Understanding the customer is even more important as the company builds its brands in a digital world. “The industry is changing rapidly, so we have to stay on top of market demands,” says Mike Wetzel, Manager, Business Transformation, Corporate Systems at The Hershey Company, who often craves Krave jerky (Hershey acquired the artisanal jerky company in 2015). “We need new technologies to collaborate on how we can better satisfy the consumer as their tastes evolve.”
Until recently, Hershey’s work environments were defined by geography and office walls. Intellectual capital might remain sealed inside different departments. Hershey IT staffers spent too much time administering business productivity systems that didn’t provide the modern, connected workplace that Hershey employees needed to compete in a global, Internet-enabled marketplace.
“Hershey wanted to offer employees a more spontaneous, connected, and collaborative work environment,” says Wetzel. “We use Microsoft Office 365 to free people from their devices so that they can be productive when and where and how they want, easily accessing colleagues and data to get their work done. We thought carefully about the security of a cloud-based business productivity platform and were satisfied that with Microsoft our intellectual property would be safe. At the end of the day, Office 365 is the language of business.”
“We consider Office 365 a fundamental pillar in our transformation toward enterprise connectivity, where mobility is inserted into everything we do,” adds Carlos Amesquita, Chief Information Officer and a devotee of Hershey’s Kit Kat Dark. “We’re connecting people to people, people to information, and people to systems, and we’re improving the quality and speed of decision making.”
With the successful launch of Office 365, Hershey decided to adopt the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform and use Azure Machine Learning within the Cortana Intelligence Suite and Microsoft Power BI to generate actionable information on demand. “Hershey is well known for having great insight into the customer, but with Azure Machine Learning, we’ll take insight to a higher level in all aspects of our business,” says George Lenhart, Senior Manager, Advanced Productivity and Collaboration, whose favorite treat is Twizzlers Sweet & Sour Filled Twists. “Better analytics, better manufacturing, better customer insights—they all lead to a better customer experience.”
Initially, Hershey will take advantage of Azure Machine Learning to optimize licorice production using intelligent sensors on factory line extruders. This Internet of Things (IoT) solution uploads data to the cloud to build predictive algorithms that ensure the extruders run at optimal efficiency. “We’ll use Power BI to stream temperature, torque, and pressure data to a dashboard so we can monitor extruder performance in real time,” says Lenhart. “As we introduce Azure Machine Learning in other plants where we use more expensive ingredients, we’ll save even more money. From there, we’ll apply it to packaging, transportation, customer behavior—anywhere we can collect data is now an opportunity to improve real-time insight into our business.”
The company’s new intranet site—dubbed “The Conche” and based on Microsoft SharePoint Online—is the hub for connecting and collaborating across the company. “Just like the conche machine used to mix all the ingredients together to make chocolate, our intranet is the place where you have all the ingredients you need to do your job,” says Leanna Meiser, Senior Manager, Marketing Training and Capabilities and fan of Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
BrightStarr, a Hershey partner and member of the Microsoft Partner Network, implemented its Unily productivity platform on top of Office 365. “BrightStarr was unique in its ability to turn our vision for an intranet into reality,” says Wetzel. “Today, everyone benefits from using a searchable, multilingual, and user-friendly intranet that’s available on any device. Plus, we are streamlining operations because Office 365 afforded us the ability to move fully into the cloud, reducing maintenance and infrastructure costs.”
Hershey created self-directed SharePoint Online teams that work with IT staffers to build workflows on The Conche that save the company time and money. One team created two collaboration sites and a workflow to streamline audits, reducing internal audit time and trimming 1,250 hours out of the audit management process annually. Another team improved collaboration with one of the company’s leading suppliers of cocoa, Barry Callebaut, by giving the supplier access to a highly secure portal on The Conche. Hershey and Barry Callebaut employees use Office 365 to share files on joint projects and coauthor documents, saving the Barry Callebaut team at Hershey 70 hours a week.
“Employees feel more empowered if you give them the capabilities to manage their own work,” says Amesquita. “So it’s a real win for us when employees use Office 365 services to generate solutions with business value, such as enriching important relationships with retailers that sell our products and our global partners.”
According to Meiser, the introduction of Office 365 “was like a breath of fresh air” for the company’s marketing managers. “Now when someone has that electrifying insight that feeds a creative brief—our starting point for all compelling customer engagement—they use Office 365 to streamline the process of getting the right product to the right market at the right time,” she says. “With easy access to the latest version of the creative brief on our intranet, we can expedite the development of that new product’s package design or 50-second TV spot.”
Marketers collaborate in real time with Hershey agencies by uploading and sharing videos, storyboards, creative briefs, and media plans using Microsoft OneDrive for Business. Relying on Skype for Business Online to maintain a human-to-human element in the collaborative process, marketers connect and drive creative dialogue. “I’m in a factory across the country with the brand production team, and we sit around the screen and chat with the brand marketing team in the Hershey, Pennsylvania head office,” says Meiser. “Suddenly time zones and geography disappear—it’s just a meeting of the minds to spark the creative process.”
And for a customer-centric, brand-building company, it is critical that marketers keep the retail experience at the forefront of all their decisions. “The Yammer enterprise social network has been a gold mine for our marketers to tap into and see how customers behave at the point of sale,” says Meiser. “Now we have a direct line of insight into the customer experience where that crucial moment of buying choices happens, and we can create ways to engage more people at the point of sale.”
In her role as Senior Manager, Marketing Training and Capabilities at Hershey, Meiser uses Office 365 tools to develop world-class marketers who nurture the company’s brands. With the Hershey learning management system front and center on The Conche, Hershey has seen a significant uptick in views of its eLearning modules. “With immediate access to the learning interface, new marketers get up to speed faster with our brand-building framework, media plans, and creative briefs,” says Meiser. “And if they want to chat with the person who wrote the creative brief for Kit Kat, for example, that person is one click away from a Skype for Business Online audio or video call.”
According to Amesquita, the company’s digital transformation is a necessary journey to stay relevant in today’s market, and Microsoft cloud technology is an essential ingredient. “Digital transformation is not an end, it’s a means for continual improvement,” says Amesquita. “We use Azure cloud analytics to gather operational and customer insights, and we use Office 365 to share that information to drive business value. The future for Hershey is very exciting—with Microsoft cloud solutions, we are in control of our digital journey, connecting everyone to work better together and share the goodness.”