The "centre of excellence" approach at Kellogg's does more than streamline the finance function; it is nurturing the finance leaders of tomorrow. Sharedserviceslink.com's Sandra Higgison talks to John Gregory about the impetus for the centre and the results the company is already enjoying. Described as a poster-child project within the cereal-making company, it is a powerful example of how effective the centre of excellence (CoE) model can be. It also illustrates why a growing number of organizations with mature shared services are choosing this approach. Here's what John had to say about implementing the "centre of excellence" model at Kellogg's:
Why create a centre of excellence?: Summarizing the project's objectives, John says, "The basic premise was to free up our local finance resources to really drive top-line growth and move up the value chain." The vision for the Dublin-based centre of excellence is to:
- Deliver a leaner, more commercially focused organization to drive finance activities with streamlined processes
- Drive efficiencies and create a talent pool of finance personnel to support succession planning
- Create a central process and consistent service by automating certain activities
- Build upon the services already offered from our centre in Manchester and see how far up the value chain centralized services can go
Identifying activities: To decide what went into the centre, John's team identified the activities that were bogging down local finance managers, such as tax compliance and statutory activities, spreadsheet analytics, planning and forecasting. None of these really required finance people to be close to the business to perform them. They brought four teams into the centre of excellence. The centralized area finance planning team offers business support and consolidation, and provides direction to the local planning groups. It has standardized all the Kellogg's European reporting within Hyperion to the point where there are no longer any spreadsheets in this part of the business, which has reduced management reports across Europe from over 700 to currently around 50.
Delivering rigor, commerciality and visibility: The swift roll out of the centre enabled it to deliver early results to the business. "We've brought a lot more rigor to what we do," says John. "With standard reporting and greater visibility we're driving commonality across Europe. The local management teams are much more engaged with the centralization agenda. They see it as a real positive as we're taking work from them without taking many heads out. We're driving a commercial focus into local teams."
Increased visibility has given Kellogg's greater visibility of the larger items of spend. It is now getting a better return by spending money on the right campaign in the right market at the right time. With one set of business rules instead of 12, it's not surprising that the country managers, European leadership team and finance directors point at Project Vista as a shining example that other Kellogg projects should learn from.
Bottling the energy: Looking forward, John says that it could take until the end of the year to get everything embedded and people focused on the top line again after a year looking internally. "We've got some real positive energy out of this project, we need to harness it and start looking at formalizing a Lean Six Sigma program around our newly centralized activities." If the success John has already delivered is anything to go by, there are a lot of exciting developments to come from the Kellogg's centre of excellence. As he says, there's never a dull day at Kellogg's. John Gregory is European Shared Services Director at Kellogg's.
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- Sandra Higgison, Content Director, sharedserviceslink.com