How Mondelez is driving change with tech

From empowering citizen developers to deploying drones to monitor the health of cocoa trees, Mondelez has been firing on all cylinders to disrupt the old ways of doing things

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At Mondelez, one of the world’s largest snacks companies, tapping emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and robotics has enabled it to improve product recommendations, increase sales, facilitate business planning and even monitor the health of cocoa trees.

Take product recommendations. The company’s sales teams now use a sales automation platform to recommend products that a retailer could offer on its shelves based on historical sales data, including what sells more in a particular neighbourhood.

“It’s no secret that sales reps will take an order based on the history of what they’ve been selling to a store and their relationship with the shopkeeper,” said Sanjay Gurbuxani, vice-president for Mondelez Digital Services.

“We’ve brought in AI, looked at the historical data of what that store has been buying and what other stores are also buying in that neighbourhood,” he added. “Now, when our salespeople walk into the store, they will see suggested orders.”

Gurbuxani said the platform, which was first rolled out in India and is being expanded to other markets, has not only increased sales but also expanded the range of Mondelez products carried by each store. At the same time, the company has uplifted the digital capabilities of its sales teams through training on data analytics and AI.

In many ways, Mondelez’s sales automation platform is the epitome of its efforts to harness emerging technologies to drive change. The company has established six centres of excellence, each focused on key technologies such as extended reality, blockchain, natural language processing, drones, computer vision and low-code/no-code development.

“We’re trying to disrupt the old ways of doing things, and inspire leaders and employees in the company to adopt these ‘new age’ technologies to drive them forward,” said Gurbuxani.

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The fervour with which digital transformation is taking place at Mondelez has rubbed off on employees outside technology teams, too. Empowered with low-code/no-code development tools such as Microsoft Power Apps and Quickbase, business teams can now become citizen developers and build their own applications to facilitate approval workflows, for example.

“In a few weeks, a team is going to a plant in Indonesia, and we’re going to walk the entire plant and see what processes are still manual and if we can leverage low-code/no-code to fast-track, digitise and simplify some of the work that’s happening today on pen and paper,” said Gurbuxani.

In the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region, Mondelez has more than 100 citizen developers who are already building their own applications. The company has established a framework to govern such applications, covering areas such as data ingestion and integrations with other apps.

To prevent duplicate apps from being created, Gurbuxani said citizen developers are encouraged to go through an application library to check if the app they want to build already exists in one form or another. “Can you enhance something that’s already built by someone else? Or do you really need to start from scratch?” he said.

Data hub

Underpinning Mondelez’s digital initiatives is its data hub, which was set up on Google Cloud in less than six months. The data hub ingests data from different sources across the organisation to deliver new capabilities, including route planning for sales executives out in the field.

In its production plants, Mondelez has been able to use data to predict when a piece of equipment might fail and fix it before it does. In retail stores, it is also using image recognition to match a store’s product layout with a planogram that retailers have to comply with when displaying products.

The company has also started ingesting first-party data into its data hub about customers who buy products from its direct-to-consumer platforms in markets such as India. “We are getting to know our consumers directly, almost in real time, and as we understand their preferences, we can drive better personalised engagements with them,” said Gurbuxani.

At the back end, Mondelez is undertaking a planning transformation journey, reviewing its processes to see how it can help planners better forecast demand and anticipate supply chain disruptions.

“With AI and machine learning capabilities, we can understand what’s going on, and our vision is to get to our goal of no-touch planning,” he said. “We’re getting the data cleaned, making sure it’s robust, and we’ve started feeding the data into our data hub and then running the right algorithms.”

With cocoa being a key ingredient in well-known Mondelez products such as Cadbury chocolates and Oreo biscuits, Gurbuxani said a pilot would be conducted in Indonesia to deploy drones to monitor the health of cocoa trees in local plantations. “With the images we collect, we can do water and nutrient stress detection and get early warnings of pest infestations,” he said.

A key ingredient of the success of Mondelez’s digital transformation journey is staff engagement. “It’s not just about having a strategy and rolling it out,” said Gurbuxani. “Everyone knows digital has accelerated over the past few years, but we still need to get people to understand what impact it would have on them and how it will help them, because this is not something you can avoid.”

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