Benoît Dewaele, CIO - Group IT Director, Vandemoortele
In an exclusive interview with F&B Tech Review, Benoit Dewaele, Chief Information Officer and Group IT Director of VANDEMOORTELE talks about the quick shift in the food industry and how using new technologies help to keep pace with the competition
What are the factors that shaped your career?
My time in the food industry has given me the advantage of witnessing the transitions and evolutions of the industry. I started my career with Accenture, then turned towards Capsugel Pfizer and later moved on to a B2B chocolate manufacturing company. After gaining experience from all these companies, I joined Vandemoortele, which is into food manufacturing. In my view, pharma and food manufacturing processes are converging as both focus on quality, traceability and sustainability. Also food manufacturing industries believe in a platform strategy to enable applications. For their employee facing applications, they leverage Success Factors or Workday mostly, for their customers Salesforce or C4HANA and for supply facing applications it is Coupa or Ariba in the forefront.
The CRM platforms are more or less the same, so to make the experience unique for the customers; it needs to come from the content and the products
And as backbone, it is a single instance SAP that can handle all aspects of a business as opposed to the need for multiple applications. In the food manufacturing industry, it is about gaining insights and generating economies of scale. The companies that adopted the single instance ERP approach and the associated platforms are better equipped to support their businesses in acquisitions, divestments, and deliver standardized processes in a cost-efficient way.
What are the challenges that organizations face in this industry when they don’t follow the single instance model? Is there any new technology that is entering this landscape?
Today, it’s all about customer experience, and companies are focusing on interacting with their customers and making a conscious effort to make it more interactive through web shops and portals. In order to develop those channels, if the organization has looked at a platform strategy and a single backbone and a single customer facing CRM, the portal can seamlessly interact with the CRM and ERP. If you have five CRM systems and four ERPs then the development cost will go drastically up.
With the evolving culture of digital interaction, it’s not only about selling a product but more about creating an experience for the end users by delivering a portal with the education and values of the company wrapped around it. The consumers today seek an experience similar to that rendered by Amazon and others and only if the right platform runs as the backbone, will an organization be able to deliver that experience. However, the differentiation of a company is not through processes but has to come from the content, product, and innovation.
Alongside, to be ahead of the competitive curve, the need is to adopt a combination of innovations in tools, products, and services, because if the innovation just takes into account one aspect, it is very easy for competitors to copy the company’s service model.
Is there any advice to the young professionals or start-ups that are looking to set foot in your line of career?
For start-ups, their primary focus should be to bring forth a unique selling proposition in their tools or product they have developed. But in order to pilot and scale their products, startups need to choose potential partners in the market that have the resources to invest and the platform in place to support their products and promote them on a larger scale. I would suggest startups to be unique and go free, be focused on finding their unique selling proposition and think wisely about piloting and scaling by choosing established partners.