Arla is a Swedish-Danish cooperative, the largest producer of dairy products in Scandinavia. Surprisingly, the company has a very extensive IT department. And that's what we talked about during this year's Infoshare edition with Kinga Bałdyga, Product Owner at Arla.
Arla’s office in Gdańsk, as far as I know, does not deal with the direct production of dairy products. So what do you do in Gdańsk?
Kinga Bałdyga: Our office in Gdańsk is Arla’s Global Shared Services Center. The main functions here are IT, Finance, HR Service and Procurement. And so, financial departments provide services to both our internal and business customers, but also our suppliers (vendors) and customers, i.e. companies with whom we cooperate. IT departments are divided into the project part, which deals with the implementation of new solutions, and the operational part, responsible for maintaining our current systems.
What type of solutions are you working on?
This is a difficult question, because all the projects we work on support our entire company. So these are applications for our members of the dairy cooperative, i.e. for farmers who are scattered throughout seven European countries. These are also systems supporting R&D, i.e. processes related to our products and their recipes. These are also tools supporting the daily tasks of our employees, such as those from Microsoft 365 package.
Why did Arla decide to build such a large IT team instead of outsourcing such services?
Arla is a company that strongly believes in people’s potential and their willingness to take responsibility for given tasks. It is a Scandinavian approach that strongly shapes the company’s culture. Building a permanent team that cooperates with business, building and implementing the necessary solutions is a priority. It enables the maintenance of knowledge in the company, the development of our employees and building a career within the organization. It is simply a different model than working with external consultants and technology solution providers.
In your presentation on Infoshare, I saw that you have a lot of job offers, mainly from IT departments. A food and agricultural company dynamically developing its IT department is at first glance a non-obvious combination. How do you evaluate technological development and the use of such solutions in the entire agri-food industry?
I have been working at Arla for three years, I am very positively surprised by the level of maturity of the IT projects and implemented solutions. We observe the market of new technologies and follow global trends – we use artificial intelligence and we automate business processes. Our colleagues who deal with such process automation win international awards in this area and, as it turns out, there are no better ones than them. Could anyone expect such solutions in a dairy cooperative? Probably not, but Arla, as one of the largest producers of dairy products in the world, focuses on development.
Do you think this is the future of this industry? Will everyone follow this path sooner or later? Or maybe the food and agricultural sector still resists digitization because it is a traditional business?
I think that for cooperatives associating hundreds of farmers, it would not be possible to manage the production process without advanced technology solutions. Our farms are very automated, the cows milk themselves. All information regarding the collected milk or its nutritional value is collected and analyzed so that we can predict our production, plan the supply, assess the demand and finally sell the product. So I think sooner or later the whole industry will be moving in this direction.
Why did you choose to take part in Infoshare?
It is the largest conference in this part of Europe, so we could not miss it. What is particularly important to us is the fact with which you started the conversation. Perhaps in Polish „dairy cooperative” does not sound tempting and is not associated with development opportunities in the field of IT. However, our department is very extensive and carries out a lot of projects, and thanks to this, we offer interesting positions and dynamic development. We want to share this information also in our country and encourage talented people to work with us.
During this year’s edition of Infoshare, you gave a lecture on the intranet. Why do companies need such solutions at all?
Arla is a company with almost twenty thousand employees worldwide. The intranet ensures a quick flow of information between them and builds a sense of unity. It is a platform where we publish the latest news and store expert knowledge. Thanks to the intranet, each of our employees can quickly find the information which is necessary to perform daily duties.
Then why such a solution, and not just some available applications that are available on the market is more convenient for internal communication?
Now we come to an interesting point. What do we mean by communication? The intranet is not the only communication medium for Arla. We use many channels to stay connected. One of them is, for example, the MS Teams application with which teams work together on documents or send messages to each other. We also have our internal social media, where we focus on specific topics. We use many forms of communication, adapting them to the needs.
In that case, for which industries, what type of enterprises is the Intranet a good solution?
Here we have to go back to our needs. I have worked with various companies before I started working with Arla. Each of them was a corporation and had its own Intranet. On the other hand, for smaller companies or startups, applications such as MS Teams could turn out to be more attractive, ensuring more interaction and faster information flow.
At the end, I would like to ask you what does it mean that Arla works in the Scandinavian spirit?
I strongly encourage everyone to test this kind of work environment. „Working in the Scandinavian spirit” means working with people focused on dialogue and cooperation, finding solutions to challenge together. The Scandinavian model assumes openness to the opinions of others and creative actions. It is openness to testing various options and ways to choose the one that will work best in each case. This approach is related to the trust we place in each other and the responsibility for the word given to others.