From Big Beer to Big Data: Inside AB InBev’s Digital Transformation

With more than 500 beer brands and $55 billion in sales, Anheuser-Busch InBev is already the world’s biggest beer company. And if all goes as planned with its digital transformation project, it will be the best beer company in the world, too.

AB InBev is in the middle of a massive project to turn itself from an amalgamation of dozens of independent breweries — some of them more than 100 years old — into a unified powerhouse that uses data to enhance business processes, improve consumer relations, and make its beer better too.

The project involves consolidating not only its core transactional systems, but its global data and analytics infrastructure. On the ERP front, it’s in the midst of standardizing from 27 different ERP systems used at subsidiaries around the world to a single system, which is SAP‘s S/4.

The analytics side of the house is a bit further ahead. Beginning from a whiteboard in March 2018, AB InBev has successfully designed, built, and rolled-out an enterprise data hub (EDH) atop a Hadoop distribution running in Microsoft Azure. The company is already powering various reporting, analytics, and data science endeavors in the cloud, and plans to expand those activities in the years to come.

One of the company’s core architectures principals was to be cloud first, Harinder Singh, director of data strategy for AB InBev, told Datanami at the recent Strata Data Conference, where Singh also presented a session on the company’s digital transformation.

“We have a three-to-five-year plan to be mostly on cloud,” Singh said. “As a company, we’ll never go 100% cloud. There are some crown jewels we have to protect and maintain on prem. But in the data journey, we are 100% on cloud, except for our source systems.”

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