Bayer is one of the world’s largest life sciences companies, operating in 83 countries. The 160-year-old company has more than 100,000 employees worldwide and aims to transform employee engagement, for example, by redesigning and standardizing service delivery from Bayer’s enabling functions. Jan Toennissen, head of digital technologies, spoke with me recently about how Bayer invests in its digital core to enhance the employee experience across everything from HR to accounting and procurement
Transformational change needs everything digital and automated
At the beginning of the pandemic, the team around Toennissen started the journey toward being as efficient as possible. The focus was to digitalize and transform processes at Bayer using intelligent automation, including everything from robotic process automation (RPA) to machine learning. The focus was not on a specific function, business, or division but on leveraging technology across the company to create internal efficiencies.
The team discovered that process change becomes transformational once you get everything digital and automated. Bayer saw the opportunity to go beyond automating individual processes to orchestrate multiple digital processes end to end, which required an effective tech stack, including a workflow platform like ServiceNow.
In 2022, the IT organization for Bayer’s Enabling Functions – to which the team belongs – evolved from “technology-focused” to framing “employee experience” as the driving factor. The goal was to enable a phenomenal experience that allows employees to create value for the company by serving farmer, patient, and consumer customers well. Even with employee experience as a primary lever to pull, customer-facing elements such as automating processes, digitizing forms, and providing valuable services are still imperative for attaining the excellent experience people want. In each case, the goal is to harmonize and consolidate processes and design user journeys that shield the user from the complexity of the underlying IT infrastructure.
Picking the right platform and partner
Bayer had prior experience with ServiceNow for IT service management – the traditional core offering; however, the life sciences giant took almost a year to choose the ServiceNow platform for this initiative. ServiceNow – a cloud-based SaaS platform for automating IT management – seamlessly integrates new technologies, and automation, artificial intelligence (AI), user experience and security products are all built on a single, scalable platform.
Beyond IT service management, Bayer has also begun implementing ServiceNow for HR, Finance and Procurement. By the end of 2023, it aims to have the platform reach all 100,000 Bayer employees and 80% of the agents working in its Global Business Services, which deliver services throughout its core functions.
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Given the size of the project, Bayer selected Infosys as its implementation partner based on the expertise it was able to bring to Bayer. ServiceNow has recognized Infosys annually as ServiceNow Partner of the Year across multiple geographies, further validating Bayer’s decision.
Toennissen was highly appreciative of the contribution that Infosys made to the project stating, “Our strategic collaboration with Infosys, leveraging its ServiceNow offerings, took us in the right direction of travel towards faster value realization and continuous innovation.”
The value of the partnership between Infosys and ServiceNow was critical to the project. As Umashankar Lakshmipathy, Executive Vice President and Head for Cloud, Infrastructure, and Security at Infosys EMEA noted “We are helping organizations like Bayer embrace digital workflow transformation beyond IT. This joint collaboration with ServiceNow and Bayer is a true testimonial of our digital innovation, collaboration, and partnership to deliver a quantum leap in employee and business differentiation.”
Obtaining buy-in from functional stakeholders
One of the team’s essential tasks was interacting with functional stakeholders in a discussion centered on consolidating and standardizing requirements. Bayer’s intention to deploy global solutions rather than local ones created challenges when aligning on one set of requirements and processes worldwide.
Rather than passively asking a business function for alignment, the team implemented more robust governance in a standard template that defined how a given process should run. Affected groups could then double-click on any legal requirements or deviations applied to a particular country. This approach is far likelier to assure success than passively requesting alignment.
Running the transformation as an agile project meant accepting multiple iterations, another learning exercise in the implementation phase. Instead of prioritizing precision or even perfection, Bayer leveraged agile development –depending on “good enough” first as the standard for going live and testing the viability of implementation in the real world.
Integration was also challenging, not from the ServiceNow side, but in obtaining data from various ERP and other systems. Even if everyone wants the project to succeed, the fact is that functional stakeholders are always busy with different priorities, which definitely can slow progress.
From the ServiceNow platform perspective, Toennissen said he was 90% happy. ServiceNow’s “Tokyo” release delivered his wish list, including email encryption, enabling the transition from legacy platforms to ServiceNow.
Start early with a center of excellence
An unexpected benefit of the transformation was the excitement the team, Toennissen, and others encountered from the organization about improving the employee experience. To meet the demand for new projects, Toennissen created an initial center of excellence (CoE) for Service Management to guide implementations.
An example of a successful request was the new HR portal, which garnered positive feedback. That enabled a broader global rollout to continue so that the portal now reaches 30 countries covering 60% to 70% of Bayer’s employee base.
The team expected to go door to door to shake hands and plead for subsequent use cases. But the word of successful deployments caused the pipeline of projects to fill up faster than expected.
The CoE at Bayer keeps track of and prioritizes all the process-improvement requests in the pipeline. Submissions are managed from an investment point of view, prioritizing those with the highest value. Bayer is continuing to develop the CoE and governance model further.
Most of the companies I talk to use ServiceNow to interact with customers. Although Bayer does not rule out that function in the future, Salesforce is the current platform it uses for customer interactions. Today’s more significant point is that by using ServiceNow, Bayer is actively improving the relationship between employees and the company. For Bayer, the real value comes in designing services with employee experiences in mind. The ideal experience arises from addressing employee personas, locations, and types of access, then bringing the most relevant services to employees digitally.
Bayer’s philosophy is that you will have a happy customer if you have a happy employee—and I agree that employee and customer experience are inextricably linked. Most of us would agree that a company’s success originates from satisfied customers who are glad to pay for the company’s goods and services. Indeed, strong customer relationships are often what separates successful companies from mediocre ones. It’s happy employees who strive to deliver high-quality service that keeps customers coming back again and again. Creating that virtuous cycle is at the heart of Bayer’s success with its ServiceNow implementation.