Cargill – A Global Business Services Transformation Success Story

June 13, 2023
Season 4, Episode 22

In this episode of the Business Excelleration® Podcast, The Hackett Group’s Senior Global Business Services Advisor Penny Weller talks with Cargill’s Global Business Services Leader Kim Skanson about the dramatic digital transformation she has led across her global business services (GBS) organization.

Welcome to The Hackett Group’s “Business Excelleration Podcast,” where week after week we hear from experts on how to avoid obstacles, manage detours and celebrate milestones on the journey to world-class performance. This episode is hosted by Penny Weller, Senior Global Business Services advisor. In today’s episode, Penny is talking with Kim Skanson, Cargill’s leader of Global Business Services for Cargill Business Services (CBS), about the dramatic digital transformation she’s led across their global CBS organization. Cargill has $165 billion in annual revenue and is the largest privately held company in America. Founded in 1865, it’s an agricultural services company that trades, purchases, and distributes grain and other agricultural commodities.

To kick things off, Kim shares the context and depth of the company. Cargill moved into a model like this with shared services where they are trying to work as one Cargill and centering it. There are seven major hubs around the world for CBS where there are Cargill-badged employees in every location. They had traditional areas in this movement where they excelled, and then looked at what other opportunities are out there. The head count of the organization is 9,000 people providing services, but Kim states that the success is not the number of heads. Their office in India is the largest, but they have multiple offices across the globe with many different languages. Next, Kim shares how they brought multiple functions together in the organization. She says they lifted and landed the work the way it was. If they optimized before they moved work in, it would have taken longer. She says there were a lot of different payment terms, but she suggests listening to your partners and peers across the organization. Instead of taking an emotional element to this, focus on the facts and possibilities, and be humble and transparent to open conversations.

Kim states that it is hard to just pick one key milestone over the last couple of years, but you have to look at your company annually and also at customer surveys and feedback. This also involves looking within the team, as well to address the engagement of the team, and how people are adjusting. Eighty percent of employees were new to the company within the first couple of years, so there was an element of learning. Also, this involved financial savings as a company and adding new value.

Every year you have to reflect on what’s working, what’s not and where we can adjust. They had four different chief financial officers throughout the company as well. In terms of goals for 2023/2024, Kim says the importance of end-to-end process discipline is difficult, and they want to move further along in the discipline process. They want to create a better muscle for this, with roles and checkpoints we need to have. This will allow Cargill to optimize how it needs to be run. Cargill has dedicated resources to adding to success, but Kim says you always need eyes and ears paying attention to how things are working. You need goals to achieve and ways to measure that.

Some outsourcing is needed for when it makes sense, but Cargill looks at the whole location footprint. They evaluate if they are still doing the right thing and relook at factors every 18 months. There are pockets of deviation, but you always need to revisit the good and bad – the landscape is always evolving. Kim says she admires companies that are disciplined in the process space and companies who make that more streamlined. She also looks up to companies who are farther along the enterprise resource performance journey or maturity in how they run them. There also needs to be continued value in cultural awareness. Finally, Kim shares her last pieces of advice. Be curious if you are new to this industry. It is not an end game, but a way to drive value in the organization. What works for one company may be different for another. She also says to lean in and stay true to the whys. Her final comment is to listen openly to peers, stay optimistic and good things will happen.

Time stamps:

  • 0:45 – Welcome to this episode hosted by Penny Weller.
  • 2:05 – Kim shares the context and depth of Cargill.
  • 3:38 – Head count of the organization.
  • 4:26 – How multiple functions were brought together in the organization.
  • 6:20 – Key milestones over the last couple of years.
  • 8:22 – Goals for 2023/2024.
  • 9:44 – Dedicated resources adding to success.
  • 10:27 – The role of outsourcing.
  • 12:05 – Qualities in companies Kim admires.
  • 13:49 – Final comments and advice.