How Bayer closed the distance globally between planning and activating

How Bayer closed the distance globally between planning and activating

Laura Lienshöft

With the help of EY, Bayer reimagined how its resources deliver value to internal stakeholders and accelerated its mission of health and wellbeing.

Amid greater technology advances, shifting growth strategies and pandemic-driven changes to how we work, Germany-based pharmaceutical company Bayer wanted to reassess how its shared services centers delivered value and high-quality service to the organization. That effort revealed a challenge that will sound familiar to any company operating globally: how to get all management involved, providing input, uniting behind the mission and collectively activating it — across eight centers on four continents.

An initial 100-day assessment for the pharmaceutical and life science giant revealed key challenges and potential sources of improvement for what was known as the Shared Service Delivery Network, including over 4,500 employees in functional areas such as finance, supply chain and HR. That was the genesis of a profound paradigm shift in business as usual, reimagining how these resources would interact with their internal customer client base in a global business services (GBS) model.

A large-scale transformation project is now under way to encourage them to proactively offer an expanded suite of capabilities (in areas like supply chain and data management as well as analytics) and greater operational excellence (through higher automation and closer internal stakeholder interaction, for example). This required changing mindsets and ingrained ways of working, including a new governance and collaboration model to provide guardrails and quality assurance, as well as new strategies about the people to hire and where to hire them. Bayer’s new mission is “powering our business to enable health for all, hunger for none.”

Inhabiting multiple time zones, the affected managers and leadership needed face time together, with frank discussion about location strategies, functional priorities, development

areas and more — dialogue that would lead to positive results, not negative feelings. This effort bolsters foundational, global support for Bayer’s scientists and other innovators, as well as their consumers, customers patients and farmers — ultimately furthering the company’s mission, in which agriculture and human health are collectively enriched.

EY teams knew just what was needed: EY wavespace, an environment designed for collaboration that transcends functional areas and geographies. And our professionals were ready to take it into an unprecedented direction for EY wavespace: at a third-party location, with in-person participants and others joining virtually.

Through EY wavespace, Bayer tapped into a space where executives could break free from everyday tasks, gain a fresh mindset and be equipped with the collaborative tools to think differently. Practitioners of design thinking construct EY wavespace Experiences for impactful dialogue, uniting clients with leading-edge technology and the power of the EY network. The goal is to translate that dialogue into action to accelerate transformation, support innovation and create measurable outcomes, faster.

While EY wavespace exists as a global network of physical locations and virtual hubs, Bayer’s experience was unique. We transformed an external event location in Düsseldorf into a hive of simultaneous in-person and virtual collaboration — an experience that posed a high-stakes challenge for the EY engagement team and EY wavespace resources. The five-hour hybrid EY wavespace strategy experience included 18 participants across four continents, including global leadership physically in the room and shared services location managers connecting from their home bases.

The exercises provided Bayer participants the confidence to ask the right questions and break through a complex organizational structure and emotional or political sensitivities. The most impactful exercise was called Round Robin, in which the leaders individually looked at what role their centers might play in the future and collectively played devil’s advocate about any roadblocks in the transformation. After hearing from everyone, we would return to the first speaker to build on how challenges could be rectified, which revealed specific actions to take. All comments and action items were captured in MURAL, a digital canvas.

Open exchange among the participants, with specific time allotted to those who tended to take a back seat in group conversations, proved invaluable — a breakthrough that had been elusive until then. The immersive approach overall was very effective in building a high level of engagement between remote and on-site leaders.

“The braveness of being able to criticize others’ work in this safe environment helped participants redefine their own goals,” said Julia Philip, EY wavespace Experience Designer & Facilitator.

Bayer recognized how quickly they can achieve results collaboratively with EY wavespace, and leaders asked for a second workshop at their headquarters in Leverkusen to continue the dialogue. We sprang into action to transform a sparse conference room into an EY

wavespace, enabling in-person collaboration — for the first time in two years — with the flexibility to incorporate another participant who joined virtually, because he had COVID-19.

In line with the EY wavespace ethos, dialogue directly leads to action. The discussions helped define how the shared services centers differentiate from each other, showing how to bridge the gaps between them and create a better understanding of the expectations. Together, the workshops surfaced key foundational pillars for a new governance model and defined the next steps for effective collaboration to operate as “one Bayer,” with greater support across key functions.

Together with guidance from the EY engagement team, Bayer leaders from across the globe were challenged to collaborate and think differently, with a defined end goal in mind. EY wavespace helped participants determine a clear collaboration model for the stakeholder groups across Bayer and identified the biggest needs and concrete next steps to bring the new governance model to life.

“Connecting 18 people from 9 different countries in a hybrid setting is a challenge, but because it was well-guided by EY wavespace experience designers, it drove a highly effective outcome and a great collaborative atmosphere – we loved it!” said Laura Lienshöft, Bayer’s Strategy Project Management Officer for the shared services network. “It helped our global leadership team to discuss and elaborate on future-oriented strategic goals. EY wavespace helped us to collect various opinions from our thought leaders in short time, and we went below the surface of discussions.”

Having cleared its roadblocks, Bayer and EY teams are working to deliver on the transformation plan’s ambitious outcomes: not just a 5% year-over-year savings in productivity but also strong new capabilities, greater team success and deeper professional growth. These key decisions further build the basis for Bayer’s new GBS vision and the ambition of providing further value-added service to key areas of the business.

It was also an opportunity for EY teams to act as a trusted advisor and deliver on our own purpose of building a better working world — bringing Bayer’s workforce closer together and accelerating its efforts to drive inclusive growth, feed a growing world, and improve people’s health and wellbeing.


Laura Lienshöft is Bayer’s Strategy Project Management Officer