by James Hutchinson

Coca-Cola Amatil turns Microsoft, won’t look back

Jun 16, 20114 mins
InnovationIT ManagementProject Management

Some CIOs understandably treat the consumerisation of IT as a plague — a disease that must be stamped out, lest it subvert the standard operating environment they fought so hard to implement.

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For Coca-Cola Amatil’s CIO, however, the consumer world is the inspiration for his next steps in the enterprise.

“Historically, we take the collaborative tools that typically start outside of the enterprise and we figure out how to bring them into the enterprise,” Barry Simpson says. “But by the time we’ve done that, we’ve taken out most of the usable features — all the things that made it great in the home market. Then we try and figure out how to connect back out again. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

That’s why ‘consumers’ — in Coca-Cola Amatil’s case, any of its 15,000 staffers — became key stakeholders when the beverages giant became one of the highest profile adopters of Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) in Australia last year.

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Simpson says it was the cries for mobility and flexibility that pushed change. A potent mix of remote, from-home and in-office arrangements in a largely device-agnostic environment meant the company had to implement a solution that was easy to access from any number of end-user points.

“Being able to host secure services that are easy to access from outside of your own firewall is a pretty good model for us,” he says.

When companies run their own e-mail infrastructure, you tend to have large capital spikes. – Barry Simpson

The company ultimately shifted some 9000 seats away from its ageing Lotus installation to the BPOS platform hosted by Microsoft out of its Singapore data centres. It was a tight, six-month migration. By September 2010, at the end of the cycle, each of the new accounts provided five gigabytes of storage — up from 300 megabytes — and relieved the company of maintenance duties for 69 servers once hosting IBM’s e-mail platform.

As with any migration, there were some hiccups. Coca-Cola Amatil’s technology services manager, Steven Meek, cites challenges such as reconciling “dead accounts” (those left by past employees), difficulties with software deployment and an initial lack of capacity in the network firewall. But, Simpson says, the detailed planning involved in executing what was, by any means, a major project, allowed for a smoother transition than initially thought possible.

The migration enabled Coca-Cola Amatil to take in a fleet of about 700 BlackBerry devices, as well as iPhones, Windows Mobile smartphones and staff computers used from home, and integrate each with existing Microsoft applications.

For Simpson, however, the key benefit has been in keeping up to date with the raft of features flowing from Microsoft. “When companies run their own e-mail infrastructure, you tend to have large capital spikes and it’s very hard to keep current with the releases that the software companies are bringing out,” he says.

It seems an odd statement for a CIO; Google has even been forced to implement an “App Tuesday” release schedule for updates to its Cloud-based application portfolio in order to give IT departments enough time to prepare for the coming onslaught of new features and potential incompatibilities with business process.

But the constant BPOS updates are “more about keeping pace with change, leveraging the features and the innovations that come out of Microsoft,” according to Simpson.

He’s even eager to expand the advantages to other applications in the company’s portfolio. Plans are afoot to move to a hosted SharePoint solution and he is seriously considering opening up the organisation to Office 365 — Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps — later this year, despite its current beta status and existing migration plans toward Office 2010 on staff computers.

“It would have to be a pretty strong reason not to follow that model,” he says. Once a Lotus devotee, the Australian importer of the world’s favourite soft drink seems to have been converted, and isn’t looking back.

From Lotus to BPOS at Coca-Cola Amatil

  • 9000 seat migration
  • 300MB to 5GB of storage
  • 69 servers relieved of hosting
  • Mobile device integration
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