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The Coca- Cola Company is the largest corporation that has dominate the industry of soft drinks. It is the worlds leading manufacturer, distributor and marketer of non-alcoholic beverage concentrates and Syrups used for making over 300 brands of soft drinks (US-ASEAN 2010). The company markets Coca-Cola beverage, the world's top-five non-alcoholic beverage brand along with others such as diet coke, Fanta and sprite. In the whole world, the brand Coca-Cola is the most immediately recognized. The Company forms the fabric of life in the community in Ireland through being involved in socially oriented activities. In addition, the company has developed their information management department to enable the company stay at the forefront in the market. The aim of this paper is to present the findings concerning utilization of information management tools and technology by Coca-Cola to enable it gain innovative benefits that lead to competitive advantageous position of the company. The paper will also explore and make recommendations of how best the company can make use of the advancing technology so that it benefits in sales, customer care, innovative services, budget savings, and business growth.
The Coca Cola Company was established in the Northern Ireland in 1939, and the Republic of Ireland in1952. It has gained popularity from the local communities out of the products they produce, and involvement in various social activities. The establishment process of the company began when a local businessman, Mr. Tom Robinson wrote a letter to the Coca-Cola Company in London showing interest in opening up the franchise in Ireland (Coca-Cola Hellenic 2013). The franchise agreement was signed in 1938, and the company commenced production of beverages under the name Ulster Iced Drinks Company. The name was however changed to Coca cola Bottlers Ulster in the 1960's, and the Fanta orange drink introduced. The first bottling company was established in the Republic of Ireland in the 1950's, and it served as the green light for commencement of Coca Cola in the country. Since then, the company has launched a substantial number of other beverages such as Fanta lemon in 1965, diet coke in 1983, sprite in 1990 and coke zero in 2007.
Currently, the Coca-Cola bottlers (Ulster) Limited and Coca-Cola Bottlers Ireland are known as Coca-Cola HBC Northern Ireland and Coca-Cola HBC Ireland respectively (Coca-Cola Hellenic 2013). The names reflect the membership of both organizations in the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company of 28 countries. The company in Ireland has continued to uphold its corporate responsibility by being actively involved in the local community by working with charity, community and environmental organizations to create initiatives that are beneficial.
The corporate vision that Coca-Cola endeavours to realize is to become 'The undisputed leader in every market in which they compete" (ColaHellenic 2013).
The mission of Coca-Cola HBC in Ireland is to refresh and partner with their customers, reward their stakeholders and enrich the lives of the local community.
Coca-Cola Hellenic in Ireland is committed to ensuring values and behaviour that supports and defines the activities regarding the productions of their beverages. The values are seen as the core of the company and essential for their future success.
Authenticity: All the processes in the company are done with integrity, and they do what is right but not just necessarily easy.
Excellence: The Company strives to provide amazing results, with passion and speed.
Learning: the company is keen to listen and have the curiosity to learn
Caring for people: The Company invests in enterprises that empower the people.
Unity: the company believes in working together in all occasions.
Winning the customers: Since the customers are the main essential of the company, it does the best to attract and retain them (ColaHellenic 2013).
Coca-Cola's company growth and development can be mainly attributed to the excellent strategies in management of all relevant kinds of information. The information relating to all areas of the company such as customers' preference, developmental management, production process, marketing strategies and innovation is highly valued. In this current time where technology is advancing fast, Coca-Cola has stayed at the forefront of embracing the new innovation so that it ensures the strengthening of the qualities that have kept it in the industry since 1886. The distribution channel largely borrows from the research that the company conducts making it have competitive advantage over other soft drink producers. In the year 2011, the company faced a lot of economic challenges as a result of the increased prices of raw material prices and the currency volatility. In addition, the government austerity measures and high rates of unemployment led to reduction of consumers' confidence and disposable income respectively. It is at the same time that the shareholders were faced with liquidity issues. The combination of these factors posed a threat, and put pressure on the profit margins of the company. The company somehow weathered the challenges through the already devised management strategies of the information the company has gathered over a century. The company went on winning in the market by increasing the revenue at a higher pace than volume, and by acquiring and maintaining a significant large number of shares in the beverage market. In using several group wide initiatives, the company was able to optimise their infrastructure, and cut cost of production.
The cost ownership programme that introduces personal accountability for operating expenses in the organization. It led to an improvement in working capital management ensuring that the capital resources were directed for use towards achievement of the set goals and objectives.
The collaboration with other companies in the work to develop business a model that will strengthen the exploration of other new lines of beverages. The exploration is beneficial in extending the existing product lines, and ensuring effective marketing of the products through advertising and promotions.
Development and expansion of the beverage portfolio by use of innovations, strategic acquisition and signing agreements to jointly get companies with Coca-Cola Company.
To strengthen the selling capacities and the marketing strategies such as pre-sale, the consented to selling, and hybrid routes. The strategies are aimed at making the company to get closer to the consumers, and also gaining information that can enable the company to manufacture beverages that adequately satisfy the needs of the consumer. Consequently leading to acquisition of potential customers and retention of the already existing ones.
To design and implement selective packaging that seeks to increase the consumers' demands for the company's products to build a firm base for the Coca-Cola brand products.
To ensure that the organizational structure is flexible enough such that it can effectively change to remain compatible with the dynamic market environment and therefore ensuring that it retains the competitive advantage.
To allow for the development and growth of a multicultural collaborative team in all the fields of operations, and broaden the geographical coverage.
Some of the competitive advantages acquired out of the proper management of information are as follows
Market leadership; The Coca-Cola HBC is a leading bottler that markets beverage under the trademark of Coca-Cola within Ireland in terms of the volumes in sales and number of subsidiaries (Grupo 2011). The market leadership can be attributed to the continued and improved management of the acquired information and technological advancements.
Business partnership; The company works hand in hand with the parent Coca-Cola company to develop advanced business models that help to enable the process of finding new ways of manufacturing beverages for the expansion in the varieties offered. As partners, they share incentives that allow for exploitation of important growth opportunities in the fast growing markets. The company enters into agreements to jointly acquire companies.
Strong brand; Beverages offered by Coca-Cola HBC have build a strong portfolio throughout the market. The customers continuously use the brands enabling the company to make profits and consequently develop. In a move to get closer to the customers the company makes sure there is availability of all the various brands through retailers. The brands such as carbonated drinks, bottled water, juices, orangeades, energy drinks, and isotonic are made easily accessible.
Collaborative customer relationship: The organization has continually sought to deepen and strengthen the relationships established between it and the customers. It has worked diligently and innovatively to build the required multifaceted relationship. The company has tailored their variety of brands in such a way that they are relevant when we put into consideration, the social-economic, demographic, and consumption patterns (ColaHellenic 2013). The customers are partners with the company, and this has helped the management to acquire essential knowledge to develop capabilities that make every customer's trip count.
Channel marketing: The market of the Company has been segmented depending on its particular characteristics, to enable effective provision of products to the dynamic and specific market. The main channels are the small retailers, and premises such as bars, restaurants and supermarkets. The channels are closely scrutinized to develop strategies of distribution using comprehensive and detailed analysis regarding the preferences and purchasing patterns. As a response the analysis, the company designs the products, prices , packaging and distribution strategies to match, and meet the particular established needs, and exploit the channel to the fullest.
Multi-segmentation: In the majority of markets, the company has employed multi-segmentation strategy. This strategy involves the implementation of different products portfolios using market groups. The groups can be defined on the basis the consumption patterns, the intensity of competition, and social economic nature of the target market.
Use of technology for innovation
Coca - Cola Company produces soft drinks, which may be thought of as just being simple. However, the use of technology for innovation is a practice that is highly valued. The company uses the technology to constantly design, rebrand, and advertise their products to keep the sales continually at the peak. The company has continually harnessed the new technology since the start of social networking, green technology, and connectivity to the network (Ireland 2012).
The Coca-Cola Company established, and still remains visible in social networking platforms. It joined face book and tweeter, the two major social networking points, and has acquired over 3.4 million followers. The company appreciates the power of social networking, and it fully harnesses it through spreading news regarding the new products, get the response through comments posted. In addition, the company test their advertorial campaigns, and invite fans to engage in games. The social networking technology has made the company to stay at the forefront and make their brands to remain fresh and current (Ireland 2012). Consequently, the company is able to retain a large market share.
The customers of Coca-Cola can now easily enjoy their favourite beverage by making combinations of over 100 drinks. The new technology embraced by the company allows for the consumer to use their creativity to develop the kind of flavour of the beverage that they can easily identify with. The free dispenser has an interface resembling that of a computer. It records the drik choices of consumers and sends the information to the Coca-Cola as a way of market research.
The company strategizes on subtle, but effective online advertising making the consumer develop a liking of the products. The advertisement are made through websites meaning that the company has the ultimate control of what the current and potential consumers see when they browse through the websites. For instance, when one is going through a menu online, the Coca-Cola advertisement appears making the person associate the restaurant with refreshments.
The use of E-mail is not the most effective way of advertising the products from Coca-Cola Company. Many e-mails sent to new email addresses end up in the spam folder, which is never likely to get attention from the targeted person. It is however, an easy , quick, and formal way of sending business related information. The company embraced the use of E-mail in exchanging information from the distributors. Nonetheless the method is disadvantageous in that the recipient and sender have to be in a position to access a computer that is connected to the internet for them to send or receive the E-mail. It is an expensive mode of communication especially because the network and hardware cost is high. The cost in network cn however be subtly minimised by having a broadband where one can pay a particular amount of money for unlimited access to the internet.
The use of video conferencing has proved to be vital in passage of business related information, discussions, and conducting of business forums. The facility is however suitable for some companies. This type of communication can allow people to hold a meeting regardless of the geographical distance between them. It allows for people to converse as if they are close together, but in essence, they are usually miles away from each other. The communication process resembles the face to face type of communication. It can be utilised by Coca-Cola Company, when a need arises to hold meetings to resolve any issue that may come up, and the relevant decision makers are apart from each other. It is a recommendable way of communication, as it allows for people to take part in crucial business meeting without necessarily being present.
The SAP Wave 2 business tool
The major step was in the expansion of the SAP Wave 2 information system that supports the operations representing three quarters of the company's revenues giving the company competitive advantages in the management and market share of the business. The SAP Wave 2 is a business tool that was fully integrated in Coca-Cola HBC and enables it to standardise all the systems and processes using common technology in all the operations (Coca-ColaHellenic 2013). The investment in SAP Wave 2 has enabled the company to establish new and more effective procedures that improve the productivity and performance in the company. The business tool has benefited the company by attracting and retaining customers. The company has been in a position to offer superior customer services by improving the processes that are customer oriented such as inventory management and invoice accuracy.
The company is in the process of ensuring the use of SAP Wave 2 in their markets worldwide. The tool has been incorporated in across twenty of the Company's market, and is in the process of being launched in the remaining markets. On average, SAP Wave 2 supports thirty three production plant, more than eighteen thousand users, and more that forty two thousand orders every day. In the SAP Wave 2 markets, the market developers can provide competitive customer services. The platform uses hand-held devices to review the history of transactions of the customers. In addition, it allows for acquisition of information pertaining to the current events such as promotions and product availability (Coca-Cola Hellenic 2013). The management tool is currently being used in market countries such as Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Australia, and Hungary.
The role of Information technology is very conspicuous and inevitable for businesses that are to gain competitive advantage. It can, however, become a burden because of the costs that come with it. The companies should therefore explore on ways through which they can acquire and fully utilize technology, but at the same time staying cautious to prevent an overwhelming increase in the operational costs. The most probable option is to outsource the process of acquiring information technology so that the competitive advantage remains intact. As is the case with many businesses, they outsource the need for IT professions, and this enables them to save on the operational cost through a number of the following ways.
Cutting off salaries
When a company hires IT professionals, it requires having the capability to pay for the huge salary requirement, which may not be possible when we put into consideration the size of the business and the returns in profits. It therefore proves to be typically an expensive endeavour to hire an IT professional. In case the business is a medium-sized one, it should seek to outsource the IT functions so that it saves the on the profit acquired and at the same time acquire the services. The salary that would be advance to the IT professional can thereafter be put into other use that would lead to the improvement and growth of the business.
Once a company outsources the IT functions it is able to avoid some other hidden costs that are potentially bound to result. When a company hires an IT professional, it has to go further and purchase a computer, an office, and all other items that should be found in the office. In addition, the company has to pay for the insurance premiums, and other benefits that need to be met for an employee. In the contrary, when a company outsources the functions, the IT Professional or group are expected to meet the additional cost, and the business only pays for the service given.
Allows for business focus
According to industry week 73 as quoted by (Arthur 2013) the survey the conducted showed that it was advantageous for the companies to outsource all the processes that did not form their core part of the business model. The business is able to focus on the vital aspects that are directly proportional to their success achievement.
The business that explores for the option of outsourcing the It functions should consider on their frequent need for the services of IT profession. If the business has a considerable need for somebody to provide services for the better part of business, then it becomes necessary to employ an IT professional. However, if the services are required once occasionally, it is sensible to outsource the function rather than settling for hiring an It professional. The decision on whether to hire an IT professional or not is based on the particular needs of a business. Finally Coca-Cola Company should seek to create a formidable relationship business models, innovation, and information systems. A competitive advantage can only be found where the current strategy leads to creation of value, and is not being practiced by competitors.