Ammar Alhassan, BMMI Deputy CEO AND CFO

Project New Moon: winning hearts and minds through digital transformation – an interview with Ammar Alhassan, Deputy CEO & CFO

The BMMI Group is currently in the midst of a widescale digital transformation project dubbed New Moon, which aims to augment and streamline our digital capabilities to better serve customers and clients. The Corporate Communications and Marketing team recently sat down with the project sponsor, Ammar Alhassan, BMMI’s Deputy CEO and CFO, to learn more about New Moon and it’s aims, as well as what our stakeholders should expect.

Tell us more about the New Moon project and when it began?

Project New Moon was born out of the need for us to look at leveraging digital to gain competitive advantage. It’s not about being a bit more efficient or doing incrementally better in various sorts of internal processes, but rather, we’re looking at revolutionary transformation of our businesses.

While the project was officially launched in Q4 last year, work started from almost Q1 of 2018. This was a collaborative exercise, bringing our diverse businesses together to assess the current state and the best practices of digital when used in the context of our business areas elsewhere. These conversations led to the development of a digital road map for each business unit, looking at areas of overlap and how we can progress this agenda holistically at a Group level. This resulted in three specific areas of focus, Customer Relationship Management, E-commerce and Supply Chain.

What will this digital roadmap focus on?

The first area is Customer Relationship Management (CRM), because we discovered a gap in the consistency of experience our customers go through when they visit either our physical or online stores. We want to upgrade that experience for our customers across the board and ensure that is consistently reflective of our brand essence for each stream. That’s why CRM is our first area of focus.

Our second area of focus is our e-commerce platforms. We started our foray into e-commerce with our Beverages division, ten years ago, and more recently, with Alosra supermarket in 2013. Both businesses are in different levels of maturity and full of opportunity for growth. To capitalise on this, we need to be better structured in terms of processes, people and systems to further capture the market. Our gap analysis has helped us consolidate our priorities list so we can address these over the next one or two years to effectively benefit from the potential growth available in this industry.

The final stream of focus is procurement and supply chain, which we started work on by conducting a limited scope diagnostic study looking at our processes, gaps, and areas we think there is money left on the table. Not only can we manage to decrease the cost of purchasing, but by improving our processes we can also provide our customers and clients with a better experience. This will result in us gaining a bigger share of wallet. The diagnostic study highlighted a big opportunity for us to capture, which requires a large change management programme that we will be implementing.

Who is involved in this project?

The New Moon steering committee encompasses many of our senior leaders, because our businesses are all linked. It’s very important not to lose value by progressing such an important project in isolation. By breaking down silos, we’ve already seen a big effect on our teams. I can say we haven’t seen this level of engagement cross functionally at BMMI for many years. Furthermore, I am inspired by how honest the team has been in looking for where the gaps lie and wanting to tackle them with high resolve and as a collective unit. I sincerely thank all our divisional managers for their invaluable support and contribution so far in this project

More specifically, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our CEO, Marek Sheridan, for providing the platform and support for our journey, as well as Robert Smith, our COO, for his leadership role in improving our supply chain processes to align with best practice and the new digital world. Additionally, I would like to extend my appreciation to Shilpa Ajith and Sujith Samuel for their leadership role in the CRM and e-commerce streams, respectively.

Why was the name New Moon chosen for the digital transformation project?

Digital is very fast paced, and it can change very quickly, on a weekly, monthly or even daily basis. The new moon signifies that change, much like the lunar cycle every month, while also signifying the perpetual nature of the project. Because with digital, how can you ever reach a state of perfection? The answer is probably never; and you have to always try to move harder and faster towards that perfection goal. While it is not entirely attainable, I believe that by trying as hard as possible to always continuously improve, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Why is digital so important?

What we’re seeing around us is a very competitive and changing landscape, with traditional businesses being upended by new digital business models, both regionally and globally. They’re taking the market by storm and it’s just a matter of time until we feel their markets encroach on our territory. We need to think ahead and skate where the puck is going, not where it was.

Their business models might be very different, including the way they run their supply chains and their marketing campaigns for example. But our aim is not to just emulate them, but rather to create something that is a rightful fit for us and our purpose, which brings us closer to what our customers expect and want in this day and age.

What changes should our customers and principals expect as an outcome of this project?

Our customers should expect to be delighted at every touchpoint in their experience, with every one of our platforms across all our countries of operations. We will be an even better listening and caring organisation since New Moon will enable us to much better understand the needs and wants of our customers, and this in turn will help us serve them better. Our internal processes will also be agile enough to enable us to act on these needs faster and more effectively.

All our stakeholders, including our principals, want us to do the best for our customers. The more our customers are happy the more they will be rewarding and loyal to us, and as a result we can be rewarding to our stakeholders. All of this can, of course, only be achieved through our people, and having the talent in place to help us put in the right processes and systems and motivational marketing prowess to ensure our customers are satisfied. We are very much focused on our people along with our processes to attain our customers and principals’ satisfaction.

What outcomes should the team expect?

This project will trigger an evolution in our organisation over the long term. Whilst it will bring us closer to our customers, New Moon will also result in the creation of new roles and skills. As aligned with our philosophy for talent development, we always look for internal skills and candidates before we look externally. This will hopefully create new opportunities for the team and their career growth and progression. And this isn’t limited to academic training either. But we’re sending people out with our advisors to look at best practices and observe business models operating globally. It’s a great opportunity for practical training and we are utilising it at this stage.

We’re also going to need to recruit new talent with skills needed where marketing, technology and logistics are concerned. With all these measures, we’re looking at enhancing our skills in multifaceted areas and that’s going to be a positive change for the team that will grow as the project implementation unfolds.

At what stage are we at with the project at present?

Currently, we’re in different stages with the three streams, but we’ve completed the gap analysis for all of them. We’re now in the planning stage for execution, and I see the executing cycle for some elements beginning in Q2 of this year. We might even see some fruits of the project come to life the next year, with many of the benefits becoming even more apparent in 2020 and beyond. I am confident that over time, we will see an impact on how we are culturally positioned as leaders in the industry, and that we will further win the hearts and minds of our customers and our team.