Twisting the cap on cloud deployment
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Twisting the cap on cloud deployment

Jim Mortleman — June 2014
Onyeka Nchege, the CIO of Coca-Cola’s biggest US bottling partner, reveals his recipe for cloud success.

Like many large organizations, Coca Cola Bottling Company Consolidated (CCBCC) has been virtualizing and moving non-core services such as HR into the cloud for several years. But now CCBCC — the largest independent Coke manufacturer and bottler in the US — is using what it has learned in those early experiments to migrate its core ERP systems to the cloud.

At this stage, that staged ERP deployment is being carried out across on-premise and hosted private cloud services. But CIO Onyeka Nchege firmly believes that as the cloud market matures CCBCC will also begin using public cloud.

E Coca Cola Bottling Cloud CIO
The advantages are already evident. As well as making it easier to scale production to meet peaks and troughs in demand, Nchege says one of the biggest benefits so far has been the enforced standardization that cloud brings. “In a traditional on-premise enterprise environment, our partners in the business are continually asking if we can [customize] applications. That can be difficult to manage. But in a standardized cloud environment, we must align with the requirements and protocols of the service provider and the technology,” he says.

According to Nchege, introducing cloud successfully has nothing to do with the technology and everything to do with how you prepare for the transition. “It’s all about readying your company culture and operational processes,” he says. To this end, he identifies five key ingredients that are critical to CCBCC’s cloud focus — ownership, collaboration, feedback, adaptability and execution.

1. Ownership

Someone in the organization has to take ownership of the cloud strategy. “Otherwise you’ll wake up one day and your sales director will tell you he has 4,000 people running Dropbox. That’s very hard to manage. “That didn’t happen to CCBCC, but,” he warns, “if you don’t take ownership of the strategy from the outset, you’ll find yourself constantly in reactive mode,” Nchege says.

2.Collaboration

The adage “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t apply to cloud, Nchege warns. “Unless you have a clear understanding of the processes that run your organization, and what the business wants, it’s quite possible you’ll build something no one will use. You need to establish the right relationships with your business partners. Spend time truly understanding what they want from you,” he says.

3.Feedback

In order to collaborate successfully, you need to make sure there’s a constant two-way conversation between IT and business partners. “That means really listening when they tell you what they want — and don’t want — from the cloud. It also means providing feedback to them on what's feasible and what’s not. You have to educate them,” Nchege says. He also wishes service providers would offer more help. “They have important learnings gained from dealing with lots of different customers, whereas I only have my own experience to draw on. I’m looking to providers to help me educate the business at those early stages,” he says.

4.Adaptability

When you’re an established firm with ingrained processes, you’re inevitably not going to be agile enough to change overnight. That means you need to look far enough ahead and make changes today that will give you the ability to adapt as necessary when the time comes, counsels Nchege. “To take the necessary steps to move to cloud means foreseeing what's coming and circumnavigating around it. For example, unless you start educating the business well in advance, you don’t stand a chance of succeeding a year later when the time comes to make the switch,” he said.

5.Execution

If you’ve followed the first four steps diligently, executing the move to cloud should be the easiest part, says Nchege. However, you need to work closely with your chosen providers to ensure a successful transition. “I see my cloud service providers as an extension of my IT organization. I made sure they understood that, and we planned how we’d work together to achieve a faster speed to market and move the IT organization from bricks and mortar to the cloud,” he says. And while the company is only now beginning to migrate core applications, Nchege says: I’m confident we’ll move most — if not all — to the cloud in the next three to five years.”

• Onyeka Nchege was speaking at Cloud World Forum 2014 in London. (See other CIO/CTO keynotes from the 2014 event)
First published June 2014
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