Who knew that the 1930s were the golden age for chocolate bars? 1937 in particular saw the iconic Kit Kat, Rolos and Smarties hit our sweetshops. Old school chocolate bars (Fry’s Delight?) headed to the grave yard as Nestle swaggered into town. Nestle, one could say, was the Apple of the chocolate world, transforming our experience of chocolate and our tastes as well. In music, the equivalent would be the golden age of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. In painting, it was the equivalent of the Italian Renaissance and the advent of the Impressionism at the end of the 19th century; in literature, Tolstoy, Hardy and Dickens. So why am I writing this? Well, the link (albeit tenuous) is to do with Google naming the latest version of its Android operating system Kit Kat—and Kit Kats are from Nestle.
Nestle is transforming around digital and an accelerated pace. Its old school brands like Kit Kat are enjoying a digital makeover as is the company’s process architecture and its acquisition strategy. The company has set itself a fresh “digital” course for its brands firmly anchored on three foundations—listening, engaging and inspiring. What is most intriguing for me is its “digital acceleration lab” which features a crack team dedicated to coax the various business lines into developing innovative new products and innovative ways of working that embrace digital, SMAC based technologies at their core.
The lab is designed to be transitory, with business unit teams immersing themselves into the center for a few weeks and then taking back their ideas and best practices back to their business units in a systematic and structured way. The lab offers training and direction through a well-defined framework and ensures a healthy dose of change management expertise ensures what’s learned actually sticks...
The lab is located at Nestle HQ in Vevey right on the shores of Lake Geneva. Nestle has a stunning head-office and reminded me of Scaramanga’s pad in the James Bond film the Man with the Golden Gun when I’ve visted. The lab features what looks like a social media command center—a bit like ours in Cognizant, featuring cloud based social mining with text based analytics for monitoring social media and enterprise data. I presume Nestle is able to identify actionable correlations between its enterprise data and the social data that it monitors, and sketches out what the art of the possible could be with pervasive analytics at the core. The lab holds a resident team of 15 people—Meaning Makers—who combine data mastery, business modelling and change management expertise among other disciplines.
Nestle views the lab as a powerful engagement room designed to get a digital initiative prioritized and activated. The center is transitory, with engagements lasting 12 weeks or less. More old school firms need a digital acceleration lab like this, or at least access to one. To bring that point home, I went to Forrester’s IT forum in London and heard Jeroen Tas, who, as Philips' former group CIO and now its CEO of Healthcare Informatics, explain how he’s leading a digital transformation. He explained about how his own digital acceleration lab was absolutely vital to persuade key stakeholders into what the art of the possible could be. He focused on creating scenarios utilizing new technologies and sketching out new business models—and why his new Healthcare Informatics division will dramatically improve patient outcomes and asset utilization rates. Fascinating stuff. Watch this space.