AB InBev All In with Microsoft for Transformation to Cloud and AI


Companies of all sizes are embracing cloud computing services to reduce infrastructure costs, increase agility and build new services. Over a third of the companies Lopez Research interviewed are using public cloud infrastructure services but what’s impressive now is the range of services companies are adopting. Advanced analytics using cognitive functions is an excellent example of the cloud computing market’s expansion beyond infrastructure.

Many companies have the issue of legacy infrastructure, but few can say their business goes back hundreds of years. In the case of AB InBev, its company history spans more than 600 years. As Tassilo Festetics, the Vice President, Global Solutions at AB InBev, said in a telephone interview, “The world changed around us. At one point, sales were dictated by how fast a salesperson could drive a motorcycle between locations. Today, AB InBev needs to digitize all aspects of its business to be successful.”

How does a company of this size and age begin transformation efforts? It starts with delivering customer-facing workflows where the return in investment is evident. To accomplish its transformation goals, the company has gone all in with Microsoft. It’s using Microsoft’s Azure infrastructure, AI cognitive services and the Microsoft M365 suite. Increasingly, companies are sharing that the selection of a software solution, such as the M365 suite, has impacted their choice of cloud providers. The company faced numerous challenges in its cloud transition. Its data landscape was extremely fragmented based on multiple mergers and acquisitions.

“The only way to resolve this issue was to rebuild from scratch. You go directly to the cloud. No other route makes sense. The biggest benefits lay in tapping into technologies that weren’t available before.” said Festetics.

One of the challenges in selecting a cloud service for a global brand focuses on creating a consistent cloud footprint around the world that also adheres to the regulations of a specific geography. Data governance issues require transparency of data location and policies. Network latency for global operations is also an issue when you’re transiting data from destinations that range from Asia to Latin America.  AB InBev transitioned 40 percent of its workloads to the cloud within one and a half years, a rapid journey for a company of its size.

Of course, shifting the first forty to fifty percent of workloads to the cloud was easier for AB InBev because you move the new or easier items first. For example, all new applications and services are designed to operate in the cloud. Now the team is faced with the heavy lifting of shifting its older back-office systems to the cloud. These systems aren’t agile need to be recreated to work in a new environment.

Adopting the cloud versions of these systems provides the opportunity for AB InBev to move away from a monolithic version to more nimble and agile versions.

“Even our legacy backend systems become cool with cloud computing. Cloud computing services are loaded with machine learning and real-time analytics. It just offers us more and is constantly updated,” Festetics said.

It started with replicated paper processes as digital forms, but it wants to automate and simplify how the back office works with cloud services. It’s looking at providing different functions such as account reconciliations.

AI Drives New Cloud Computing Workloads

However, simplification doesn’t mean simplistic. AB InBev, like many companies, is shifting from IT efforts that keep the lights on to developing AI-powered service that will transform the business. Many companies realize if you look for machine learning and artificial intelligence use cases, you’ll discover they’re everywhere within your company. For AB InBev, AI makes sense in the sales and the commercial section for analytics. The company uses AI for use cases that range from optimizing promotions to image recognition for planograms. The company uses AI in combination with POS system data to gain insights into consumer preferences, understand assortment, and how to combine beverages to optimize assortments. One of the areas that attracted AB InBev to Microsoft’s cloud was the ability to leverage AI services.

Read the source article in Forbes.