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IT's the Real Thing

IT's the Real Thing

Tapped for the CIO spot last October, Brian Crynes is making sure things go better with IT at Coca-Cola AmatilHe worked sorcery at Apple Computer, where as International CIO he conjured up a new-look, globally oriented IS team and then drew IT into fist-in-glove alignment with the business. Then Bristol-Myers Squibb got the benefits of his alchemy, gaining their own tight-knit global team, an IS strategy intimately aligned with business goals and the successful execution of that strategy.

Almost evidence of witchcraft in itself, considering how many of the efforts of competitors have been thwarted to date.

Now Brian Crynes is working magic from the Sydney headquarters of Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA), one of the largest direct-distribution companies in the world.

Using a portfolio management process and a business systems roadmap as his talismans, Crynes is playing a crucial role in helping to support CCA's growth strategy by harnessing the forces needed to guarantee IT's close alignment with the business.

"I have had a great deal of experience developing a portfolio management process and I'm really trying to leverage that experience here. That means getting business to take ownership of the investment that has been made in IT, using the vehicle of information management review boards.

"It means making IS almost transparent to the business. To move towards that we really need to refocus, set priorities and make sure we're aligned with the way the business is heading. Portfolio management is critical to the success in aligning the IT organisation with the business," Crynes says.

Before an executive search company lured him out to Australia six months ago, Crynes was working out of Bristol-Myers Squibb Worldwide Medicine Group's headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, happy where he was but with a short-term goal of gaining wider international experience.

In an industry where most players were still struggling haplessly to align IT with the business, he'd already distinguished himself by developing a global and unified information management team, and articulating an IS strategy that was in perfect harmony with business directions. Both achievements built on similar and dramatic successes at Apple Computer.

Along the way he'd overseen the development of reusable Solution Build Centres in Princeton and London, and launched a major SAP initiative as a key business driver towards increased productivity. And he implemented substantial changes in the way Bristol-Myers Squibb divisions operated, helping to formulate major cross-divisional initiatives to synergise standard solutions and approaches across those divisions.

That was just the sort of experience Coca-Cola Amatil was looking for in its new CIO.

With a concept and framework for a portfolio management process already outlined, the company needed someone with the background and experience to implement it. There had been some "excellent work" done on what the company calls its IS Global Planning Review, but it needed someone with the nous to use that as a baseline to develop an IS road map. Furthermore, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) globally was working on a major SAP initiative called Infinity that was concentrated around a complete re-engineering of business processes.

Eventually, as one of the largest international anchor bottlers, Coca-Cola Amatil would also need to implement that project, so it was looking for someone who could work closely with the CIO of TCCC and the CIOs of the other anchor bottlers towards this end.

Crynes was clearly just the man for the job, and the offer was made even sweeter by the fact that the company already had very strong business leadership and a clear understanding of the value of IT in supporting the business.

The Coca-Cola Company has nine large, solidly capitalised anchor bottlers around the world, owning equity stakes in each but allowing them considerable autonomy. Anchor bottlers work in very close partnership with TCCC globally.

Its raison d'etre is to drive volume. Anchor bottlers also cooperate as peers within the Coca-Cola System, and CCA is one of the biggest, holding franchises in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Austria, Hungary, Papua New Guinea, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, The Philippines, Indonesia, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Switzerland and Romania. With more than 40,000 employees, a consumer population of almost 450 million people and annual sales in excess of 1.1 billion unit cases, CCA is one of the largest bottlers of Coca-Cola trademarked products in the world. It is listed only on the Sydney Stock Exchange.

For Crynes, the strength of the company, its stunning growth over its history and the lure of the brand name proved too much to resist. "The things that convinced me to make this change was the brand and sense of urgency, particularly having worked at Apple Computer where there was not only excellent brand awareness but a passion for the product," Crynes says.

"Then there was all the change that they planned to go through; the growth that they anticipated, and the acknowledgement that they needed to set a longer term strategy. And I liked the breadth of the organisation. It had responsibility in Europe as well as the Asia-Pacific, so it was a very complex business model that they were supporting and that would obviously provide many for my business information services (BIS) team [see below].

"The way the executive search company described the position to me was that they were looking for someone to set a direction into the next century for CCA and to find ways to more closely integrate IT with the business. The company had done some excellent work in the past year to really try to pull together the beginning of a business system plan for CCA and they were looking for someone to come in and extend that. They wanted me to develop a roadmap on how they were going to support the CCA business as it continues to grow with the same explosive rate of growth it has had over the years."As Crynes puts it, the synergy with his past experience was simply too great to resist. Today he works closely with other Coca-Cola CIOs to ensure systems developed fit within the eventual Infinity framework. And he heads up a 800-strong BIS team across CCA, trying always to play off the strengths of the regional BIS organisations, recognising how much more closely they are aligned with the business than head office ever can be. Meanwhile the core team that works with him in head office strives to develop common solutions and core systems that can be deployed across all CCA's markets.

"There is very much a partnership of BIS but we are moving to what I call a virtual team structure," he says.

Within that structure are three basic tiers. The first works to identify ways to improve the processes by which BIS is managed as a business. That means fully understanding both its customers and its products. To this end, the team has established a BIS Executive Advisory Council that will play a fundamentally crucial leadership role in identifying major areas for IT investment.

The second, the development tier, comprises a global shared services team working out of Sydney but cooperating closely with regional shared service teams in each of the major regions: Europe, Indonesia, The Philippines and Australasia.

"That's where the partnership happens as far as finding ways to deploy common systems across CCA," Crynes says. "That was a concept the company had developed before I came here and we're now in the process of executing that strategy."The final tier is developing a vision of a sustainable infrastructure to simplify the process of acquiring new businesses. Currently regions use AS/400 for distribution, planning and production management, sales and marketing.

Oracle Financials runs on a client/server Unix environment that supports the entire enterprise, managed out of Sydney and with servers in Europe, Indonesia and Sydney. Meanwhile CCA relies on a core, order management system supplied by TCCC, called Basis.

Crynes says one major challenge is to ensure the overall infrastructure is robust enough to support the ongoing process of acquisition. In Australasia, IT is becoming an important enabler of the business going-to-market strategy, which involves accelerating growth by moving towards more consistent business processes across Australasian markets.

"We're looking to develop a strategy to align IS and the business closely and we thought the best way to do that was what we call a 'Starter Pack' concept," he says. "This company has evolved through acquisition, so part of the challenge is a culture change. You have a number of small bottlers that amalgamated into our organisation, and all have disparate systems and different ways of doing business. And that is what we are trying to do: to look for efficiencies when we bring together bottlers that were stand-alone, so we can work as a one-system type of operation.

"That's exactly our responsibility with BIS: bringing them all into a standard infrastructure and framework. For example in the Australasian market, that means moving toward financial shared services, a central call centre concept and embracing national instead of regional planning."In a process he introduced at Apple and fine-tuned at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Crynes has developed considerable expertise in getting business to take ownership for the investment being made in IT.

Under the portfolio management process, the Executive Advisory Council - comprising CCA CEO David Kennedy, the CFO and other key members of the management team - will meet to set the direction for IT in the business and to ensure it is aligned with the business' goals.

Their job is to provide leadership on the project prioritisation process, to commit resources to projects, ensure they are being led by the business, and then take responsibility to ensure projects are reviewed on a quarterly basis under the leadership of the business project manager. The entire process is vital, Crynes says, if organisations are to avoid that ever-present bugbear of IT - the runaway project. "The real issue is to continue to refocus projects to make sure they are aligned with changing business conditions," he says.

"The thing you have to keep your eyes focused on in this process is really keeping the business closely aligned with the project, making sure the business authors it and accepts responsibility for it. Projects have to be business driven. The BIS organisation can help facilitate the process, help architect the process, but the business has to drive it," says Crynes. "So I would say that one of the most critical success factors is to ensure that the Executive Advisory Council takes responsibility to review the projects on a periodic basis. That sends a clear message to the company that these projects are important, need to be delivered and are on track."BIS is now developing what it calls a Project Traffic Light Report so that each of the top 20 projects identified by the prioritisation process can be classified by progress to date. Business project managers are selected for their ability to understand the functionality and the business need as well as for their strong leadership ability. They must be able to work in a cross-functional team, and they must be able to get things done, since Crynes considers execution to be the most important component of a successful IT organisation.

But while all that work goes on, Crynes is also intimately involved in forward planning. Before he joined CCA, BIS had done extensive work towards developing a global systems strategy via the comprehensive global planning review.

"Basically BIS went out and did extensive interviewing across all CCA in Europe, The Philippines, Indonesia and Australia. They met with all the management to determine some common issues and crafted a new framework for moving forward. The framework talked about the portfolio management, about ensuring we had this global shared service organisation with the regional shared service organisation in place, and about rationalising the organisation as far as ensuring it was more closely aligned with the business," he says.

"Now I'm looking to use all that work as a baseline to extend into developing a business systems roadmap for where we want to go for the next two to four years."The dilemma is to find ways to balance a short-term focus - devoted to keeping the business running during a continual and evolving process of acquisition - against a more far-seeing medium term focus.

"The short term is about keeping the business running, being able to support the growth strategy of CCA," Crynes says. "But then we have to take a longer look. What will this business really look like in a couple of years as we continue to amalgamate other bottlers into it? How do we increase the productivity of the whole system and work much closer with The Coca-Cola Company to ensure that we can develop standard tools across the CCA system?" That's the goal of the roadmap: setting a vision for the next two to four years that involves incorporating the Internet and the toolkits that are evolving out of the Infinity program, while ensuring BIS has a consistent means of supporting the business. It sounds easy in theory, Crynes concedes, but in practice it's a tough call.

"Developing that roadmap is a major challenge and means we must consider how we can step CCA into the 21st century as far as supporting initiatives like our 'going-to-market' [strategy] and keeping the business going in the direction it really wants to move. So we are looking very hard at the SAP initiative to see whether or not we can leverage that across CCA."To ensure business provides the leadership, Crynes intends to bring business managers together in a series of strategic dialogues. There they will consider in cross-functional terms the lessons learned about how the company deployed technology in the past, the changing nature of the business and also the new business drivers. At the forefront of those considerations, he says, will always be the aim of ensuring the IT vision is so integral to the business vision that they are practically a single vision. And to ensure all levels of management across CCA are in tune with these aims, Crynes plans to meet with regional IT managers on a quarterly basis.

"My other biggest challenge is to achieve a 'one team' concept," he says. "To build teams where in a level of trust and open and honest communications, we can hold frequent meetings to come up with a common platform to move forward."And like every other organisation in the world, CCA has also got a significant year 2000 challenge to address. Crynes says CCA has made excellent progress during the assessment stage that began last year, and now knows exactly what systems need remediation. A full-time team has been mobilised to ensure the bulk of the work is completed by the end of this year.

"The company is committed to fix it, they understand the exposure and this is an excellent example of the leadership the business provides IT. They haven't put it aside; they're tackling this issue. And Mike Ihlein, the CFO, is the one who launched this program and he is providing excellent leadership," Crynes says.

"The project was started before I joined and I would say they are making an awful lot of progress. It's a stand-alone program broken down into four teams: the PC server, desktop and UNIX team;the AS/400 team;the external business partner team; and,the embedded software team.

"In the next weeks we will be conducting regional planning sessions to really see how the year 2000 impacts our current project portfolio and then we need to redeploy resources. Our goal is to try and get the majority of the year 2000 fixed by the end of 1998. And we have one advantage here - if you think back on our strategy - since we have a number of core systems and most of our regions use the core systems strategy. That means by fixing the core system and deploying those fixes we are fixing it for all of them," he says.

Another corporate business goal is a channel strategy aimed at really understanding who CCA's customers are and how the company supports those customers. To this end, a further project is examining sales information management with the aim of developing an information warehouse. Crynes says the company is using every means available to fully data mine CCA's transaction systems in order to provide management with the information necessary to help them understand market share and penetrations as well as how well CCA is servicing its customer base.

"Our capabilities in data mining are pretty extensive. We have done quite a bit of work in financial data mining and sales data mining already, and we are now extending that out into sales and marketing. We use Holos, and we are also now looking at some other tools to supplement those successes."And like most switched-on companies, CCA is already a major user of the intranet for knowledge sharing, with extensive links back to The Coca-Cola Company, which provides leadership in this area. A small task force is working on a knowledge sharing and groupware initiative designed to find ways CCA can improve its ability to connect with partners, suppliers and customers using the Internet.

With so much going on, and such a lot of work to do, does Crynes have any regrets about offering CCA his wizardry? None at all. Indeed Crynes is feeling well pleased to have given his allegiances to a company with such a strong commitment to IT as a powerful change agent.

"The very fact that the company made the decision to have me relocated over here to lead this organisation is an indication of how integral IT is to the business. Without IT we could not deliver product. We are one of the largest direct distribution companies in the world and all that happens through IT."And with Crynes on side, those systems seem set to become more potent still.

Business Information Services (BIS) 'One Team' VisionOur mission is to partner with the business to set company strategy and deliver business solutions through information systems and technology.

We are one global team striving for excellence in developing our people and executing our tasks.

We commit to setting high standards, measuring our performance and celebrating our success.

BIS Team Goals

Increase BIS alignment with the business to enable accelerated delivery of business functionality on time, within budget and with quality.

Develop a business systems roadmap that addresses both the demand of current and future business requirements and the supply of BIS resources.

Support CCA's high growth strategy through consistent and timely business systems integration of emerging business opportunities.

Mobilise the necessary resources to enable CCA to address the year 2000 date issues.

Develop and operationalise standard processes to significantly increase BIS global effectiveness.

Standardise core systems as an enabler for productivity improvement and top-line growth.

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