Mr. Ramírez, in KUO’s latest annual report, your CEO announced:“The talent of the organization should support our operations in future years”. To what extent does this expectation challenge the company’s IT?
As I often say to my team, it’s very important that we are always right behind the business. KUO is a very versatile and broad company, so we need deep, diverse knowledge. It’s about having real insights into the industries we work in and all the processes involved – just to be sure that we can create as much synergy as possible. The IT team needs to understand both the similarities and the differences between the companies within the group. And we need to be strategically aligned and able to respond to the requirements of every single business unit. We can only deliver the best possible solutions, if we have the right knowledge, understanding, and people..
Adrián Ramírez holds an Information Technology Engineering degree from La Salle University and is a member of the Singularity Chapter Mexico after his participation on the Singularity University Executive Program in 2017. Mr. Ramírez has more than 30 years of experience on IT and did join Grupo KUO in 1989 in a part-time scholarship program and continued in different positions. In 2004, he took the position of CIO and in 2014 the position of CIO & Shared Services. He was named CIO of the Year 2010 by Information Week Mexico.
What’s more, I am a firm believer in shaping up for the future. This means ensuring that our team has the training and skills they will need to support, and in some ways, drive the business. So we don’t just focus on the technical side of training our talent but also on more strategic and innovative topics. That is how we want to support them to be the future leaders of the company-- in installing the mindset of innovation in every single position of the IT-team.
KUO is expanding its business around the world. What role does ICT play in this success story?
When the company decided to expand outside of Mexico, one of our most creative challenges was to develop a roadmap and provide infrastructure and services that would apply globally. Whether an employee logs in from China, the US, Spain or Mexico, we wanted to ensure harmonized processes and a consistent user experience. To this end, much of our work involves process definition and configuration, particularly in our SAP landscape, since these are our core applications in which we run all our businesses. We developed a configuration template that can be rolled out across several countries.
Of course, there are differences, for example for tax and accounting, but in general, we strive to deliver the same experience for our users across all our industries and territories. We’ve developed a core operational model, so if someone switches to a different part of the business, they still use the same IT and recognize the processes. For instance, if an employee changes over from our transmission division to work in our pork division, the experience in IT-services and using the applications is pretty much the same. At the end of the day it’s IT that gives you the chance to work in really all areas of the company. And that’s why IT at KUO sparks a special passion. Of course the processes are different whether you are part of a perishable food supply chain or in charge of automotive supply, but on the IT side, it’s the same work. In that way, you can deliver much faster, share knowledge and create a similar experience for everyone too.
When KUO embarked on its digital transformation in 2016, what was your initial motivation for partnering with T-Systems, in particular with regard to your transition from a traditional approach to a cloud model?
After our initial analysis and creating a digital agenda for the group, we soon realized that transferring operations to the cloud would be a major and valuable part of our journey. Thinking about the future of the company and where we’re headed, we wanted a more flexible approach. We sometimes need to ramp up capacity from zero to 10 in a short space of time, and scale back down again quickly. So we wanted to define a strong cloud architecture that supported this level of flexibility, as well as pay-per-use pricing and the inbuilt security we’d expect. Another key decision factor was service levels. We needed a partner that really understands the differences and implications of having varied service levels. So not just saying ‘we offer 99.99 percent availability,’ but really understanding what this means and how to deliver it in practice. We also wanted a flexible financial model that offered pay-per-use and excellent scalability. Once we had selected three finalists, we started to look at other factors, too. For instance, it was important to have a partner that really understood the meaning of mission-critical operations. In the end, this was the main differentiator: T-Systems didn’t just deliver a solution, but really grasped the importance of running business-critical applications.
So once we had opted to partner with T-Systems, we began to work strategically on our innovation and digital transformation agenda. This involved a three-day workshop for senior executives where we explored industry trends and held conversations about the modern workplace and how it is changing. We also focused on how digital transformation generates business value and how we can harness this value for our company. Throughout the entire process, cyber security was one of our top priorities. We needed to train our executives to ensure they can protect our crown jewels in terms of our valuable business assets.
„We definitely made the right decision in moving all our operations to a T-Systems cloud."
Adrián Ramírez, CIO, KUO
What’s been your experience of running services on a central technology platform (DSI) for your SAP and non-SAP applications over the last two or three years? How has security been affected?
First of all, I can confirm that we definitely made the right decision in moving all our operations to a T-Systems cloud. Not only does T-Systems have the necessary experience to host both our SAP and non-SAP environments, but the provider also offers expertise in operations, processes and SAP basis. That is a significant benefit for us.
One of the primary concerns for our senior executives was security. Previously, we’d run everything from our data centers, so we had more direct control. When you move to a multi-cloud environment, the security threats multiply too. As everything can be impacted by a cyber security attack. But we have discovered a whole new level of security since teaming up with T-Systems – our landscape is much better protected than before, giving rest to any concerns our senior management may have had.
How far has KUO’s digital transformation progressed? What’s coming up next?
We’ve been working through our digital agenda since May 2018, and we’ve realized that T-Systems has a lot to offer and can contribute to our success stories. It’s a global company with knowledge, capabilities and experience in a wide range of industries and technologies. For example, we’re exploring the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 5.0, new ways to manage inventory and 3D printing, and discussing how these new technologies can help us solve new challenges today and tomorrow. As we enter a new generation of business, we need to respond with new solutions and innovations that will help us stay ahead.
Grupo KUO is a leading industrial conglomerate in Mexico, with annual sales amounting approximately USD $1.8 billion as of December 31st, 2018. The company exports to around 70 countries across every continent and employs approximately 23,000 people. Its current business portfolio includes three sectors: Consumer, Chemical and Automotive.
When it comes to PLC at your production plants, what role do predictive technologies and IoT play in your processes with regard to the reliability of your infrastructures?
Over the last few years, we’ve been introducing applications that aid decision making and data harvesting. We now need to find ways of turning this information into insight. We have access to the data, but we are only just beginning to explore its true potential and value for the business.
Traceability, for instance, is becoming a hot topic in many of our industries – automotive, chemicals, and food for example. Developments like this put pressure on IT and present challenges. But as new technologies and solutions become available, we can leverage them to respond to trends and generate value. And this is where we need the input and expertise of our partners. Our IT team of 70 colleagues may be relatively small. But our partnerships make us stronger.
What do you expect from an IT provider in terms of supporting you as the company changes and evolves?
Since we work across so many industries, countries, and cultures, our partners needs to be aware of and respect the differences across our business units. We need a provider that can really listen and try and understand our needs and our remarkable diversity; one that really wants to learn about our business. We can’t possibly know and understand all the solutions available so we rely on T-Systems for support. They’re the experts in their business but we’re the experts in ours. Together, we can create synergies and dedicated measurable value.