Unilever is a company that houses some of the world’s largest consumer brands such as Lipton, Vaseline, and Dove. With its large and ever expanding portfolio of products, it becomes an increasingly difficult process to integrate systems across seamlessly for business needs like supply chain management and sale processes. Knowing this, Unilever during the last three years started taking steps to decommission its legacy tools while speeding up its integration processes in parallel. It is no easy feat, but Unilever has made huge leaps of progress towards API transformation.
How is this accomplished? Frank Brandes, Unilever’s director of global enterprise business integration, began by creating a Center of Excellence within Unilever’s IT organization. They realized that having a centralized group for integrations was not sustainable, and it served as a bottleneck to businesses units. Central IT will need to maintain a degree of control while giving business organizations enough freedom to innovate. The challenge here, as Brandes said, is that “If you have too much control, you kill innovation. If you don’t have enough control, you don’t get the reuse, and you have people moving off in different directions.”
Under those circumstances, an Adaptive Integration Capability team was created. It functioned like an internal integration consulting group, going around business units and solving their integration pain points. The team also aimed to provide reusable services on API platforms to shift the focus away from individual assignments to reusable platform capabilities. Not only do business groups have resources for API led solutions in their possessions now, but the entire company also reaps the benefits of a hybrid infrastructure. For example, just after two years of Brande’s initiative the company conquered its SAPERP integration project by reducing cost by 26%.
Brandes accomplished his ambition with effective change management, agile principles, and more importantly delivering business values in consistent ways through API-led approaches. His adaptive integration team also continually removed barriers to business innovation by always embracing the API economy and giving everybody they work with the opportunity to feel a part of the transformation journey. It is amazing to see how providing a central platform for API integration can create such fruitful results in just a short amount of time.