Eastman Chemical Employees Engineer Thousands of Process Improvements Using Easy-To-Use Software

People drive the most important business outcomes, and software is one of the best investments you can make to enable your people to drive better outcomes.  Eastman Chemical embodies this philosophy in its information technology strategy and the approach is paying dividends.

Last month, we released a case study highlighting Eastman Chemical’s approach to driving business value with IT.  Eastman had to answer the question “How do we support a growing business while continuing to optimize our IT resources?”

It’s a challenge many chemical companies face - the business demands more, but you have less IT resources to deliver.  Especially in today’s economic environment.

Eastman turned to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.  They deployed it throughout the enterprise and also made it available to use with key business partners.  What they found was that the business folks took this platform and began improving business processes without the need for IT help.  This allowed IT to deliver more value to the business by providing the tools to the users to improve processes on their own.  A high-value, low-cost approach.

The case study offers a few areas of improvement ranging from collaborating externally with engineering companies to improving communications and sharing with their distributors.

The case study also details a couple of stories – handling customer inquiries and managing complex pricing requests.

The complex pricing scenario is my favorite, because it embodies the big picture of how Eastman is getting value from the Microsoft platform.  I don’t want to spoil the case study, but I’ll give you a teaser.

Imagine that your ERP system handles pricing automatically for the majority of orders, but for more complex scenarios people get involved.  You have a team in place that supports any request from anywhere on the globe.  In the past, they worked off of emails, voice mails and cube “drive-by’s” – probably a familiar way of working for many readers of this blog. 

But, it wasn’t good enough for this group.  They didn’t have full process visibility.  There wasn’t an easy way to judge and analyze the volume of requests that came in and how long it took to respond – a key factor in determining whether they could win the business or retain high customer satisfaction.

With SharePoint, they were able to centralize the requests, provide workflow to alert a primary and secondary handler of the request, and track data and metrics for improving processes down the road.

The group’s manager, Ian Turton says it best:  “We respond faster, because requests don’t sit on someone’s desk for a couple of days.  We’re also able to track support trends and see patterns in pricing support needs, which lets us provide additional training or web resources as needed.”

With SharePoint, the team is able to handle more request per person, and spend free time making other process improvements – a goal of many operational teams inside of chemical companies.

What Eastman has done with the SharePoint platform is really impressive.  It was done by a progressive IT group – this project led by Matt Looney – and with a great emphasis on driving business adoption and value.  A good model for anyone to learn from.

Thank you to Matt Looney and the folks at Eastman Chemical for participating in this case study.  They are making Eastman Chemical a People-Ready business.