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The Heineken Digital Transformation Journey

The Heineken Digital Transformation Journey

Supplier Experience Live 2023

At this year’s Supplier Experience Live Conference, Ruth Bromley, Director Procurement Enablement, Heineken shared her experience on recent digital transformation initiatives.  

She started by introducing the unique complexity that a top global brewer experiences in the supply chain and gave insight into the journey they have therefore embarked on as an organization.  

The ambition to be the world’s best-connected brewer

The central pillar of the digitalization strategy was aimed at being the best-connected brewer. As Ruth explains, this aspect, “was really talking about our digital ambition.”  

As such, the digitalization direction focuses on four key areas:  

  • Data driven insights and foresights  
  • Simplification and automation 
  • Secure digital backbone 
  • A digitally enabled organization 

As Ruth highlights, out of the four, only the first is about the growth of the business. The other three are about simplifying and digitalizing what they already do well and creating the necessary ‘digital backbone’.  

The digital transformation journey of Procurement at Heineken

For their digitalization journey, in terms of building the digital backbone, Ruth explains they have kept what she describes in the session as a ‘tree mentality.’ What this means is having a strong foundation embedded in the roots of the strategy to support the evolution of the end-to-end processes, the use of modern technology, standardized data and having a one source of truth. This is experienced by people as increased growth, productivity, speed and greater insights, symbolized by the leaves of the tree.  

Making critical changes to the digital direction of your business is always difficult but the pace, as Ruth describes, accelerates.  

As she points out, the sheer importance of a single source of data, for example, while obvious today, was not so obvious twenty years ago. However, now having this in place, Heineken has been able to realize many successful outcomes. They have been able to not only build an initial basic toolkit but have that deployed that in their top twenty countries, combined with having a standardized Source to Contract in seventy countries, all within a couple of years, with further ramp-ups to come.  

How to successfully digitize the procurement function

When it comes to standardizing the suite of tools, Ruth explains the most important thing to get right so that people use any solution is to ensure value for suppliers. She comments, “What’s critical in order for your internal team having the appetite to use the tools, is that these tools have to work for your suppliers in the market.” 

The next step is understanding that one size does not fit all. This means you must start looking at what are the best-of-breed technologies out there for each supplier and identify how to orchestrate a single smooth experience around all these tools.  

As she clarifies, “We really would confuse our suppliers if we sent them the login details to all our platforms along the journey. That’s why, for us, we said, we have to have a supplier front door. We have to have a way to help suppliers engage with us.” 

Watch the Live Session at Supplier Experience Live 2023

Top 3 key learnings from digitizing Procurement at Heineken

Ruth ends by sharing three key learnings from their digitalization journey so far:  

  • First, speed – nothing will ever go as fast as you want but it will accelerate. 
  • Second, standardization is critical to ensure one source of truth.  
  • Finally, simplicity helps everyone in the long run.  

“If we can see a shortcut to get from A to B, we’ll all take it. It’s human nature. So how do we help all our suppliers and customers interact with us in the fastest, shortest, most standardized route that makes their life easy? Because that’s what helps us at Heineken become customer-of-choice,” Ruth concludes. 

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