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Coke's Largest Bottler Taps Microsoft For SaaS

Coca-Cola Enterprises signs the largest deal yet for Microsoft's online collaboration and e-mail services.

Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coke's largest bottling company, has faced seesawing fortunes in recent years, from a $1.1 billion loss in 2006 to a $711 million gain last year to lowered profit forecasts for this year, forcing changes across the business. In IT, one of the most visible is the company becoming Microsoft's largest software-as-a-service customer to date, contracting for 35,000 employees to get their e-mail and other collaboration capabilities via a subscription service.

By later this year, most of the 35,000 knowledge workers at Coca-Cola Enterprises, known as CCE, will have moved from IBM Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook with Exchange Online, the SaaS version of Microsoft's e-mail server. It's the first piece of a larger move to Microsoft collaboration tools that CCE hopes will bring the company the ease of management and the consistent user experience of an integrated suite. The switch to a hosted model, which will take place over the next year, also will include SharePoint Online for ad hoc team collaboration and content management, Live Meeting for Web conferencing, and Office Communications Server Online for unified communications.

Up till now, CCE's collaboration strategy has used nonintegrated tools. There was an IBM-based extranet managed partially by a service provider, Lotus Notes for e-mail, a legacy intranet, and a separate Web conferencing tool. "We were missing the mark," says John Key, CCE's senior manager for collaboration.

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When the new system's in place, executives will be able to broadcast live video to all of the company's knowledge workers. Employees will be able to schedule Live Meeting Web conferences through Outlook, or take a chat session in the Office Communicator instant messaging tool and turn it into a phone call. A new intranet based on SharePoint will include industry news, video and audio content, executive blogs, and employee polls.

CIO Esat Sezer eventually wants to include CCE's mobile workers--30,000 employees stock 25,000 trucks and replenish 600,000 vending machines a day, reaching a million distinct locations--in the company's collaboration plans as well. "How do you mobilize those 30,000 people in the same direction you're taking everything else?" he asks. "That takes a lot of communication and collaboration." Mobile workers will get video training, home intranet access, and corporate collaboration capabilities through mobile devices.

Still, collaboration is only one reason for CCE choosing Microsoft. The other piece is the services dimension, which CCE saw as a way to accelerate deployment, cut energy costs, and free up IT staff for more strategic projects. "This is not a head-count reduction," Sezer says. "We love having these resources to do further simplification, further virtualization, and to work on strategic IT initiatives." Anthony Nuzzo, CCE's VP of global development and deployment, sees a recruiting advantage, being able to target talent who wouldn't come if part of their days was spent on maintenance work. "Those people are going to be able to be innovative," he says.

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