Henk van der Ven, the vice president of Processes and IT for International Flavors and Fragrances, has been involved in systems analytics for manufacturing for over 20 years. He currently manages the alignment between business and IT, operating out of the company’s Red Bank, NJ location. He recently sat down with us and SAP Chemicals conference producer Thomas Martin to discuss some of the most significant trends impacting the marketplace.
Henk van der Ven will also be a featured speaker the conference, which takes place March 25-27 in Atlanta, GA.
Jeff Reinke, editorial director: Looking at the chemicals market as a whole, what do you see as some of the most significant trends impacting this industry sector?
Henk van der Ven, VP of Processes and IT – International Flavors and Fragrances: Globalization of the markets with increasing regulatory complexity. The speed with which companies and governments change rules has increased, which means companies have to be ready to respond quickly and thoroughly. Detailed processes and systems are needed to stay ahead of the curve and prevent falling into a constant fire-fighting mode.
Thomas Martin, Conference Producer, SAP for Chemicals Conference: In our research we uncovered the top eight business challenges/trends affecting the industry as a whole. These responses (which are all addressed via presentations at the conference) included:
- Maximizing top and bottom line growth.
- Managing and responding to a robust mergers, acquisitions and divestiture environment.
- Optimizing internal people and processes.
- Safety, sustainability and regulatory compliance.
- Supply chain and inventory optimization.
- Information/data accuracy and visibility.
- IP protection and data security.
- Product innovation and quality.
JR: Managing a global team can be daunting – what are some best practices you could share with others in a similar role?
HV: Be clear about where you want to go. Respect cultural differences in embracing different paths to get there, but don’t allow differences on where to go. Time-zone differences can make it hard to communicate, so find ways to overcome this. Don’t just use emails, but use phone/video-chat and accept that sometimes this has to be done at inconvenient times.
JR: What are some the most significant challenges you faced with a global IT implementation project?
HV: Find the balance between what is “written in stone” and what is “flexible”. Everybody truly believes their homegrown solutions of the past should be the standard for the company. Developing the best standards for the company is extremely difficult. It is a balancing act between what the true specialists think (and who are these true specialists?) and the emotional reactions resulting from local standards developed in the past. Finding the best solutions for the company and creating global buy-in for these solutions is the biggest challenge for global IT implementations.
TM: From what we are told, stakeholder management and getting all team members aligned and rowing in the same direction is key. Also, in a strong M&A environment there are often a lot of user adoption challenges and push back by veteran members of the team saying, “why are we migrating to a new platform/solution – what we have now works fine.”
JR: What do you feel are some of the most important criteria for selecting an IT partner, such as SAP?
HV: First of all, I don’t believe any external IT partner can be accountable for the success of a global implementation. So selecting a partner who is accepting to play the role of “specialist” and “resource pool” is important.
Make sure you know which “specialists” you need and how many resources you expect to need and secure these resources up front with your external partner.
Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and knowing what is needed for the project is key. This requires a lot of analysis and planning up front. Since projects like this have a long-lasting impact, select a partner who you expect to be around for a long time.
JR: If you would give your peers one thing, what would it be?
HV: Be prepared. Spend enough time to think through the project before starting. Don’t abuse words like “agile” to get started without doing detailed, up front analysis.
JR: What do you feel will be the most significant takeaway for attendees at the SAP for Chemicals Conference?
HV: Learn from others about what they faced during the implementations stages that still lay ahead of you. This will give you the opportunity to be better prepared and therefore increase your chances of being successful.
TM: Exposure to industry best practices and the conference acts as the convergence point where business and technology leaders and professionals come together to discuss, share and learn from each other. You’ll also have the opportunity to create new networks of peers and industry experts.
For more information about the SAP for Chemicals Conference, click here.