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Ramon Baez, Kimberly-Clark: IT's role in the "tremendous journey" to social business

30th May 2012
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Kimberly-Clark CIO Ramon Baez explains how the business giant is making its journey to the social enterprise, and how IT are responding to new collaborative tools.

With leading brands including Kleenex and Huggies sold in more than 175 countries, after 140 years in business, Kimberly-Clark can claim to a be a genuine global brand. It’s also well on its way to becoming a social enterprise, according to CIO Ramon Baez.
“The move to the social enterprise is a tremendous journey,” he declares. “It makes it easier for us to deploy at a speed we could never do with on premise solutions, taking modern technology and have everyone embrace it.
“The social enterprise idea came about after a couple of other things had happened. We were looking at Chatter. Then my CEO called me up in New York and said he’s got this book called Cognitive Surplus. (The book’s thesis is that people are using more constructively the free time afforded them for creative acts rather than consumptive ones, particularly with the advent of online tools that allow new forms of collaboration). What we are able to do is to take the surplus of cognitive ownership and share ways to solve problems and break down obstacles. We are recognising and lifting people up and giving appropriate and timely feedback.”
Core to all this is the firm’s deployment of Chatter,’s Cloud collaboration tool. “We were already collaborating,” recalls Baez. “We had virtual teams all over the world who were collaborating via Microsoft SharePoint. What we didn’t do was show how we would all get out there and have a conversation so we were thinking about the need for some other type of product.”
The company was – and is – an SAP user. was added to the mix in Spring of 2010. “We have SAP customers since the early 1990s. We’re taking that fabulous platform and taking and Chatter and integrating with it,” explains Baez.
Inevitably there were those who were not as convinced as others of this new approach. “On the business side you get zero resistance. They want easier to use systems,” states Baez. “Within IT there can be some resistance. There are those who say this won’t work with our architecture or those who say they’ve made their life on a particular product that they were planning to retire on. But if you have good discussions and they can see some early wins you get past that. IT folks want to delight their internal clients.
“We worked with the business leaders, pulling them together and saying ‘here are your choices’. We had three choices and at first the team recommended three pilots, but I said ‘We’re done doing pilots – I’m going to give you the pros and cons of each one and we’re going to make a decision’. The business leaders said we go with”
Needs and uses
That’s not to say that IT hasn’t embraced this new collaborative enabler as well of course. In fact IT support is essential. “You need to have a good team around you and I have a phenomenal team,” affirms Baez. “We have a great technology team that has totally embraced this. You have to put out a platform that is easy to use and that people want to use. If it’s hard to use then it will just die of its own right. If people can use it on iPads and cell phones, then they will use it.”
It’s also important to bear in mind that IT resource will need to be allocated to enterprise roll outs of the likes of Chatter, for managing aspects such as upgrades. “We had a point when we didn’t resource that side of things,” admits Baez. “The business leaders in Australia are very IT savvy and they wanted to take charge of that. But that’s a very slippery slope so we put some resource in there and got a phenomenal response. That’s a learning: you‘ve got to make sure you resource completely. If you don’t have appropriate governance, it can get out of control.”
Different constituencies within the organisation will have different needs and make different uses of Chatter, advises Baez. “With the sales teams it’s about virtual high fives across the globe,” he says, “With IT it’s more about sharing what they’ve learned – did you know that if you have this kind of issue this is how you fix it? They also use it extremely well for asking questions. It’s amazing how people will pull together even when not on the same continents.”
Curiously perhaps the one constituency that still needs some convincing is the marketing department. “In marketing I’m trying to get them to work with Chatter,” confides Baez. “They have seen how it works elsewhere in the company but marketing is trying to work out what it gets out of this. We use SharePoint already so the question I get asked from some folks in marketing is what would they get out of Chatter that’s different?”
But marketing is already making good use of’s Radian6 social marketing tool. “We’re getting a lot out of Radian6,” explains Baez. “We have a feminine care product Kotex that we wanted to reinvent. It came in a black box so we changed the packaging. Kotex was what grandmothers used. So marketing used Radian6 to understand how a young lady deals with that time of the month.”
Some other global enterprises have chosen to customise and rebrand Chatter – within Burberry it’s just Chat for example – but Kimberly-Clark has chosen to stick with the vanilla branding. “I can see why there would be value for Burberry in doing that but not for us,” observed Baez. “Our staff love to name things. When we implemented SAP each region called the project a different name: Europe called it Esprit, US called it Polaris, Latin America said it was Project Rumba. But we’re not really into branding other than our products.”
With various offerings increasingly prevalent across the Kimberly-Clark enterprise, Cloud has an increasing presence, but not an inevitable one. “There are IT leaders who will say that they look at the Cloud as first choice automatically, but we say you need to look at what’s right for the company,” says Baez. “We’re in the middle of a Workday deployment right now, beginning with Asia Pac. We’re using Concur for travel and expense reporting and a bundle of smaller SaaS firms. But it’s not about Cloud First, it’s about Kimberly-Clark first.”

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