Improving the Capability to Sell
Camelot helps SABIC to Drive and Manage Growth in Times of Uncertainty with an Integrated Sales
With headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, SABIC is one of the world's top six petrochemical companies and the largest non-oil company in the Middle East. In addition to its domestic world-scale production sites in Saudi Arabia, SABIC operates three facilities in the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom. In Europe, SABIC wanted to enhance its ability to drive growth proactively, with the aim of expanding its customer base, extending into new regions of Europe, and increasing its sales with existing customers. Camelot helped SABIC to design a comprehensive sales process that integrates the company's go-to-market approach and planning with follow-up sales activities through a new "Prospect-To-Order" (PTO) process. CHEManager Europe asked Dieter Hollmann, director of SABIC Europe's Polypropylene business unit, and Dr. Sven Mandewirth, head of industry segment chemicals & petrochemicals at Camelot Management Consultants, about the challenges of implementing this new PTO process and what it has achieved.
CHEManager Europe: Before you started the PTO project, what did you diagnose as the most severe challenges for SABIC's sales process?
Dieter Hollmann: To translate our ambitious business plans, including growth, segment and area expansion, into actionable sales development projects that are transparent to all disciplines involved. Transparency means that all functions supporting sales, like logistics, technical marketing, financial services and legal, can take actions in a proactive way, so that new sales development can hand over to regular sales execution uninterruptedly in line with set targets. Business management should be able to monitor progress at a high level and initiate corrective actions when needed.
Dr. Sven Mandewirth: Sales by nature is a complex topic, especially when different interest groups are involved. Complexity is further driven by the increasing numbers of stock-keeping units - short SKUs -, sales markets and country-specific regulations. The need to enhance internal cooperation in a structured and pre-defined way became necessary as the company grew with exceptional speed.
What approach did you choose to address these problems?
Dieter Hollmann: Create understanding of SABIC's business strategy and the challenges for the organization, define the required planning and sales development steps with the help of experienced colleagues, and translate the outcome into a system-based tool.
Dr. Sven Mandewirth: Starting with the sales processes, we first assessed whether the current order-to-cash or OTC process was still sufficient and robust enough to fit the future requirements of such a fast-growing company. This required a holistic view that extended from the company's strategy to the choice of the best IT tools. Our findings showed that the OTC process was sufficient to meet SABIC's future requirements; however, the upstream process - PTO - needed to be reworked.
The PTO process implies that you have to align the capability to sell with the capability to deliver - or, in other words, to link strategic business planning with operational demand chain planning. What tools did you use to do this and which departments at SABIC were involved in developing the process?
Dieter Hollmann: A highly integrated Sales & Operation Planning process was already in place, ensuring an excellent service level to our customers. Key was to connect the evolving business and sales plans with supply chain management in a consistent way, so that new sales areas, transportation modalities and quality requirements can be anticipated as early as possible in logistics planning, contracting and execution. This is crucial for finding and establishing sustainable transport solutions in the challenging European environment.
Dr. Sven Mandewirth: First of all, it was necessary to identify all the stakeholders involved in the related processes and to conduct one-to-one interviews. This input was then further elaborated and aligned in workshops. Key for the development of an integrated process was to ensure that all the stakeholders were constantly involved in the information loops.
Which departments at SABIC were involved in developing the process and how did you manage to mobilize them?
Dieter Hollmann: Business management, sales leaders and representatives from our sales offices, supply chain management, financial service, technical marketing and legal were all involved in the project. It was clear to leadership that the old way of working, relying on a broad variation of individually-created "excel plans" to share information and monitor progress, would not provide the transparency, efficiency and results needed to take our sales development to the next level. Demonstrated commitment of senior management and dedicated change management helped to mobilize teams and free-up resources.
Dr. Sven Mandewirth: By making the inter-relation of the process steps in the different departments transparent, all functional leaders realized how crucial their input would be to achieving an integrated solution. Therefore, they ensured they were properly represented in the project team.
What were key factors or key requirements for the successful design of the new PTO process?
Dieter Hollmann: Ambitious multi-disciplinary design teams, high-level management support including target setting, a user-friendly SAP-interface with excellent accessibility and performance that was fully integrated in the overall budget and planning process, and a carefully planned roll-out and training plan.
Dr. Sven Mandewirth: A clear message from the management concerning the objectives of the new process laid the foundation for an alignment of all stakeholders involved. The collaborative development of the overall processes, the required roles and responsibilities, and the impact on the organization led to a common understanding.
This kind of project clearly requires strong business transformation management. How did you manage to achieve the necessary buy-in to the required changes from the stakeholders?
Dieter Hollmann: Change management was key in acquiring broad acceptance and effective use of the tool. The different stakeholder groups were informed and actively involved from the beginning in order to optimally integrate their key requirements and thus create acceptance. Continuous and consistent communication on the objectives and progress of the project, as well as a carefully defined roll-out plan with a pilot-phase, training and after-care, created the necessary buy-in.
Dr. Sven Mandewirth: The broad support of management allowed us to carry out the necessary change management approach. Representatives of all functions were allowed to review the prototype and pilot solutions and to experience the future solution. The obvious and tangible improvements are the engine of the change process.
Can you describe the results of the project, and the key features and benefits of the new PTO process?
Dieter Hollmann: We have achieved sales growth with the same number of people, which means that our organizational efficiency has increased. The progress of sales development is clearly visible and is a major driver in meeting our business plan targets. Customer service and satisfaction is at a high level, as shown in regular performance monitoring and customer feedback (NPS score). Finally, lots of new customers are enjoying a close relationship with SABIC.
Dr. Sven Mandewirth: The new PTO process closes the gap between business and sales planning on the one hand and supply chain planning on the other hand. A clearly designed and continuous data flow links market-oriented steering of sales activities with improved planning for logistics and transportation efforts. Apart from reducing planning efforts and increasing accuracy, this solution will drive and manage profitable growth and competitive advantage.