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Unilever: Transforming business processes with SAP solutions

Accenture teamed with Unilever to deliver Sirius/Mountain, helping the company make a significant step toward its global One Unilever vision.



When Unilever, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of consumer goods, decided it needed to improve many of its business processes, it turned to Accenture. Unilever, headquartered in both London and Rotterdam, produces 400 brands across 14 food, home and personal care categories. Twelve of these brands—including such recognized names as Knorr, Hellman’s, Lipton and Dove—generate revenues of more than €1 billion (US$1.4 billion) each year. With 174,000 employees in 100 countries, Unilever reported worldwide sales of more than €40 billion (US$57 billion) in 2008.

“We now have real-time transparency across Europe at the click of a mouse. The benefits this will bring over time for customer service, stocks and costs are phenomenal.” — Peter Ernsting, Chairman of Unilever Supply Chain Co. (USCC)


To achieve high performance, Unilever launched “One Unilever”—a transformation program aimed at simplifying and standardizing operations and business processes across the enterprise. As part of this effort, Unilever’s business in Europe initiated two related projects:

  • Sirius—involved developing and deploying a harmonized process model based on an SAP solution that would bring the operational model for One Unilever to life. In terms of scale, scope and speed of deployment, Sirius was one of the most ambitious SAP implementations ever undertaken in Europe.

  • Mountain—focused on forming a standardized supply chain model for Unilever Europe’s businesses in 24 countries led by a dedicated supply chain company and based on the SAP R/3 platform.


Unilever had designed an initial underlying business framework and ERP model. Accenture built on this by mobilizing a team to help deploy the SAP solution that would underpin a new set of standardized processes and the One Unilever transformation program.

With the team in place, Unilever and Accenture prepared an industrialized implementation approach and deployments were organized into multiple releases, with country and supply units allocated to a given release based on an assessment of complexity, size and operational constraints.

Accenture teamed with Unilever’s central and local country resources and supply units; professionals from the Accenture SAP Products Industry Solution Center in Spain; and technical professionals from Accenture Delivery Centers in India and the Philippines to deliver Sirius/Mountain.

Resources from Accenture Information Management Services also deployed an SAP Net Weaver Business Intelligence solution and integrated the Microsoft ProClarity analytics toolkit to enable new sales reporting capabilities. The solution, which included one of the largest implementations of the SAP data warehouse globally, transformed Unilever’s ability to generate insights into the performance of its operations and brands across Europe.

Co-developing an industrialized implementation approach with the Unilever program management, the team successfully deployed the integrated solution to Unilever’s marketing and sales organizations and 62 factories across 24 European countries. In total, approximately 17,000 users now have access to and use the SAP solution.

Even more impressive than this scale was the speed of deployment. The project team implemented the solution in less than half the time required for less complex SAP programs at other European consumer goods companies—less than three years. Collaborative program management was a key success factor.

Today, Accenture is providing application management services to Unilever’s operations under a seven-year outsourcing arrangement. The arrangement—handling more than 30 application development projects at any one time—has helped minimize the delivery risks associated with the SAP implementation, reduced Unilever’s dependence on locally developed and supported applications and improved IT efficiencies and productivity.

Importantly, it has also allowed Unilever’s program management resources to focus on maximizing the value of the Sirius/Mountain program.


With the successful implementation of its Sirius/Mountain programs in Europe, Unilever has made a significant step toward its global vision of streamlined operations, cost savings and optimized business performance.

Today, Unilever’s European supply chain network is managed by a single company. With new roles and responsibilities and a common set of tools and processes, this organization manages product demand and supply across Europe; is responsible for key decisions relating to Unilever’s extensive European supply chain and is accountable for all purchasing, warehousing and distribution operations; and makes use of consistent supply chain, customer development and financial data from across the region to drive transparency and accountability for supply chain results.

Importantly, according to Peter Ernsting, chairman of Unilever Supply Chain Co. (USCC), the deployment of a single IT platform was critical to the supply chain company’s success. “Without Sirius, the USCC technically would not exist. We now have real-time transparency across Europe at the click of a mouse. The benefits this will bring over time for customer service, stocks and costs are phenomenal.

The Sirius project, however, supports more than the new supply chain capability. The SAP system is enabling Unilever Europe to manage its operations as a single business, reduce operating costs and generate a pan-European view of its brands. With Sirius, the company’s European operations have been simplified significantly. Operations are now more agile, allowing Unilever to more easily adapt to changing market requirements and optimize business processes.

The success of the complex SAP implementation would not have been possible without the extraordinary collaboration between Unilever and Accenture, whose team represented a diverse mix of skills provided by people from 25 countries.

Unilever decided to build on the success of this collaborative relationship by turning once again to Accenture to roll out a standard SAP template across 22 country operations in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Turkey (AsiaAMET). This project was intended to create a common technology platform and business processes across all of Unilever’s AsiaAMET key business functions by the end of 2010—ultimately to achieve high performance.

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