When talking informally, people often refer to sunflower oil as “cooking oil”. This generalization depicts its critical role in the global food chain. Disruption in its supply causes a domino effect, influencing the prices of several commodities. For example, at the early beginning of the war in 2022, the year-on-year price of all vegetable oils spiked by 53% according to a United Nations food price index. Consumers all over the world are still feeling the impact.
Kernel has a tremendous impact on the agriculture industry worldwide, exporting agricultural products from the Black Sea region to over 80 countries. As Ukraine’s and the world’s leading producer and exporter of sunflower oil in 2021, Kernel understands the importance of keeping business afloat for communities worldwide. Along with keeping their employees safe, the agro-giant’s business priority is to ensure continuity in farming, production, and shipping, as disruption of these processes causes decreases in supply and increases in prices. However, due to blocked ports, growing fuel prices, and sky-high insurance premiums, enormous effort is required to maintain production and export. So, how does Kernel balance wartime challenges with business continuity? Technology plays a pivotal role in the process, as Kernel has embraced digitalization to reshape its organizational processes and keep going, even in the hardest of times.
A successful pivot in IT strategy
When the war started, Kernel’s management had to act quickly and adjust their business to the new reality. In order to ensure remote work, business continuity and data protection, it was critical to move fast in the cloud. The food industry depends on production plants, demanding that some employees work on-site. Kernel has evaluated and improved its security protocols to guarantee maximum security for these essential workers. On the other hand, military attacks forced many employees to relocate within Ukraine and abroad. After addressing their security and safety, the company provided displaced employees with Microsoft 365 services to enable high-quality, stable, and secure working conditions off-site as well.
Just days after the first attacks on Ukraine, Kernel’s IT team kicked off and completed a transfer of data from their servers in Kyiv to the cloud at another geo-location. This was critical in enhancing data security and ensuring business continuity. “Our organization has accumulated large volumes of data, some of which are crucial to our business’s survival. That is why we needed to think about backup and restoration before challenges occurred. At the very beginning of this terrible situation, we started the project of shifting our data recovery site and development environment to the cloud, which is complete now, and we continue migrating potential blackout risks,” explained Andriі Pishyi, CIO of Kernel.
While implementing the new IT strategy and re-establishing IT infrastructure in offices and plants, Kernel’s management realized that a different business environment called for a different communication approach. They established a communication format called 911_IT, reflecting a new way of leadership and interaction between management and the teams, to make sure everyone is up to date, regardless of location. Pishyi explained the details: “We’ve introduced a new practice of holding regular short meetings via Microsoft Teams between our key managers and IT specialists. The main goal is to keep the team up to date with the latest developments and events, as well as with executives’ reactions”.
Supplying the world with sunflower oil: Now and in the future
The events the world has experienced during the past few years highlight the importance of readiness and resilience. All businesses should be prepared for a disorderly shakeout. Having a business continuity plan that considers various scenarios and risks, as well as solutions to mitigate them, makes navigation through crises smoother. Kernel has managed to continue operating despite being surrounded by war, but there are still lessons to learn. “When deciding on a business continuity plan, low risks are often deferred. If we had taken them into account, we could have done part of the projects to ensure failure resistance earlier,” noted Pishyi.
Being the largest producer of sunflower oil in Ukraine, the breadbasket of Europe, makes Kernel’s role in sustaining the global supply key. The company continues to maintain its business by focusing on high-quality technology along with disaster preparedness. Having proven itself as a resilient and adaptable company, Kernel is poised to play a significant role in Ukraine’s economic recovery. By ensuring business continuity, the company has created a space to craft forward-looking plans to rebuild their business and help heal the Ukrainian economy.