P&G IDeaS Conference – the digital revolution at P&G

Dave Ubachs, Associate Director, P&G UK & Ireland Information and Decisions Solutions

Our President & CEO, Bob McDonald, is serious about digitisation. He recently set an ambitious goal for P&G to be the most technology-enabled company in our industry, and the first consumer packaged goods company to digitise fully from end-to-end. It’s our job in Information and Decision Solutions (IDS) to deliver this together with our partners, internal and external alike. By connecting business needs with information technology innovations, we will transform the company into a leader in this area and drive profitable growth, speed to market and productivity.

To get us started with the Digital Revolution, we hosted, from May 17-20, 2011, the first-ever P&G IDeaS Conference at Bletchley Park here in the UK, compared by the Sunday Telegraph to Google’s Zeitgeist event. The event was modelled on the world-renowned TED conferences with the intent to connect internal and external thought leaders to inspire new ideas and drive innovation. Our theme of the week was “Going Digital—what P&G needs to do now and next.”

The event brought together best-in-class internal and external technology leaders to create and deliver breakthrough innovation. We invited 42 of P&G’s leading technologists and systems experts from around the globe (all members of the new ‘IDS Masters Board’), and technology masters from world-leading companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, HP, Xerox, Accenture, Cisco and TIBCO to address some of the most challenging issues facing our business and to provide the ideas and solutions to break down the barriers.

The first portion of the IDeaS Conference was focused on just that - generating and being inspired by ideas. Over 30 industry experts shared their big ideas in exciting 10 minute presentations. The topics ranged from the McLaren Formula 1 race team’s presentation on how they collect, analyze and apply real-time information coming from thousands of sensors during their races, to IBM sharing how they created Watson, the supercomputer that recently won Jeopardy. Andy Stanford-Clark, a top engineer from IBM, excited us with a talk about his Twitter house – a house with sensors everywhere to monitor and control everything from power consumption to water use via Twitter and his mobile phone!

Hans Rosling, the world-renowned public health professor whose TED conference presentations and BBC documentary, “The Joy of Stats”, have been viewed by millions globally, also spoke at the event. Hans captivated attendees by sharing his gift for bringing boring data sets to life. Everyone felt inspired by his mission to perpetuate a fact-based view of the world, but also by how he uses storytelling and visualization to unveil the power of data.

Filippo Passerini, Group President of P&G’s Global Business Services (GBS) and Chief Information Officer, discussed frugal innovation—the idea of “doing more with less for more.” To Filippo, adopting a frugal innovation mindset is imperative for P&G, “In order to reach an additional one billion consumers and to get our products in thousands of additional stores, P&G will need to digitise and create new business models for emerging markets. This will require different thinking and a different approach.”

He shared how frugal innovation does not mean cheap or low quality innovation; quite the contrary. It is achieved through no ‘scope creep’, an incredible focus on execution, and a deliberate and strong consistency between goals and activity systems. He shared the example of Tata’s Nano car, which was designed for a $2,500 selling price and which required a drastically different activity system to deliver. His examples inspired attendees and challenged them to approach problem-solving and innovation with a different mindset, and to begin to change the paradigm at P&G.

Half-way through the week we travelled to Oxford University for a Dragon’s Den-style forum with start-up companies. Some of the UK’s most exciting new technology companies pitched their ideas to P&G with the aim of securing the opportunity to work on company-sponsored pilot projects. Since the conference, three companies have already started proof of concept projects with P&G.

In the evening, Irwin Lee, P&G UK & Ireland Vice President & Managing Director, joined the IDeaS Conference. Irwin shared his vision and gave several examples of how digital capabilities can translate into real productivity/business benefits and ultimately will help us win with our consumers and customers.

The week-long inspiration and idea-sharing then culminated in a number of problem-solving workshops. The participants were broken into six groups, and challenged to prototype one of the six biggest ideas from the conference. Our groups only had 24 hours to complete the task, working in conjunction with remote designers in Asia and the United States. The hard-work paid off, as three of these ideas are now being turned into real projects for P&G.

Overall the conference has inspired us here at P&G to continue to leverage technology and our deep understanding of the business to innovate, simplify and digitise for competitive advantage.

To find out more about how we are accelerating and expanding our work to be the most technology-enabled company in our industry, you can find us on Twitter, Facebook or contact us through the P&G corporate press office.

Dave Ubachs
P&G UK & Ireland Information and Decisions Solutions

IDeaS Conference 2011

  • 42 leading technologists and systems experts from P&G’s new ‘IDS Masters Board’
  • Over 30 industry experts from world-leading companies such as IBM, Microsoft and McLaren presenting big ideas and solutions to the most challenging issues facing our business
  • Three exciting new technology companies already pitched, secured and commenced proof of concept projects with P&G

P&G’s digital purpose

  • "My ideal is always on, always connected.”
    Bob McDonald, P&G President & CEO

‘Going Digital—what P&G needs to do now and next’

  • 88 distinct business processes underlying P&G’s operations
  • Global Business Services used to reduce $900 million in cost over the last eight years
  • Ultimate goal to run the business in real time with a one-to-one relationship with all P&G customers

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