"From farm to shake": How Herbalife supplements a mission of health with digital processes With Rich Libby, CIO of Herbalife

At Herbalife, it's not rare for employees to be invited into the test kitchens to sample shakes, food bars and other cutting-edge health products. It's a culture where nutrition innovation and employee collaboration go hand in hand.

 

But as much as this global nutrition company is tapped into the current zeitgeist around healthy eating, Herbalife is in many ways an established, traditional organization. Founded in 1980, the company has over 8,000 employees worldwide, maintains a presence in over 70 countries and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: HLF). Because of its history, Herbalife had a technology legacy in place that wasn't up to the task of the company's current collaboration needs.

 

"We have a lot of really great systems from years ago," says Herbalife CIO Rich Libby. "They were all the right systems at one point in time, but are they still providing enough business value?" This was the question Libby was brought in to answer when he was hired as CIO, and it led to another: "I like to think about it this way: If we had to start all over, would these same systems still make sense?"

 

Herbalife products

Like every industry, the nutrition industry is being disrupted. Creating new, better products and moving them through the manufacturing pipeline into customers' hands more quickly is a competitive driver. It used to be that third parties manufactured many of their products, but Herbalife decided to bring manufacturing largely in house to scrutinize the sourcing of raw materials and better oversee manufacturing, quality control and brand experience all the way to market. The company has since built manufacturing facilities around the world and gone from having 70% of products made by third parties to making the majority of their products in Herbalife facilities. 

 

But taking manufacturing in-house is just the start of Herbalife's internal disruption. For Libby, a major factor motivating Herbalife to transform is to make sure workers have the tools and workflows they need to support business drivers.

 

"In order to go fast, bring in new technology and understand where we're spending dollars, we have to get a better workflow."

— Rich Libby, CIO, Herbalife

 

Creating a digital workplace centered around collaboration

 

Herbalife's business model relies upon individual distributors from around the world to build the brand and sell products largely by word of mouth. These independent distributors work under the Herbalife banner to provide products and coaching aimed at supporting health-conscious consumers. The way distributors get information and stay connected to the company relies in large part upon the technology architecture. When Libby came on board with Herbalife, he examined the way that distributors were communicating and being communicated too, and set out to make some changes.

 

"There's a big opportunity for us to get smarter based on how we move, create and sell products through distributors," says Libby. "We have to get better with our data in order to optimize experiences and understand our markets." 

 

These changes included adoption of tools like Box to encourage collaboration in bold new ways and replace non-mobile file shares and insecure emailed documents with agile, secure content in the cloud. Bringing in modern tools like Box that offer native integration is part of Libby's best-of-breed strategy. Adding on this secure content platform, he will soon be extending his tech stack with Microsoft Office 365 and Slack.


 

rich libby

Shaking up the corporate culture with fresh ideas

 

In the beginning, Libby examined the work culture of Herbalife closely. Leadership had a practice of conducting virtual global meetings of distributors from around the world aimed at bringing a dispersed workforce onto the same page and facilitating communication globally. That was the ideal, but when Libby first arrived, the reality was that most everyone at Herbalife dreaded these meetings. For three days, meeting hosts would sit at a long table, presenting information with projected spreadsheets and presentations. Hundreds of distributors from around the world would listen in over the phone. It was tedious and boring, but it was taken for granted that this was the right and only way to do things.

 

"I always try to remove myself from a situation and think about it differently. I choose to be a perpetual outsider."

— Rich Libby, CIO, Herbalife

 

Libby's philosophy is to look at every business, every project and every situation with fresh eyes and a holistic vantage. He approached the sales team with a new idea. What about looking at virtual collaboration tools that would allow for a two-way conversation with distributors — those on the front lines, interacting with end customers every day? 

 

As a leader for whom best-in-breed tools are always front of mind, Libby counted on Box to bring the secure internal and external collaboration capabilities that allow distributors to access and share content without worrying about an intellectual-property breach. He also turned to Workplace by Facebook for communication and community features that would change the tenor of meetings completely. By creating various private group chats, different teams at Herbalife were given forums to ask questions and get access to crucial content. Instead of tedious, all-hands-on-deck, all-day reports, distributors now participate in virtual "breakout sessions" on topics that interest them.

 

"The opportunity, as we start to think differently is to work differently."

— Rich Libby, CIO, Herbalife

 

rich libby

The demand for a digital workplace to better drive business

 

As an IT leader, it's easy to be attached to favorite tools and methodologies. But when you come into a new situation or a new company — or any decision-making moment, for that matter — you have to look beyond your personal preferences and see what's currently true for both the company culture and the technology landscape in general. 

 

Today's workforce demands a digital workplace. "The young crowd," Libby says, "gets frustrated easily if communication and collaboration aren't easy." But his work as CIO has to also cater to loyal employees who have been with the company for decades and may be attached to the way things have always been done.

 

Investing in tools like Box that integrate well, and building smoother processes for a digital workplace keeps workers in the flow, has brought fresh energy into Herbalife's work culture.

 

herbalife sign

The Blueprint for being your company's technology hero:

 

  1. Keep the mindset of an outsider, always with a holistic approach to problem-solving
  2. Adopt best of breed tools that will support new workforce expectations in a digital workplace
  3. Solve the global fragmentation of tools to create a friction-free experience for remote workers

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