Think like an architect to get your digital house in order

By Gerald Lewis, Head of Strategy, Innovation and Enterprise Architecture, Coca-Cola HBC

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/DKosig
Pic:getty/DKosig

Related tags: coca-cola hellenic bottling company, digital

Tech innovation and digital transformation are critical in a fast-changing marketplace, but how do large businesses make this happen so they can adapt and grow? In this guest article, Gerald Lewis, Head of Strategy, Innovation and Enterprise Architecture at Coca-Cola HBC, says it's all about putting the right building blocks in place.

Very often, international companies invest millions in big technology solutions that don’t deliver the insights and efficiencies they hoped for.

The best way to invest in big technology is to approach it like building a house. You need strong foundations and the right building materials, but you also need architects with vision, who execute the project with innovation and a value focus.

This is what we mean by Enterprise Architecture, and it’s this approach to technology that’s fuelling Coca-Cola HBC’s digital transformation.

Making enterprise architecture work

Our approach is to introduce technology that helps us execute our strategy, and makes our organisation more productive, agile and responsive.

The macro trends in our sector are pushing us to do things differently and innovate to stay competitive. COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated this process, with, for example, a surge in online shopping and home working, combined with increasingly unpredictable customer and consumer needs. Adjusting, and making quick decisions, require the right people and principles to be in place.

To equip our organisation to stay ahead in this dynamic market, we took the step to digitise the core of the business with an advanced enterprise resource planning (ERP) system – SAP S/4 HANA. This shows our ambition to digitise our business and harness the power of advanced data analytics, AI, machine learning, frictionless user experience and process automation. We’re now building out from this core platform. By taking an enterprise-wide architectural view, we can plan and execute integrated three-to-five-year platform and product roadmaps.

Balancing technological transformation with business continuity

It is essential to approach technological change from two perspectives. First, you want to make everything faster, smarter and more efficient. But in doing so, you also need to keep the backbone of the business strong, ensuring your core business stays resilient. COVID-19 vividly showed this, as we needed to keep our people and our customers safe while ensuring business continuity.

Our employees needed reliable business systems they could access securely and remotely, our warehouse teams needed solutions like augmented reality for remote maintenance, and our customers benefitted from new e-commerce solutions that helped them order our products online and serve consumers at home. With a powerful centralised system that the entire business can draw on, we could deliver these benefits quickly and reliably across the business. This made us nimbler and more resilient in the face of unprecedented market conditions. By knowing our enterprise inside out, we are able to make tactical structural adjustments in line with the strategic roadmaps.

Technology enablement for a global/local business

Of all the bottling partners in the Coca-Cola system, we now have one of the most centralised IT systems, supported by central and local technology resources. For such a diverse business, spanning 28 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia, that’s a big achievement and it gives us a competitive edge. It means we can multiply actions in different countries quickly and easily. The central teams focus on expanding or adjusting the core, while the markets teams look after local execution. It also means we can use advanced data analytics to gain insights at a local level, allowing us to target our actions to get the best results.

This is powerful from many angles, including helping our customers forecast and manage their stock, and for optimising our supply chain efficiency. For me, a centralised Enterprise Architecture approach is like air-traffic control – we can see across the business and precisely monitor and manage all the moving parts and variables. In a business like ours, with over 50 manufacturing locations, 1.4 million coolers in the market, and 28,000 employees, that’s a lot of data and systems. But having this air-traffic control approach means we can ensure our application of technology and innovation always supports the strategy. Like a control tower, we can get a radar-like view, achieved by building a comprehensive inventory of applications, components and integration in our Enterprise Architecture Management platform Ardoq.

Building digital capabilities

gerald lewis cchbc

One of the things that holds a lot of companies back in their digital transformation ambition is a lack of IT knowledge and the right training. Ideally, you want people across the whole organisation to behave like digital natives, with the willingness and skills to unlock the full possibilities of new technology.

With this mindset, people are curious about the benefits that technology can offer and want to explore all of its features and apply it to their work. That’s why we are digitising our systems and building the digital capabilities of our people, though extensive training and learning. This shouldn’t be confined to the IT team – everyone in the business can be digital citizens, from the plant floor to the boardroom. In this way we can truly transform and digitalise our business to make us competitive and fit to face the challenges of the future.

Coca-Cola HBC is the strategic bottling partner to The Coca-Cola Company in 28 markets in Europe, Africa and Asia.

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