Marcelo De Santis has been with food and beverage giant Kraft Foods since 2001, taking on a variety of management roles within IT. Last year, he became director, information systems, Asia Pacific, providing IT leadership to the multi-billion-dollar business reporting to the global CIO and managing some 100 IT staff across 12 countries. De Santis shares more details on his role in Kraft Foods.
Can you describe your company’s corporate philosophy and how that translates into Kraft Foods’ approach to IT?
Our company’s higher purpose is to “make today delicious”. This applies not only for our consumers, but also for our customers, employees and communities. Information systems (IS) plays an important role in enabling this vision by creating an environment which transforms the way our employees work by opening new possibilities for innovation, efficiency and productivity.
Can you describe your IT organisation?
Our IS organisation is structured as a global matrix to ensure we win in each market while leveraging the knowledge and scale of the world’s second largest food company. We have regional executives that work in concert with the global centres of expertise and Enterprise Shared Services teams to provide solutions to specific business challenges. We number around 1,800 employees across the world. Additionally, we maintain several strategic relationships with business partners that advise us in shaping the technology agenda. We have outsourced the management of our IT infrastructure and Help Desk Services with HP. We are also partnering with TCS to consolidate our SAP landscape in the Asia Pacific.
What have been your biggest projects for the past 12 months?
We have finalised the implementation of CISCO Telepresence to enable our colleagues to connect virtually across the world. This high quality, life-like technology fosters collaboration and innovation to speed up the decision-making process, in addition to reducing travel expenses and cutting down on travel so employees can enjoy more of a work-life balance.
What is your biggest challenge now?
We are continuing to integrate the legacy Cadbury business into our global process while continuing to build new business capabilities to support the Asia Pacific region, a growth engine for Kraft Foods. The Asia Pacific is a diverse geography that is growing at an accelerated pace. This challenges the IS function to look for solutions that can be leveraged across markets with speed and efficiency.
What challenges did you have to overcome during the first few months of your role?
It would be building a talented IS team that is recognised as a transformational business partner and can visibly demonstrate its contribution to business results. My first few months were focused on bringing together the best IS talent, understanding the business challenges and articulating the IS strategic priorities. I am proud that we have assembled a winning IS team that is aligned to a common vision and strategic plan.
How did you learn about your role and your division?
During my first three months in the role, I spent most of my time visiting the different markets in the Asia Pacific and connecting with IS and business colleagues. I also visited customers and consumers to learn their perspectives around our company and products. Becoming intimate with the business operations across the markets is crucial to be able to contribute as a transformational business partner.
What have you learnt about your role so far?
My biggest lesson has been that despite the market differences within the Asia Pacific region, we all share similar business challenges. This allows us to look for IS solutions that can drive the business process and system harmonisation while reducing the total cost of ownership.
What are your big projects right now?
We are focused on integrating the legacy Cadbury and legacy Kraft Foods systems. In addition, we continue to support the business growth agenda by using industry-leading technologies for sales and marketing and enabling collaboration tools to connect our global talent. Virtual collaboration has allowed us to speed up our decision-making and execution as well as create an environment that helps our employees work effectively and efficiently.
Tell me more about your career journey.
I’ve worked across industries in consulting, financial services and FMCG during the last 16 years, always in information systems-related roles. At Kraft Foods, I’ve been given the opportunity to work in Latin America, North America, Europe and now the Asia Pacific. These experiences have shaped a business-oriented, multi-cultural background and have been a very enjoyable personal learning journey.
Along the way, what were some of the important lessons you have learnt?
One of our values at Kraft Foods is to act like an owner. My “customers” are the different markets; they are my real bosses. With this objective, it helps me and my team to pursue business opportunities where technology is an enabler to the market.
What qualities should an executive have in order to become a successful technology leader?
There are three key qualities that I consider critical to be a successful IS executive: business knowledge, organisational agility and leadership. IS executives need to become intimate with their business, industry and competitors to be able to drive deep transformation in their organisations. Secondly, they need to be able to navigate the organisation top-down, bottom-up and across functions to drive large complex initiatives. Last but not least, they must have the ability to lead above and beyond the boundaries of their function to be considered a business partner.
Can you describe your leadership style?
I would define myself as leader that enables individuals and the organisation to perform and develop to its maximum potential. It is important to me to create an environment where each individual is empowered to contribute their best, align them in support of a challenging outcome and get their commitment to support the collective success of the team. Then my work consists of coaching them, removing obstacles and supporting them so they succeed in their journey. Read more at MIS Asia To comment on this article, please email the editor. Follow CIO on
Sign up to receive CIO newsletters.
Click here to subscribe to CIO.
Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.