IT needs to ‘call out what you see,’ Diageo CIO tells Gartner BI Summit

IT needs to be a strategic partner, Brian Franz, Diageo’s global CIO and business process director, told the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in London. IT can use its all-seeing role to its advantage, and its capability to make data make sense is critical.

LONDON -- IT is all-seeing and given the wealth of data companies are amassing, its role is as important as ever, Brian Franz, global chief information officer and business process director at Diageo said at the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit being held here this week.

In a keynote address that staked out his overall IT strategy, Franz described the “whole data explosion” the drinks company is dealing with as being, above all, “around digital interactions with customers.” There are 190 million mobile phones in Brazil, he noted.

Diageo, with brands such as Johnnie Walker, Baileys, and Smirnoff, has a global business, operating in 180 countries, and sees future growth emanating from emerging economies such as Brazil and China.

While television is not dead, new social media constitutes the big challenge, he argued. He cited a recent Diageo Facebook campaign, “Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange”  which culminated on November 27th 2010.  There were two million direct customer interactions during that campaign, with “millions of aspects of data that we had to capture”, he said.

Franz described the company as very marketing driven, challenging its IT professionals to be to be as market savvy and end-customer focused as their functional marketing colleagues. IT needs to be a strategic partner, he said, and relate to the end customer, or drinker, in this case.

“IT sits in a place where it can see everything,” he said. “But how does it take advantage of that?”

Diageo has a global IT operating model, which is 70% outsourced, with CSC, Verizon, and Accenture. Data management is, however, retained in-house and along with a focus on lean and ongoing virtualization has enhanced the value IT delivers as part of the company, Franz confirmed.

“I have one part of the IT organisation at Diageo that only focuses on master data,” he said. “Understanding the accuracy of our data has yielded huge results. We discovered that in our order to cash process, all the discrepancies between our salespeople and our customers were driving our cash performance down. Because people question [the data] and it takes a lot of time. You can really drive up the accuracy of the data. It’s not easy to do; it cuts across the business. But, for us, it has had a big impact”.

He concluded with a five-point plan for IT to offer corporate leadership:

1. Get the basics right. “It is really difficult to engage with those sales and marketing initiatives unless you’ve done [the basics]”.

2. Be the business. “IT people are often confused about where they work. They ask, ‘What does the business want?’ There are not many companies that can grow without IT”.

3. Execute well to build credibility. “If project costs or estimated returns on investment are not accurate then everything else goes out the window”.

4. Focus on delivering tangible outcomes. “If IT initiatives do not relate to those core strategies that the CEO drives, then you are doomed to a back-office existence”.

5. Be bold. “Call out what you see. IT’s end-to-end view will make the biggest difference, enabling you to be the best leader you can be”.

Editor's Note: Above is the "Smirnoff  Nightlife Campaign" that Diageo's IT staff helped to run analytics against.


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