How Beam Suntory improved its commercialization process

Eric Schuetzler, Senior Director of Global Commercialization for Beam Suntory, explains how Planisware Enterprise has been the key to streamline the company's portfolio, improve internal processes, get products to market faster and eventually increase project delivery by 18% without impacting headcount.

Eric Schuetzler, Senior Director of Global Commercialization at Beam Suntory, is responsible for global project management and processes. In 2016, he and his team spearheaded the redesign of Beam Suntory's internal commercialization processes and the Planisware deployment.




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My name is Eric Schuetzler and I am the senior director of global commercialization at Beam Suntory.

Tell us a little bit about Beam Suntory. (0:09 to 0:31)

Beam Suntory is the world's third-largest premium spirits company. And our mission is to craft the spirits brands that stir the world and we have about 4400 employees worldwide.

We are headquartered out of Chicago; we are a subsidiary of the Suntory Holdings Corporation. We represent about 20% of their annual sales every year.

What's your role at Beam Suntory? (0:32 to 01:07)

I lead the project management office or, as we call it, Global Commercialization. So, my team, basically, we own the stage-and-gate process, we own all of the project management tools and the project management expertise.

My daily role within Planisware is actually pretty low, but what I use it for is more extracting reports and being able to summarize up for our senior leaders, "where's our pipeline going? Do we have a sufficient pipeline? Do we need to change our resources?" We have a lot of discussions about resources coming out of the system, so I use the tool as an information pull more than an active project management.

What are some of the key challenges in the spirits industry? (01:10 to 01:50)

In the spirits industry, like many, sort of, trend-forward industries, innovation is key and it's about innovation at the right time. One example would be flavored bourbon. Ten years ago, no one was talking about flavored bourbon.Now, if you look across the industry, it's a massive volume driver across many people's portfolios, including our own.

So, if you're not in the market, with the right product at the right time, you kind of missed out already. So, that's really a key part for us ... how do you get innovation ... once you've identified the right thing, how do you get it to market quickly. And, you know, on the right schedule, time, and in terms of resources and integrating all of those different functions.

What was the impetus for organizational change? (01:51 to 02:14)

As we became a larger company with a much more stable portfolio of brands, you kind of need a better way to manage that portfolio of projects, as well as the brands, and figure out what's the right thing to work on at the right time, with the right level of resources. So, that was kind of the challenge set out by our executive leadership team, is ... how do we get more efficient now that we have scale on our side now.

What were your short- and long-term objectives? (02:16 to 02:48)

Our short-term goals were kind of to get our arms around what does our portfolio look like and we need to do this in a more organized, efficient fashion. Long-term, we obviously want to drive innovation faster, cheaper, more efficiently.

So, that's what, at the end of the day, we really want to drive, is how do we get innovation out as fast as possible, with the right metrics and, then, I think on our base business, how do you do all the base business stuff that's required to manage a current business, with the least amount of resource pull as possible.

Who were the key stakeholders? (02:49 to 03:21)

Our key stakeholders were really our executive leadership team, but primarily our chief marketing officer and our chief supply chain officer, who are the owners, or, let's say our gatekeepers of our Stage-Gate process. So, to me, that was a key piece to have.

A lot of times, you find that a project management organization can be pigeonholed into one; wherever they report up to, that's the only senior leader that cares. But I do think that, in this scenario, having two people with competing daily needs paired up together to help drive success was an important piece.

Why did Beam Suntory choose Planisware? (03:22 to 03:38)

The number one thing we liked about Planisware is that we could build the tool -- or build the platform -- to match the work that we have to do. Versus the other way around, which is what we historically had, which is … you have to kind of fit your way of working into what the system will allow.

How does Beam Suntory use Planisware today? (03:40 to 04:21)

We use Planisware for all of our commercialization projects. So, a summary of that is, if it's a product going out the door to be sold to a consumer, it comes through the Planisware system. So, what that means for us is that we roughly have an average of 400-450 projects at any one time, active.And then we have a team of 24 project managers, two administrators in that group, that have administrative rights. And then we have an active user base of about 550 people. So, that could be someone who goes in once a month, it could be someone who goes in every day.

So, depending on their role in the organization and what they do on each project, their actual level of familiarity or, need to be in the system, changes.

What benefits has the global commercialization organization seen from using Planisware? (04:25 to 05:10)

I think I shared the one I'm most proud of, which is the 18% increase in the number of projects. I think the nice anecdote there is we -- along with the 18% increase in projects -- the time to market is actually directionally less. So, we're not only doing more work, we're doing it faster and, again, with the same number of people.

We're only six, seven months in, so we don't have a lot of long-term data showing what the trends had been over the years, but I think that, directionally, for us to see that uptick in terms of the number of projects with a downward trend in time, that to me is a really good, early signal that we're headed in the right direction, knowing that we've already identified probably another half-dozen or a dozen things that we think that we can continuously improve over time, in partnership with the Planisware team.

How has Planisware impacted your Stage-Gate processes? (05:12 to 05:57)

The part that we really changed is bringing a consistent format of data and expectations to each gate. So, it's no longer about who can sell the best idea at the right time in the room. It's more about bringing all the same data across all the different projects and have an evaluation of "what should we do" and then we can have the more difficult discussions around, "ok, it's a great idea, but how can we make it bigger, how can we make it more efficient, is it the right time to do it?"

We don't have to have a different tool that we take into Stage-Gate, we literally extract information from Planisware, which creates a pre-read deck, which we then use in our Stage-Gate meetings. So, it's a very integrated tool, so now, doing something in Planisware is just the way work gets done.

How has Planisware improved the process for prioritization decisions? (05:59 to 07:27)

I think we faced a lot of prioritization challenges, so, what is the right thing to work on at the right time. So, that's something we've started to leverage the Planisware tool to help us with is ... now that we have visibility into all 450 projects in the pipeline right now, when are they delivering, how are they delivering and, I think, the second part about our Planisware implementation that I think was key to help drive this is that we have ... we use the embedded P&L tool. So, we're able to then extract information, do reports based on, what is our pipeline going to deliver, not just in time, but what's it going to deliver financially. So, incremental sales, incremental profit, so now we can do an extraction and do some analysis around how much resource am I taking to deliver how much benefit at the end and, if my ratio's off, if I'm burning a ton of resource on low benefit, maybe I should have a prioritization discussion about that.

I do think that's the key thing that we were struggling with before, is how do you get your arms around all of this data and, prior, we had a lot of offline information, so every P&L was held in a separate file, which you can't really roll up into one, sort of, format and they were oftentimes in different formats. So, if one person delivers a pdf, the next person delivers an Excel file. You can't do anything with that data. Now that it's all in one system, all in the same format, all with clear expectations about what someone has to show up with financially, now we can extract that and do something with it at the end.

How has standardizing your workflows impacted the organization? (07:29 to 08:07)

Our workflows before were … we had a system where you would track only very, very high-level milestones. Now we have a tool in Planisware that we can say "this represents the actual work required to do something," whether that's a very quick project or a full, multi-year innovation. And, it's less required to be an expert individual who knows how to get everything done from front-to-back ... it's more about ... can someone help manage through that process and does each person at each step know what they have to do to deliver the project? We don't have to have subject matter experts who just know to get work done.

How has Planisware impacted cross-functional work and project efficiencies? (08:10 to 09:08)

The problem before was, workflows would get stopped and you didn't really have the visibility into why or where it was getting stopped.

So, you would know that the liquid isn't being developed on time. Ok, why? Who do I need to talk to, what's holding it up? Is it a technical problem, is it the brand team isn't approving the liquid that is the result? Is it that the liquid isn't meeting consumer results? Those are three possible workflow problems, but very different solutions to solve.

So, I wouldn't say that all of the sudden, all of our issues have gone away, but we have the availability of data to say, "ahhh, that's where we're stuck. We know that it's with Randi and we need to go talk to Randi and figure out what do we need to do to move this forward?" And everybody has that visibility, it's not just one or two people on the project. It doesn't have to be the one project manager who then talks to Randi, who then has to communicate that and hopefully get the team all on the same page.

How has Planisware impacted resource productivity? (09:09 to 09:45)

I think what we were able to do is utilize some of the automation tools in Planisware to help us take tasks that were manually pushed through the system by a person before and those, where possible.

So, now, our data right now, early read, is that we're delivering about 18% more projects through our pipeline than we were before at zero incremental headcount. So, in terms of our efficiency and effectiveness, we're seeing a lot more of that very quickly. I mean, we're only six months into the implementation to see an 18% increase with zero resource change is a pretty significant win for us.

What does business-as-usual look like? (09:48 to 10:59)

Planisware is used every minute of every working day, I could say. I mean, there's not a time at this point where I don't walk by one of our project managers' desks and see Planisware up.

So, the general day looks like people come into the office or work from home, or wherever they are, and because we're in the SaaS application, they can access it anywhere they want and we don't have any issues.We did single sign on, so we have really easy access for people and it looks like, I get up in the morning, people go to Planisware. We're teaching a behavior of go into Planisware, check out your to do list, what do you have to do today. If you're a project manager, go into Planisware, look at your timelines, is anything scaring you, do you need to address something. Umm, really teaching that the tool is our one source of truth.

So, a daily use of Planisware is very high among a core group of users. If you are the user who's in it once a month, obviously you're not checking in every day, but then we have very key notification metrics to make sure that they do know when to go so I think that the daily life of Planisware in Beam Suntory, at this point, is it's an integrated piece of our daily life and it's just the way work gets done now. It's not the new tool anymore, it's how we project manage.

What does your support model look like? (11:01 to 11:32)

The SaaS support has been great, in terms of our ability to reach out to, again, our key account people, whether that's Doug or the standard support team that we go to for different configurations, so I do think that's been a model we like. We love level one configuration, so most of the things we've done have been items we get to change. We can own the change, we can run the change management. We don't have to, you know, pay an a hourly fee or anything to get that. We control the resources.

What's in Beam Suntory's future with Planisware? (11:34 to 09:08)

I see us working together all of the time. I mean, at this point, we don't have a large desire to change project management systems very often. It's something that takes a lot of organizational energy and focus, so I do think that we're basically trying to partner with the Planisware team now to say, "Here's some ideas that we have. What would it look like to implement that in the tool?" Whether that's through the V6.2 upgrade or even things that aren't even in that upgrade.

For us, some specific things, we're in a consumer packaged goods business -- artwork is a big, important piece for us and that's an area of the tool that we want to partner with and say, "How can we make this part of the tool even more efficient?" Yeah, you could take it offline and route it through another ... there's many artwork routing and development programs. The problem is that it's usually a critical path item for us. So, if you have a critical path item that you're doing offline, it's hard to get visibility into your critical path implications, if anything gets delayed, or if it becomes another manual intervention a project manager has to do to take information from system A and put it in system B. So, what we want to really do is, how can we get the best artwork management tool integrated into Planisware and I think we do know that's an area that we want to improve upon and I know that some of the other CPGs in partnership here have said that's a tool that they'd like to use as well. So, definitely a developmental opportunity between the two of us to partner on.