When opportunity knocked, Nadir Belarbi couldn’t resist—he joined the C-suite at, the world’s largest cosmetics company. In addition to taking on the role of CIO for the first time, Belarbi was interested in working for a global brand. With the ability to speak five languages and an appetite for travel, Belarbi’s twenty-year career began in Europe as a project manager for Air France, took him to the United States as a senior manager with Groupe Danone, and—prior to L’Oréal Canada—to Canadian National as cloud manager and IT project director.
“It’s an amazing possibility for someone like me who wants to go to the next level, test innovative ideas, and launch new initiatives at this scale,” Belarbi says. In his first weeks as CIO, in May 2014, Belarbi traveled to the United States with the goal of creating strong ties within the “Americas Zone,” a relatively new concept within L’Oréal. He immediately set up vertical meetings between the US and Canadian teams to ensure alignment and identify synergies. “We are less and less acting as two different countries in terms of IT,” Belarbi says. “We are working as one team, and we are extending this collaboration to Latin America.”
L’Oréal Canada’s IT workforce
Average IT projects per year
Annual IT requests and customizations
Belarbi is also bridging L’Oréal’s four divisions: consumer products, L’Oréal Luxe, active cosmetics, and professional products. He set out to understand how each division works, down to their daily tasks. “Moving from one division to another is like moving from one company to another—different culture, different processes,” Belarbi says. “Nevertheless, in IT, what I immediately put in place is a road map to find the common solutions that can be implemented across divisions.”
L’Oréal Canada has been a leader in the area of e-commerce, and the subsidiary’s platform has become a template to build group solutions. “We’re working almost like a web factory,” Belarbi says. “We have our brands and the different divisions, and we know how to deliver, in a standardized way, websites with e-commerce features that are deployed quickly.” This year, Belarbi’s team is deploying e-commerce platforms for brands such as Kiehl’s, Lancôme, Biotherm, and Vichy.
Belarbi’s goal is to mimic what Ford did for the automobile. He is working to develop an agile and structured IT department that can help the business integrate new brands and acquisitions faster and offer a “plug and play” approach to services. “It’s really about industrializing IT innovation,” Belarbi says.
Belarbi has been particularly successful in partnering with the sales teams of each division, taking the time to identify pain points. “The meetings that we had with the different teams showed that if we could improve and provide better tools: connected tools, mobile tools, more user-friendly tools with additional features, this would be a game changer for these teams.”
To that end, Belarbi launched a Salesforce project that ensures sales reps will be connected and able to make presentations efficiently, retrieve data in real time, and collaborate. Belarbi is also working on improving the sales forecasting process. “I believe the conjunction of these two strategic moves will make a huge difference to improve our efficiencies as a company,” he says.
Another efficiency IT achieved was through the SAP Fiori application, which L’Oréal Canada was the first to deploy worldwide. It allows managers to approve expenses from their mobile devices anytime, anywhere. For the logistics area, Belarbi is planning to implement a holistic transportation management system that will be used to track deliveries and optimize transportation costs.
Within his first few months at L’Oréal, Belarbi earned a seat at the table and started reporting directly to the CEO. As a member of the executive committee, he has more access and better vision of L’Oréal’s strategic goals. He views his main role as translating the IT strategy in direct support of those business objectives.
“I personally believe that in such a mature market, a key goal, besides acquisitions of new brands, is also to improve our efficiencies and be ahead of our competitors,” Belarbi says. “More than ever, information technology will become a critical factor for success in this globalized and highly competitive market. In this perspective, L’Oréal Canada’s IT organization is actively transforming its ways of working and its process to meet these needs and innovate to support the L’Oréal Group and the Americas Zone business growth strategy.”