When growth is a company’s priority, every department needs to be tuned toward it. One department in particular can bring everything together and help drive that growth: IT.
That’s why in 2015, after twenty-seven years in the consumer packaged-goods industry, Tony DeCredico joined Sabra Dipping Company as its first CIO, as the hummus and dip company works toward one lofty goal: tripling revenue by 2023.
“Sabra is having tremendous growth right now,” DeCredico says. “The product is good for you, the category is growing, and we will use information technology to enable our growth even more.”
When DeCredico first arrived at Sabra, he had a robust 120-day plan to understand the company’s landscape before making changes. “You have to take a look at the people, the technology portfolio, and really understand where we are,” he says. That included understanding the relevant metrics, how IT policies worked, employees’ levels of technological capability, and the role of technology in the larger framework at Sabra.
By the end of the quarter, DeCredico published a detailed maturity assessment that identified areas to be considered when developing the IT strategy.
By the time DeCredico had been with Sabra for a few months, he wanted to look toward a five-year strategic plan for the department that more closely aligned technology with business.
DeCredico established an IT strategic-planning committee and worked closely with them to create an IT vision, mission, and operating principles that supported the company’s three global objectives: to accelerate the growth of the hummus category worldwide; to obtain a profitable share and leadership of the category; and to capture growth of fresh dips in other categories such as salsa, yogurt, and guacamole.
After coming up with the IT goals, it was important to align everyone to them. “If I’m in an elevator and I ask anyone in information technology, ‘What is our mission?’ I want them to be able to repeat it back to me,” DeCredico says. “When I first got here, IT was very much an execution-oriented organization. IT didn’t have a seat at the table. I’m happy to say that over the past year we built stronger partnerships which have transformed our focus from execution to strategy.”
Once DeCredico helped Sabra determine its IT goals and reinforced the importance of technology in achieving them, it was time to start building the company’s framework to get there.
He looked at technology industry trends and saw that the world is converging around social, cloud, business intelligence, and mobile media. Only bits and pieces of those trends existed at Sabra.
“We were not in a place of convergence, which is where we needed to be for growth,” he says. “This technology convergence will transform the way consumers and our business relate.”
“If I’m in an elevator and I ask [someone], ‘What is Sabra’s long-term goal?’ I want them to be able to repeat it back to me.”
Social media and a comprehensive digital strategy will help Sabra connect directly with its customers, and cloud computing allows employees to stay connected from anywhere. “We want people to use their own device and stay connected,” DeCredico says. “We want to blend work and non-work.”
It also helps the company stay connected from its locations in Australia, Europe, Mexico, Canada, and the United States; conduct mergers and acquisitions more effectively; and support global growth. “We are more agile now,” DeCredico says of the newfound inclusion of best IT practices into Sabra’s daily work.
By the end of 2015, Sabra’s IT team was ready to start implementing the five-year plan it had spent all year creating.
The goal is to have all technology working more smoothly to support a growing company. It could be efficiency on the manufacturing side by having machines that talk to machines and give insights on how efficient the equipment is running, or it could be enhancing capabilities in security or sales. No matter where it is, DeCredico knows that better technology will lead to a better bottom line.
“If I had the sales force spending hours and days manually tracking things, that is hours and days I’m taking them away from selling,” he says.
The last part of the year focused on outlining detailed initiatives about how the strategic plan will be implemented and how success will be measured.
As Sabra continues implementing its new five-year IT plan, there are three words DeCredico says they will be focusing on in 2016: efficiency, agility, and productivity. “2016 is about bringing the IT strategy to life,” he says. “It’s really about taking the fruits of our labor in the past year and executing on them.”
The IT department will also be going through an organizational transformation to better support the new strategic plan and growth. Previously, there was one director making sure everything in one particular department got done, but going forward there will be multiple directors with more focused responsibilities.
“Now is the time to bring our strategic plan forward and start,” DeCredico says. “We will build on the strengths of our partnerships within the organization, advance the initiatives, and continue moving forward. We are certainly on the road to planned growth by 2023 and having the IT to enable that.”
Factory Line photo by Graham Copeland