CHARLES MORGAN, BIC'S CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER, DISCUSSES BIC SERVICES SOFIA
BIC is a world leader in stationery, lighters and shavers. For more than 75 years, BIC has honored the tradition of providing high‐quality, affordable products to consumers everywhere. Today, BIC products are sold in more than 160 countries around the world.
As part of its global transformation plan to operate more efficiently, enhance its consumer centricity and achieve sustainable growth, BIC opened its first Shared Services Center here in Sofia. BIC Services Sofia acts as a highly efficient internal service provider offering a full range of tools and services. Located on the top floor of Bulgaria Mall, Tower B, the center will consolidate administrative tasks and activities within BIC’s European Finance, Accounting, Reporting, Transactional Procurement, Customer Service and other corporate functions in Europe.
Charles Morgan, BIC’s Chief Administrative Officer, shares more about the project.
BIC is a well-known provider of high‐quality “physical” products. How is the company coping with the challenges of the digital era (what does your digital transformation strategy involve)?
Without question, our categories remain challenging as consumer shopping behaviors are evolving, sped up by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. But our products continue to be essential in people’s day to day life. We’re looking for and leveraging new capabilities and opportunities for growth, including in e-commerce where we’re seeing significant growth already. We also know that in today’s cost-conscious climate, consumers are leaning heavily into value. BIC is a brand that has been tried and tested for more than 75 years, so our consumers know we’re a brand they can count on.
How does BIC Services Sofia fit into this strategy and why did BIC choose Sofia, Bulgaria for its first worldwide Shared Services Center?
Our ‘Invent The Future’ program is a broad transformation to create capacity to invest in the changes that are good for our business in the long run. Our Shared Services Center is a part of this and aims to bring a number of operating efficiencies, as we consolidate activities into one location. With the activity consolidation we can bring process improvements and automation to bear at scale. We chose Sofia because of the local talent and expertise that are available.
What kind of specialists for the center are you looking for (what kind of skills, knowledge, university degree)? How can they support the Business Continuity, the process automation and digitalization?
Our ramp-up plan is to establish a team of 230 people through 2021. We have already recruited our first 100 team members over the past few months and are delighted with the talent we have found in Sofia. We are continuing to recruit for various positions on different levels with different skillset requirements.
As a cross-functional service team that covers activities from Finance, Analytics, Customer Service, HR, Procurement & IT we need diligent and versatile employees. We also have big plans to automate and digitize and we are looking for good language, technical and communication skills, as we will be interacting with stakeholders globally. Communications will be important as the team leads improvement programs that touch internal and external customers and stakeholders, which will require a good deal of change management focus to ensure adoption acceptance.
In 2020 our focus is on building the Finance, Customer Service, Corporate and HR teams. Experts with experience in General Ledger Accounting, Accounts Payable, Cash Management, Orders Management, Accounts Receivable, Quality Control and IT are just a few of the profiles we are hiring for. University degrees and certificates are important but practical experience is what will be valued most. Ability to demonstrate agility, responsibility, strong drive, desire to learn and develop, team spirit, respect and inclusion are key to the success in our BIC team.
There will also be a place in our team for recent university graduates looking for opportunities to learn and grow while contributing to our success.
How are the daily activities of the center supported, is there a system for quick problem detection or intelligent task assignment?
We are at the beginning of this journey in Sofia. We have already adopted our global IT ticketing system in the new center and are just completing the selection of our ticketing solution (to which we will be adding voice). The Sofia team has been involved accordingly in the selection.
How do you compete for qualified staff with other shared service centers in Sofia (How do you manage to attract and retain valuable employees)?
BIC is a well-known brand that has been on the market for more than 75 years now. Our products remain essential for people’s daily lives and will always be needed. BIC has a stable cash flow and is committed to long-term success. We have a compelling vision of what we are looking to accomplish and have demonstrated our ability and capacity to execute it. There are also tremendous opportunities for growth and improvement. We nurture an environment of mutual respect and appreciation that supports individual development and growth, where individual efforts are recognized and celebrated.
During these difficult times, we are providing the necessary work/life flexibility in terms of working hours and remote work. We foster an agile approach to business and leadership where thinking outside of the box and challenging patterns is encouraged. We value the feedback and opinions coming from team members and we strive for having a motivating working environment that people are happy to be a part of.
You have experience with setting up a Robotics Center of Excellence. How will technologies like chat bots, RPA (robotic process automation), and even Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) be implemented at the Services Center (more generallym how will humans and robots work together)?
Consolidation, Standardization and Digitization is my vision both for the center and the technology architecture for the company. As we bring the activities together we can see the benefits that will be gained from technologies like Robotic Process Automation or by mining the data we capture from a digitized environment.
I have long been an advocate for combining the best of Human & Digital. Robotics works best when end users who operate the processes can imagine how those processes can be effectively automated. We then enable them with the tools, capabilities and support to enable & sustain that automation. It sounds so easy but it turns out to be much more complex to bring to life. Having a technology savvy workforce and combining that with disciplined IT controls is the way for this to be successful. Other areas like chat bots, process mining and the application of Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning will come in due course. I have no plans for Augmented or Virtual Reality today – but who knows what the future will bring!