Danone: We don’t just talk digital—We act digital

We sat down with Pierre Lacour, the CIO for Danone's Asia Pacific region, to learn about his views on the CPG industry​.

Tell us about your role at Danone?
As the CIO of Danone for Asia Pacific, I cover information systems and IT from New Zealand to India, and everything in between. I’m now in my fifth year, and this is my first CIO position.

What made you want to work in the CPG industry?
I started my professional life in the CPG industry, working in sales with Colgate. With recognized brands, very structured processes and a focus on people development, the CPG industry has given me a good grounding in business. For the last 20 years I have been with Danone, working in sales for eight years and IT for 12 years. This double competency has held me in good stead, allowing me to apply both functional and technical capabilities. In between, running my own real estate company in the scenic French Riviera for a while was a complete departure! It was fantastic, and I enjoyed the autonomy and being able to really drive the business. However, the market was declining and if you don’t sell, you don’t eat! So I decided to come back to the CPG fold.

What’s been your biggest personal achievement to date?
A highlight has been the successful reorganization of the IS/IT group in Asia and the implementation of shared services. We created five pools of people across Indonesia, China, Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, Japan and Korea, that are dedicated to all Danone businesses, rather than one business unit. As a result, we were able to leverage more experts, improve processes, attract and retain talented people, and increase the IT impact on business.

Another recent highlight is that we have just kicked off a key step of the Danone digital journey in Asia, where we have created a team, several project roadmaps and an ambitious system transformation plan. IS/IT, business, HR and legal are all involved, and the digital plans are part of our business 2015 objectives. We don’t just talk about digital, we act digital!

What three key skills have helped you to get to this point?

  1. Stay connected: To me, this means not only staying connected to your company, colleagues and customers, it also means staying connected and aware of what’s happening in the industry and around you. Without this connection, your view of reality is incomplete.

  2. Team work: Being able to work as part of a team is a great strength and testament to you as a person. It’s a key skill and strength—and one I adhere to very strongly.

  3. “Have a go:” I feel that life is about opportunities, and you must try even if you don’t succeed—and this is a mantra I like to live by.

What industry trends are happening in the marketplace?
IT acceleration has made the implementation of a solid ERP, SFA and BI backbone fundamental, whether you are operating in developed or emerging markets.

The digital revolution is driving and shaping the world around us. Mobility, usage of data, web-enabled technology and the like have put us on a trajectory where if the industry does not follow—it will collapse. It’s no longer a question of whether you implement these or not—but how fast and big you should go.

What are the main barriers?
Although these technology trends are driving the change, true change requires a new business model that erodes the barriers between marketing, IT and sales. This means that the moving parts need to work together seamlessly, or at least re-draw some of the boundaries between functions.

Another issue: We often hear about data coming from social or external providers, but a huge amount of information is actually from the business itself. However, there is not always the appetite to analyze it.

How important is trade promotion management (TPM) software to achieving success today?
Although TPM is less advanced in Asia than in Europe or the United States, exploding investment and growth means we need strong controls and effective measurements in place to truly harness demand. For that, it’s essential to address TPM now with simple and reliable software. It is also an important source of data for analysis and promotion modelling.

You recently attended the Accenture NewsPage User Forum in Malaysia. Were there any highlights?
It was a fantastic event, and I truly enjoyed networking with my peers and Accenture NewsPage and Accenture colleagues. I took away interesting insights into how TPM and analytics are shaping our industry.