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As a prime representative of what's been called the most valuable brand on earth, Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) is also a company of "Bs": more than $21 billion in revenues, 2 billion cases, 42 billion cans and bottles filled, stocked and sold in 2008. CCE owns 80 percent of Coke's U.S. bottling market and a global footprint that includes all of Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Monaco.

Some confuse CCE with the Coca-Cola Company, the syrup and concentrate-selling business that is the prime inventor, acquirer and global image-maker of new products. But it is the independent bottlers - CCE being the largest in the world - that perform the heavy lifting of production, distribution, stocking and regional marketing. 

CCE's information challenge is a mix of nuance and scale recognizable in any large manufacturing/merchandising/logistics business: it is to create centralized, well-informed and nimble decision-making based on good metrics, supported by a common platform of technology that can address dynamic markets across a far-flung organization of 72,000 employees. 

2008 was not kind to CCE. While net revenues rose 4 percent, the company reported a $4.4 billion loss as part of an impairment charge attributed to rising materials and transportation costs as well as shifting customer preferences. 

But CCE was already making sizeable technology investments in support of a strategic information strategy. Before 2008, work was under way to better manage unpredictable markets through centralized sales and financial reporting. Midway through a three-year business intelligence project dubbed Project Veritas, the ongoing challenge is to extend the program to manage a fickle consumer market and a shifting portfolio of more than 200 products.

Two Years, Many Lessons 

In 2007, as the technology side of CCE looked for global initiatives focused on standardization and common practices, master data management came up as the first common thread across business processes. It was soon apparent there was a lack of standardization around tools, metrics or the very business process identified, whether across MDM, BI or information management generally.

"We had started with a technology focus, but it was quickly evident that, similar to master data, we really didn't have a consistent process for managing our BI work," says Kemal Cetin, the IT lead for Project Veritas and director of business information services at Coca-Cola Enterprises. "How would we define and govern metrics and distribute reports? How would we manage user segmentation and all the other things you need to do in the BI space? We quickly realized those things were not in place, so we initiated a global program."

The plan for IT is to move from a support-focused to a development-focused organization skilled around CCE's strategic technology platforms, most notably SAP. Even from his IS/IT perch, Cetin knew the real outcome would have to be more productive user experiences. Very simply, he says, "People have been working more with data than they have been working with information."

Across the street in another building on CCE's Atlanta campus, Sheri Bassett-Preston, CCE's VP of financial operations for North America, was pondering the same questions. As the business lead for Project Veritas, named for an ancient goddess of truth, Bassett-Preston was identifying the institutional processes and cultural silos CCE needed to gather. 

"For the last two years, we've been doing that without technology, trying to create cultural change, getting everyone to use the same information in the platforms we had it in. Around the same time we'd caught most of the low-hanging fruit, Kemal approached me with a deadline to get off our older technology. We were at a point where we had taken our work as far as we could go without technology, and it was time for us to come together."

Right Products, Right Shelves 

Just 23 years into existence, CCE is not centrally burdened by the embedded process challenges of older organizations. But leadership changes had brought shifting priorities to a business that had been decisively acquisitive, and the corporate landscape was made of business units resembling a cartel united by common goals but regionally isolated in its information operations.

It began to settle in 2006 when the regime of new CEO John Brock, CFO William Douglas III and CIO Esat Sezer dictated a consolidation strategy around information.

While Douglas is the executive business sponsor of Veritas, Sezer has been especially vocal about CCE's fierce IT ambitions, and in a presentation with Cisco Systems last year, spoke to welding IT to the core business of planning and stocking more than 1 million outlets and 600,000 vending machines on a daily or frequent basis.

"In very simple terms ... we win and lose business every day [based] on how well we replenish products on the shelves of customer outlets ... it is very critical for us to segment our consumers. It is very critical to put the right products on those shelves of those outlets as the consumer needs," said Sezer.

Sezer also made it clear that noncore technologies would not be an internal priority; CCE has already outsourced much of its email, instant messaging and collaboration infrastructure to Microsoft and keeps a close eye on partnerships in mobile technologies, another deep investment area. 

Business intelligence, on the other hand, is something the CIO values as an internal competency, and execution will be measured in the results. 

CCE's 2008 performance was partly due to its product mix. Besides a shift to smaller-sized drinks, Sezer acknowledged consumers were looking at health, obesity and wellness issues that were already changing CCE's portfolio of products. Despite the loss, Fortune magazine predicted in April that CCE's future might be "downright bubbly" due to favorable demand for energy drinks and double-digit growth in newly acquired products like GlacŽau vitaminwater and FUZE Healthy Infusions.

For the business to capitalize on consumer trends and optimize its huge production and logistical fleet to meet demand accordingly, Veritas had to be more than a presentation or mission statement. "We wanted to put some meat behind it, meaning that as we grow into more markets during economically challenged times, with a diverse and spread out workforce, information is very important to make quick decisions we can act on," Cetin says.  While no one is claiming victory, the approach is foundational. "The information we are standardizing and ensuring for accuracy is the source of the data we use to measure the products we are selling in segmented markets," says Bassett-Preston. 

The proposition of Veritas is a three-legged stool: a simplified landscape for a more sustainable and scalable technology platform; the provision of tools that will provide insight rather than just churn data; and structure around processes pertaining to BI activities, governance and standardized metrics.

Landscape Simplification 

The technology landscape simplification was a straightforward delivery model around SAP and Business Objects that would hopefully provide a sort of hitching post to change management, and symptoms requiring change were long evident at CCE.

As the company had risen quickly, Cetin could see that IT organizations weren't nimble enough to respond to a pandemic of personal IT resources across bottlers. "Servers had started popping up under desks; they started as Excel, grew into Access databases and then to SQL servers as data sets got bigger and bigger." 

The upshot of this behavior wasn't just redundant and disconnected systems; it created multiple pockets of expertise. "People were not doing this with the wrong intentions; everyone wanted to get the information they needed to make decisions with more visibility," Cetin says. "But everyone was looking at data from their own perspective, and we realized this would not be sustainable in light of where we wanted to go." 

Silos had also sprung up at the corporate level, and so the first order of business in 2007 was to combine two SAP Business Warehouse environments into one, along with an upgrade from BW 3.x to BW 7.0. Accordingly, back-end hardware was migrated from mainframe to UNIX and mid-range DB2 infrastructure. 

This year will see the final corporate migration from a Teradata warehouse installation of sales and profitability information into a single unified BW environment, which will be completed by January, 2010.

Tools and Roles

As the back-end work progressed, CCE was scaling back finance operations in the field and relocating reporting to Atlanta in a planning and performance management group under Bassett-Preston. 

"For the last two years we have been waving the flag and saying, 'let us do the reporting for you once we agree what it needs to look like.'" It was a cultural challenge getting North America to agree on this, she says, but once done, the data is now centrally owned, and reports come out one way and without the time, effort and mixed message of multiple versions from the field.

The new business architecture also called for a common reporting platform. Midway through the 2008 reorganization, SAP announced the acquisition of Business Objects, which was a boon to CCE's consolidation goals, even though other vendor tools would still play roles. 

Having Business Objects central to the portfolio made for an easier decision around standardization, Cetin says. "You might find tools that are better one way or another, but after a while it becomes an analysis-paralysis situation. I think the best thing is to make a decision, stick with it and work it out. It's not to say Business Objects is inferior, it is a market leader with a lot of good capabilities, and over time, integration with core SAP capabilities is going to get better and better." 

Today, the central finance group works to keep processes lean as CCE's four U.S. business units roll up forecasts and detailed budgets to the target settings in Atlanta that are being matched to the new technology platform.  The executive message translated by Bassett-Preston to CCE's territories is that regional business managers should be consumers rather than producers of information as well as invested partners with the central finance unit. She calls it a "cultural journey" of ensuring leadership goals are understood and the cascading of that to the geographical territories. 

In the past, everyone at CCE - executives, analysts and casual information consumers - had one way of accessing data that ran through IT. It was a "poor man's version" of governance, in Bassett-Preston's words, in which anyone wanting to extract a large set of data appealed to the standard reporting and data manager in her office. "He would say, 'What are you using this for? Does it exist somewhere else? What are you targeting?'" The outcome of data requests was more an approval process based on impact on system performance than it was a consensus approach to metrics and reporting. Formalizing the process and controls was the first step to governance work that is iterative and provides a stage for engagement between IT and the business. 

For Cetin, the new business architecture also required analysis for user segmentation. For the casual user it was cumbersome, and analytical users might not find all the capabilities they needed. For executives, it was a churn of offline activity by a group of people running an exercise every week to summarize and make sense of data in a dashboard or report. 

As a major SAP customer, CCE has the advantage of better visibility and the ability to influence the roadmap for Business Objects' integration and upgrades. As a beta user of SAP's new and promising Business Objects Explorer search technology, for example, CCE has provided feedback and a list of developer requirements at an early stage of engagement. At the last SAPPHIRE conference in Orlando, Sezer himself sat down with SAP founder Hasso Plattner and went through the Explorer list item by item.

"If I standardize my back end and get my data in a standard model, the next thing I can do is look at different groups of users and their respective needs," Cetin says. For executives, CCE is creating high-level, summarized information that allows drilldown but starts high across channels or geographies. Analytical users will be given tools to look at any level of detail, plus cross-functional analysis that lets them examine, for example, sales or supply chain data with a finance slant. For casual information consumers, the focus is simplicity and minimal training. 

The new platform is being tested in sample groups in the central finance unit that include high-level field users. "Super users have said it's more intuitive and easier than what they've been using," says Bassett-Preston. "That piece sells itself, but it's the sponsorship, the partnership between business and IT and communicating. Even when you think you are over-communicating, you probably aren't, I can't overstate that. Luckily we've had no issues that said we'd really screwed something up. Maybe we learned something, and that was part of making sure we were out in front of people communicating what this was going to do for them." 

Governance and Sustainability 

The remaining leg of Project Veritas is sustainability through governance, where Cetin and Bassett-Preston are transfixed on follow-through.

"We can go live and expect it's going to go okay for the first couple of months, but if you turn your head and focus on the next priority or project we know it will get worse over time because nobody's nurturing or taking care of the data standards or the data models," says Cetin. Standards for metrics, for requesting new metrics and for changing metrics all need to be sustained in carefully designated roles that can be executed day to day, he says.

It has taken the better part of two years to get to that consensus, and it's still an iterative process.  "We've now outlined what that should look like. We've created standard sales reporting that comes out weekly," Bassett-Preston says. "If you as a business unit general manager want to change that, there is a process for getting in touch with my group. If it's something that all four business units believe would be value added, we make the change, and it's released that way in future iterations. If not, a business unit will have to handle it with its own resources or convince their leadership they really don't need it."

Communication and Visibility

Having lived through the process for sales and financial reporting, Bassett-Preston and Cetin are looking for results they can tweak and roll out to other functional areas that include the supply chain and procurement. And while CCE's European business units have been involved by committee, a different set of cultural challenges awaits as Veritas becomes a truly global solution. 

"There has to be a three-year roadmap," says Cetin, "but the good news for us is we have completed significant activities in landscape management and standardization. But the real fun starts now as you bring visibility to people." Both finance and IT have spent large amounts of time and effort to communicate regularly about what is changing and why through a timeline that marks goals and milestones. Every four to six weeks, a new round of information goes out on a mass scale. CCE is leveraging meetings and its hosted email and SharePoint team spaces to inform the greater organization of what is taking place.

It's difficult to communicate change to an audience of 70,000, but Bassett-Preston says SharePoint provided a quick win by concentrating information that had once gone through various channels. "As much as we've been publishing and reporting over the last two years, it wasn't getting through the organization. They were still generating things on their own that became duplicate efforts." Even though all reporting has not yet migrated to the new technology, it's all pushed out through SharePoint, a low-cost win that provides information as back-end tuning is completed. "When we dug a little deeper in front of them to show them what we'd meant them to see all along, they thought it was great and really hadn't known about it before."

Cetin says CCE's procurement organization has become excited about the rollout since the company spends a lot of money on promotions and givebacks. "Every penny you squeeze out of spend is important right now, and you want to give visibility to the people in charge. Slowly but surely, parts of the organization are bringing in bits of information and asking why they cannot do one thing or another, and maybe now they can. It's a snowball effect that's good to see."

With power users assisting user segmentation in their own departments and executive sponsors maintaining a visible and vocal presence in kickoffs and other events, the managers hope to create a high/low mix of input to finalize definitions around reporting and eliminate unneeded work.

On the cusp of their information revolution, the two people chiefly driving BI execution know the proof will be in institutionalizing the work of the last two years. "Kemal has been a great partner, and if that relationship wasn't there, we would have a lot of problems," says Bassett-Preston. "But we are linked at the hip and jointly accountable even though we're still in the infancy of some of this. It's a journey." 

At CCE, the jury is out and the anticipation is palpable. "We will see the real test when we go live, and the next six months will be very interesting to see how people react to what we are doing and the adoption that results," Cetin says.

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