Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated Talks Mobile

By  Pat Brans — January 14, 2014

We sat down with Onyeka Nchege, VP and CIO of Coca-Cola Company Consolidated, which is the nation’s largest independent Coca-Cola
bottler, with over 6,000 employees and $1.4 billion in revenue.

ME Mobile Enterprise: What are some of the key mobile solutions you are leveraging?

ON Onyeka Nchege: The first is a sales force automation (SFA) tool, which allows sales people to go out and work with customers and access the tools they need remotely.

We built a mobile app that runs on tablets and laptops and accesses our backend SFA system. This app can be used in the field and back at the plants so supervisors can monitor what’s going on out in the field. Most of our folks have Panasonic tablets, running Windows 7. We also have people on premise and out in the field using iPads and some using laptops.

Sales people can access new promotions and other information on products. The device serves as a point of sale as well, so our reps can take orders. We have around 1,200 users on that app, in different roles and using different form factors and operating systems.

ME Talk about the use cases and benefits.

ON We built the app ourselves to use the Windows-based tablets and laptops. For the iPad we outsourced to a third party to build the app to access the same SFA backend. When we first starting using iPad, we got some additional benefits from the “wow” factor.

Our sales people used to go out to meet with restaurant owners before opening time, carrying a binder full of sales information, and following the owner around to show him or her what we have. As you can imagine, the owners are mostly thinking about all the details of opening the restaurant, so they tended not to pay much attention to our reps.

However, three years ago, when we gave our folks the tablet, loaded with the very same information as the binder, as soon as the rep walked in the door, the customer would immediately walk over and say, “Is that an iPad?”

All of a sudden, the same restaurant owners who wouldn’t stand still for our reps would ask to have a look. The more professional looking app got their undivided attention and we were able to easily walk them through our offerings. We saw an uptick in sales just from the introduction of the tablet solution.

Of course, that effect was not sustainable. At some point the novelty wears off. We’re always trying to find new ways to enhance the presentation of our mobile apps  because it enhances our credibility with our customers.

Aside from the SFA  tool, we also have other apps running on iOS to support account managers.

ME What are some of those new ways you are using mobile technology?

ON We’re looking at new ways of using mobility to help folks on the manufacturing floor. Today when supervisors are out on the floor and they get a call from either a delivery person or a sales person wanting to know inventory levels, they have to make their way back to their office to check. This takes a few minutes, and it’s a distraction.

We’re working through the requirements for an app that will allow supervisors to stay on the floor and respond to these kinds of requests from whatever device they happen to have, whether that be a smartphone or tablet. They’ll have information at their fingertips, which will allow them to respond faster, and won’t take them away from what they we’re doing on the floor.

We’re going to be developing this mobile frontend ourselves, rather than outsourcing it or trying to get something off the shelf. The app is going to access backend software. We aren’t starting from scratch. Mostly what we’ll do is enable some existing business intelligence that accesses Microsoft’s Enterprise Data Warehouse through Sharepoint.

ME How can IT be proactive in supporting the different businesses with mobility needs?

ON One of the things that happens in most organizations, is that the CEO gets on a plane and sits next to somebody who shows his latest toys. The CEO then comes back to the CIO and says, “You know I was talking to this guy, Joe, on the plane, and he showed me the latest mobile tools. Why don’t we have that?”

The same problem is caused by the consumerization of IT. There isn’t much that people do at home that they don’t want to do in the office.

What those of us in IT have to be good at is helping our partners understand why they can or cannot have something “Joe” from the plane has — what Joe has in his organization may not fit very well in our landscape.

To address this issue, I ended up creating an enterprise mobility advisory group to go out and help educate our users and our business partners on mobility. The positive effect of this was that somebody now owns mobility.

Before, everybody owned mobility, because each group has a different set of problems. We put a box around it by deciding to create this cross-functional group, which includes somebody from hardware, somebody from software, a training manager, a user manager, and so on.

Mobility is primarily about the experience the user has. Much of the success of mobile projects lies with training and education. You can have a great piece of hardware and a great app, but if the workforce doesn’t know how to use it, it’s a waste of time and money.

The mobility advisory group has made a tremendous difference in our organization. Executives now get off the plane after sitting next to Joe and come to us with better questions. They’re still inspired by Joe, but they now understand our landscape and can more easily see how the newest toys fit in, or how they don’t.


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