequately

What

Free up project capacity for innovative strength and reduce TTM (Time To Market)

How

Agile way of working with scrum and Kanban

To win, you need to come first

Unilever consists of three divisions: Foods & Refreshment, Home Care, and Beauty & Personal Care. Today, you will find out how we helped Unilever Refreshment Benelux realize an estimated 25% project capacity growth, thus enabling them to respond better to changing customer needs, by introducing an Agile way of working.

Unilever approached Xebia with a clear ask: to respond to changing market dynamics more quickly and adequately. Competition is increasing, and we need to stand out. Consumers are very demanding, and we need a product range that can meet continually changing customer needs, which requires flexibility and adaptability. We also need to be able to launch new products quickly, for example, healthy ice creams or soft drinks. In short, we need to do more with the same amount of people. How? By improving project capacity. We need to run our business as effectively as possible, with a full focus on growth. To achieve this, we need to change the way we work.

Free up project capacity
Unilever’s Refreshment division was faced with a challenge, namely, to do more with the same number of people. In a dynamic world with rapidly changing customer demands, more and more companies are struggling with the same thing. If you can’t add more hours to your day, or people to your team, you need to change the way you work to increase, for example, productivity. That is what we set out to do together. We chose an Agile approach to achieve our goal: free up project capacity.

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"Small businesses are fast and Agile, but lack scale. Unilever Refreshment has the scale but misses the agility. To sustain a healthy work-life balance, we can’t ask our employees for more. We need to step up and find a new way to achieve our goals."

Joost Houben, Marketing Director Refreshment Benelux

Agile: a means to an end

Agile was not our goal; we merely used it to create a new way of working, with more focus and fewer distractions from emails, apps, and tasks that didn’t belong on that employee’s plate. We talked to team members, identified pain points, and started removing causes for frustration one by one, sometimes just by making a minor change in team composition. Seven teams, called Squads, were part of the project. One of the most tangible changes we made is introducing Kanban.

Simply put, Kanban improves the workflow by making visible who needs to do what and when they need to do it. A Kanban board provides people with insight, overview, and peace of mind. We implemented other Scrum methods as well, like daily Standups, but made sure not to burden the teams more theory and jargon than necessary.

Results

Transforming Unilever’s Refreshment division realized a 25% growth in prxoject capacity, which translates into a similar improvement of innovative strength and time-to-market (TTM). Jens Broetzmann and Riët Broekhuizen, the Xebia Consultants leading this change, were praised by Unilever’s Marketing Director: “The mix of Kanban and Scrum is a perfect fit with our business, it is pragmatic and result-orientated. We get more done, and employees report a decrease in pressure. We can now realize a new product based on a time frame of just six months.”

More and more people at Unilever are interested in joining Refreshment. The new way of working attracts people. The division has even been asked to share their experiences with Unilever Global, as this project shows how change can be sparked at any level. It doesn’t always require a top-down approach.

Unilever’s Success Survey (figures can be selected)

  • The Kanban/Scrum method scores 4.2 out of 5
  • 95% of the team members never want to return to the old situation
  • 85% are happy with the way they work
  • 84% have an improved focus
  • 65% experience a better work-life balance
  • Email traffic has been increased from 30% to 50%
  • 92% would recommend this way of working to colleagues

Agile Consulting

Today’s most successful businesses have one thing in common: they are open to change. They know that continuous innovation is critical to meet customer needs and remain competitive. The world we live in is extremely dynamic. Trends and new technologies follow each other at high speed. What breaks new ground one day, will be torn to the ground the next.

Staying ahead of the game is key. This doesn’t always mean moving faster or turning your business model upside down. Maybe, you need to work smarter. An Agile way of working requires many aspects of your business to be reviewed, refreshed, and reorganized.