Carlsberg Tech Leader Explains the NEXT Innovation


Carlsberg Group VP for Global Business Services told .NEXT Copenhagen how tech is refreshing the famed beer maker.

Carlsberg is probably one of the best-known beer brands in the world. As the third largest brewing business in the world, Carlsberg is also responsible for a bar full of well-known lagers, such as Afsana, Kronenbourg, Shed Head, Brooklyn American Ale, and Switzerland’s Cardinal -- to name just a few. 

Jawaz Illavia, VP Commercial, Digital & Data within Global Business Services at Carlsberg was an independent keynote speaker at the .NEXT conference in Copenhagen, Denmark and told CXO peers how the Danish brewing organization is brewing a new business technology operating model.

“The Carlsberg Group has been going since 1847, and until you work for the company, you don’t realize the pride there is in the business,” he told peers. Carlsberg is one of the brewing industry’s major success stories and competes with industry giants InBev of Belgium and the Heineken group of the Netherlands. 

Illavia joined Carlsberg with the remit to use new technologies and ways of working to help transform the organization.

“We are driven by our founders' mentality to always pursue perfection and create a better tomorrow for all of us. There is a strong sense of purpose in the organization,” he said at the conference.

Innovation is at the heart of the Carlsberg story; the founders created the PH chemistry measurement and the enzyme that went on to be the foundation of other notable non-Carlsberg beers. “I love the mentality of sharing within Carlsberg,” he said.

“Carlsberg has a very high willingness to change and that comes from the CEO [Cees ‘t Hart], and he really started the transformational thinking that we need to pursue perfection for the next 173 years,” Illavia said of the culture of the business.  

"We are driven by our founders' mentality to always pursue perfection and create a better tomorrow for all of us. There is a strong sense of purpose in the organization."

Digital Destination

“You have to find your own path. Every company is different and has its own cultural blueprint. What worked for P&G or Heineken may not work here. I get really riled when people say, ‘lets do what the others are doing,’” he told delegates with passion.

“Being behind is an advantage,” Illavia boldly told peers who had also been challenged by academics, analysts, and innovation leaders from the UK’s NHS, retailer Boots Walgreens, and Denmark’s toy giant, Lego. “To follow the same trajectory of others who started 10 years ago would have been a travesty, so we need to use a Digital 4.0 mindset to fix the 1.0 problems. We also wanted to create the future in a new, fresh way that both challenges the norm, but also works in the Carlsberg culture,” he said. Illavia immediately identified eight areas that needed focus, one of which was the data opportunity. 

“Let’s look at data analytics in a different way. We have a blank sheet of paper, so let’s use it wisely,” he said. His approach has been to take inspiration from digital businesses, such as the giants of social media, to consider how to look at data. For example, treating internal data like external data means we can avoid the painful, old-fashioned master data management (MDM) programs of the past.

“This has allowed us to clean up fragmented data sets much quicker than a corporate would normally be able to do,” he said. This has led to a mindset change within Carlsberg, he says, with the business now much more aware that data is an asset that can be used to drive business goals. He went on to tell attendees how Carlsberg now has a 90% accuracy rate on predictions of a customer leaving Carlsberg. As a brewing business, Carslberg’s core customers are retailers and the hospitality sector; the Carlsberg data program has enabled the business to become incredibly close to its customers. “We get the data right, and then the outcomes will come. The data platform is really going to drive the scale of what technology will do next for Carlsberg,” he said at the AC Hotel Bella Sky.

We get the data right, and then the outcomes will come. The data platform is really going to drive the scale of what technology will do next for Carlsberg. 

Carlsberg Skills

“In the 80s and 90s, corporate IT functions were all about infrastructure. In the 2000s, it was business processes, and then you outsourced the technology, and then the technology companies came along and they have disrupted sectors, and they did that because they had the technology skills in-house,” Illavia challenged his peers. He went on to describe how Carlsberg is building up internal IT capabilities.  

“The core internal team is the glue between all of our partners, whether they are large consultancies or small start-ups,” Illavia told peers. “You cannot predict the future, but you can develop the capabilities to be able to react and ultimately disrupt the industry. We are creating the capabilities that we will need.” 

Illavia has been developing the UX, software, data engineering, data architecture and product management abilities of Carlsberg.

“You cannot get your customer experience into the right order until you get your internal process working well,” he concluded.

Illavia joined Carlsberg in October 2017 to lead the transformations he shared with attendees at .NEXT. Before joining Denmark’s brewer, Illavia spent a year working with startups. He spent five years with fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) giant, Reckitt Benkckiser (RB), makers of household goods such as cleaning products Dettol, Air Wick, Harpic, and medicinal products Strepsols and Nurofen. Prior to joining the FMCG sector, Illavia worked for international advertising business RR Donnelley for 10 years. 



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