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Enhanced Operational Efficiency with Data-driven IT Strategy

By Tim Nall, SVP & CIO, Brown-Forman

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Tim Nall, SVP & CIO, Brown-Forman

The U.S. beverage alcohol market has experienced tremendous growth over the last decade, primarily driven by the booming demand for whiskey and bourbon. Today, we see a great deal of opportunity where technology can drive efficiency and better decision making. At Brown-Forman, we embrace data analytics and SAAS to enhance collaboration and drive better decisions. We focus on those technologies that significantly impact the top and bottom line of operations and, ultimately, help shape financial outcomes.

Data Management and Analysis  

From a business perspective, effective management of data plays an important role in determining our production.  Over the years, big data technology has been used to aggregate and process terabytes of consumer or production data or social media information to gain better insight.  

Apart from data management, companies in the beverage alcohol sector today also need to connect the data to an analytic system for enhanced decision making. Better analysis of data helps us to recognize accurate consumer behavior. In such a scenario, data scientists aim to shape the company’s future through establishing a link between our promotions, social messaging, and pricing that would allow us to achieve a higher performance. 

The Strategic Positioning of IT 

The beverage alcohol sector is a small part of the overall beverage industry. Most of the technologies we’re implementing have been used in the past by other businesses. We customize those technologies to work effectively for us. It’s more important how you apply those technologies to a business than if they are new.

“Being part of a highly regulated global market, companies need to ensure their technologies and applications are compliant and efficient.”  

Being part of a highly regulated global market, companies need to ensure their technologies and applications are complying with the industry norms. This leads to the strategic positioning of the IT department. To stay at the forefront of market competition, beverage alcohol organizations need to turn IT from a back office focused area to directly partnering with the business to help drive efficiency and revenue. They need to ensure IT is engaged as a part of the business so that IT Leadership can find the right tools and processes to alleviate the pain points.  

Changing role of IT  

Although the advancement of technology has evidently helped enterprises address various market challenges, it has also transformed the traditional role of IT. In order to remain at the forefront of market competition, I think companies must include IT operations with other management activities. With the evolving technology, IT team helps to drive efficiency, which ultimately increases the revenue for corporations. In Brown-Forman, IT has been directly aligned with our marketing group, corporate and global production functions for driving advancements and making consumer experiences better. Therefore, I think technology has strategically changed the functioning of IT.  

 My Advice for CIOs 

Over the last few years, the role of a CIO has changed. In the past, the CIO was primarily an IT operations head. Today, the CIO must also ensure that the overall IT strategies are in-line with corporate strategies. This is not exclusive to the beverage industry. CIOs working in any industry should understand their company’s business needs and react quickly to drive improvement throughout their business. My overall advice is that CIOs properly structure the company’s IT hierarchy so that it can have a bigger impact and drive the business. 

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