Since its founding in 1837, P&G has continuously challenged convention—continuously reinventing the way they do business in order to better win in the global marketplace. In everything from product and package design to business models and organizational efficiency—innovation is the key driver behind this reinvention, enabling P&G to maintain competitive advantage through the delivery of high-quality products at a lower cost.
In 1999, P&G established its Global Business Services (GBS) organization to better support and enable innovation across the entire enterprise. This shared services business unit centralizes and manages all back-office operations for the entire company—and strives to marry information technology with business services in ways that help every P&G employee become more productive, collaborative, and efficient. The GBS organization is responsible for providing world-class solutions at a low cost with minimal capital investment.
In order to deliver scalable services and solutions with excellence throughout the company, GBS began by examining their own operations. They turned to Intuit QuickBase to help address the challenges of their growing, increasingly complex business unit, as well as to elevate internal operations to a higher level of efficiency—through improving collaboration, global project visibility, accessibility, and business process standardization.
The need for real-time collaboration
With more than 7,000 employees, GBS is responsible for thousands of interdisciplinary initiatives each year that require joint human, financial and technical resources.
In 2004, the GBS Project Management Organization (PMO) team began looking for a new way to manage information to simplify the current system which required synching data from multiple spreadsheets into a single, master spreadsheet consisting of thousands of records. With no way for managers to implement or enforce data standards across these multiple sources, the reporting process was arduous and often inaccurate. In turn, this led to hours of meetings centered on identifying the most current version of a given source—and then correcting the master spreadsheet's data, column and formula discrepancies accordingly. Across the organization much time was dedicated to inputting and reconciling data.
As the number of spreadsheets grew, so did duplication of efforts. "We had several different people doing the same work in different locations," says Jason Schubert, GBS systems analyst. With no centralized source of information—no way of tapping into common data—service line managers were forced to create their own approach to similar business processes. This stymied efficiency and cost hours of administrative time each month.
"These silos of information dragged down our efficiency," says Kim Kehling, director of the GBS Project Management service line. "Prioritizing projects, forecasting human resource requirements, project costs and delivery dates—all of these were virtually impossible without calling endless meetings and tying up staff who really should have been focused more strategically. Our ability to collaborate the way we wanted to—and needed to—wasn't happening." With no way for managers to implement or enforce data standards across thousands of records housed in multiple databases, staff spent hours in meetings centered on identifying the most current version of a given source—and then correcting the master spreadsheet's data, column and formula discrepancies accordingly.
From information silos to global visibility: Web-based project, process and portfolio management
GBS PMO recognized the need for a portfolio approach to project and process management—but lacked the technology to support it.
"As we thought about all of our different shared services projects, we wanted to be able to capture and integrate the data and information associated with those projects in a centralized database—and then share that data and information with hundreds or thousands of people in real-time, whenever and wherever they happened to be," says Kehling. In this way, service line managers could leverage and re-use common business data far more efficiently than they could with other traditional desktop tools.
After an extensive evaluation process, Eduardo Garcia, in his position on the PMO team at the time and Site Services Leader for GBS's Fabric & Home Care Innovation Center today, chose Intuit QuickBase—the backbone upon which he developed a proprietary application called GBS Portfolio.
The total cost of the QuickBase solution—including license fees and development and deployment of the GBS Portfolio application—offered the right fit for the business at the right price. "Ramp up was fast. We began developing GBS Portfolio within a couple of months of purchase the first iteration was deployed within three weeks, and we continued fine-tuning and customizing it from that point, without disruption," says Garcia.
Today, GBS Portfolio consolidates hundreds of projects across many GBS service lines into a single, online, web-accessible QuickBase database.
"One of the biggest benefits of using QuickBase," observes Garcia, "is our ability to speed alignment between service lines and increase project visibility—particularly among those requesting resources from multiple departments or service lines." This helps managers better forecast project requirements and deploy resources against the highest priorities—something that used to take hours of meetings to accomplish.
Scaling across the organization
After witnessing how quickly Garcia developed GBS Portfolio—and experiencing its ease-of-use and business value firsthand—other GBS managers began developing additional QuickBase applications to better manage data in their own service lines. Together, these nearly 70 applications—developed on the secure QuickBase platform and sharing a common data repository—are driving increased collaboration, productivity, and agility throughout the entire P&G organization. Now, thousands of users can access, share and leverage critical business data where and when they work—rendering their static, inflexible Excel spreadsheets obsolete.
As a result of this transition to QuickBase, GBS service lines have experienced tremendous benefits across the board, including:
Increased productivity and capacity with QuickBase
For example, Garcia notes that across the 15-member PMO, "QuickBase has saved significant time. Each team member used to spend two to three full days working just on identification of cross-service line projects and resource alignment. Now they spend approximately three to four hours on it. QuickBase has increased productivity and capacity in the individual service lines substantially—due to visibility, collaboration and customizability."
Kathy Meyer, cash forecaster for the GBS Capital service line, agrees. As stewards of P&G's capital spend, Meyer and her team are responsible for tracking more than 1,600 projects—and also must generate monthly budget forecasts, commitments and actuals reports for each of those projects.
Under her direction, systems administrator Jason Schubert developed the GBS Capital Tracking Tool—another user-friendly, web-accessible QuickBase application—which houses all capital projects, forecasts and actuals. Now, just one person can synch and generate the reports in as little as two hours per month—a significant efficiency that has improved the team's ability to take on more strategic work.
"Given our success moving from spreadsheets to the GBS Capital Tracking Tool, I would highly recommend QuickBase as a solution for other corporate spreadsheet-intensive environments."
Streamlined business processes
Thanks to QuickBase, each service line is working to automate and standardize business processes in order to further increase their efficiency. For example:
GBS Capital —GBS Capital Tracking includes automated tasks such as monthly data uploads and pre-built standard reports—which have greatly improved the team's efficiency and have all but eliminated costly data entry errors.
"With GBS Capital Tracking, our data integrity has increased dramatically," says Meyer. "We have much greater confidence in what we report to Corporate in terms of our forecasting, actuals tracking and commitments."
GBS Capital —Built-in functionalities, including automatic report submission to senior management, have streamlined GBS processes—resulting in far shorter report generation lifecycles that require less interaction from fewer staff members. Now, executives can access—in real time—the actionable data they need to make strategic plant operating and production decisions, which has further increased P&G's overall agility.
Cost savings and ongoing return on investment
Not only has GBS saved significant money in purchase and implementation costs with QuickBase—it also sees an ongoing return on investment across all 70 applications.
At GBS Capital, Kathy Meyer's team has seen major efficiency gains. "Now that we don't spend time constantly cleaning spreadsheets, we've been able to focus our efforts on bringing in more work," Meyer says. "And, while it's difficult to attach a number to this increased capacity, it's hugely valuable in terms of driving our profitability."
As the global operational backbone of P&G, the GBS business is charged with addressing some formidable challenges—both internally and, by extension, throughout the entire P&G organization—in order to transform P&G's business and drive for competitive advantage through innovation and agility. How can GBS increase productivity through improved collaboration? How can GBS realize greater efficiencies through streamlining business processes? How can GBS increase profitability?