UK IT staff at Unilever could escape the worst of a planned restructure by the global consumer products firm because their operations have already been consolidated.
Hundreds of UK jobs were reported to be at stake as Unilever merged back office operations including IT, human resources and finance.
But a spokesman for the firm said that, as the changes were part of an ongoing, worldwide reorganisation and the UK had already been substantially reorganised, there was less need for further changes.
Globally, Unilever's back office operations are, in places, duplicated for its food and non-food business. The company's strategy, said the spokesman, was to "focus on the customer and the brands" and then find the most efficient way that a single back office operation could support them.
Unilever's chief information officer, Neil Cameron, outlined the strategic thinking behind the reorganisation in a recent interview with vnunet.com.
There was still some work to do converging SAP systems, Cameron said.
"Our challenge is getting the balance between trying to be a globally local company and getting benefits of scale. I'm trying to find that sweet spot in the middle," he added.
In the UK, Unilever's European IT infrastructure service was merged into a single centre at Port Sunlight in Merseyside in 2000. Since 2001 its major applications for Europe have all been hosted from St David's in Cheshire.
Neither have its supplier contracts escaped consolidation. In 2002 BT Global Services won a £1bn, seven-year contract to manage Unilever's Global communications infrastructure, cutting the supplier base from over 200 to just one.
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