Coca Cola: I didn't realise we had so many Friends #OBL12

How many CIO’s are aware of their company’s Facebook page? Y. Esat Sezer certainly is, and his company’s social media standing is influencing his IT strategy.
Sezer is senior vice president and chief information officer of Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), the third largest of the merchandising companies within the global Coca-Cola ecosystem.  It is responsible for bottling some of the best known beverage brands including the aforementioned, Fanta, Schweppes and Sprite. 
“We thought we were in B2B but then I realised we had 40 million Facebook followers,” Sezer said, speaking at Orange Business Live
This knowledge reinforced Sezer’s belief that his role as CIO was strategic, rather than tactical, and there was a world of opportunity out there in the social universe.
Since taking over as CIO six years ago, he has been outsourcing as many of the day-to-day operations so that his team could focus on how IT adds strategic value.
It is Sezer’s belief that social media, mobile applications, cloud computing and ecommerce are combining to give companies like Coca-Cola an unprecedented toolset to change the way they approach IT.  
Sezer highlighted four key trends that he is looking at that will impact CCE’s digital future:
  • social commerce (Facebook, Groupon, Foursquare)
  • Big Data intelligence (Ocado, Asda, Tesco, Facebook)
  • mobility (iPhones, iPads, mobile broadband)
  • cloud computing (Microsoft, Salesforce, Amazon, Success Factors)
By embracing these technologies, Sezer argues that CCE will be able to respond more quickly to changing market conditions than rivals can; gain next-gen productivity tools to improve collaboration and business process; rethink CCE’s business model such as tapping into social and location-based commerce.
Examples of this innovation are Coca Cola Hot Spots, developed in partnership with Everything Everywhere in the UK, which give micro-loyalty tokens to users that select their Wi-Fi; an image-recognition iPhone app that can help retailers to display their products better; and an M2M & cloud service which will optimise restocking, which could save the company millions in lost revenue (from empty machines). 

getting fit for the future: outsourcing the day-to-day

When Sezer joined CCE six years ago from appliance manufacturer Whirlpool, his first task was to outsource the majority of IT activities. “We were spending 99% of our energies on keeping the lights on, not on being strategic," says Sezer. 

“What we needed was to look at the digital changes taking place in the market and devise a digital strategy that embraces them,” he said.
He was faced with a choice of keeping day-to-day activities internal and out-tasking the innovation part, or vice versa. It wasn’t a difficult decision. “We found that external agencies would charge us five times what it would cost if we hired mobile applications developers directly”.  According to Sezer, it’s much smarter to outsource the commoditised stuff and keep the strategic skills in house.
Now the Coca-Cola Enterprise’s IT department has just 252 staff, not a lot when you consider that CCE has 18,000 employees.  Most of the current staff are focussed on helping CCE to innovate and differentiate from rivals.
Sezer’s tips for creating a balanced portfolio are:
  • sustain the core business and find increased opportunity to innovate
  • hedge risk through positioning and scouting projects for prototyping
  • identify stepping stones with 12-24 month pipeline to maturity
  • follow a discipline process to monitor progress and capital distribution 


image © cienpiesnf -

Stewart Baines
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.