When it comes to making fundamental changes to a business, speed trumps everything, says consultant Jack Bergstrand. Indeed, the firm of which he is CEO is called Brand Velocity, for its focus on helping companies in reinvention mode accelerate their time frames.
Bergstrand is no stranger to personal reinvention, either. In a whirlwind career at assorted Coca-Cola entities, he held successive executive management positions in marketing, distribution, manufacturing and logistics, finance (as CFO of Coca-Cola Beverages Ltd. in Canada), and information technology (as vice president of business systems for The Coca-Cola Co.). After all that change, he left the company in 2001, still young at 43, and hung out his shingle as an IT and project-management adviser.
Bergstrand’s ascension to CFO came in 1995, after he took some time off to attend Stanford Business School. But his headiest job at Coke was the IT role, in which he oversaw a billion-dollar SAP implementation and restructured the company’s global systems and data-standards operations. Those projects, completed in a year and a half, provided a crash course in speedy implementation. “So that it would not take forever, we made key steps quarterly, which is pretty quick for an organization the size of Coca-Cola,” he says.
Bergstrand sat down with CFO this week to talk about his views on organizational change and the challenges confronting IT organizations. An edited version of the interview follows.
What in your background qualified you for that big IT job?
IT reported to me when I was CFO in Canada, and in fact I had had close relationships with IT since my distribution job, which involved putting together a lot of systems that had never been envisioned as being together. The manufacturing and logistics job had a heavy systems component, too. By the time I was CFO I was pretty comfortable with IT.
What is the key to doing major IT restructuring well?
It’s having a clear vision of what you’re going to do — and not do. When SAP went live, I was asked to combine the SAP and IT organizations, which were separate. There are really two ways to do that. One is that you take SAP and move it under IT, which seems reasonable. Unfortunately, what often happens is that although implementing a new ERP system is a major investment, when you go live, a majority of your transactions and talent is [still] dedicated to legacy systems. If you just keep the IT structure in place and throw on the new ERP system as a wing on the house, then you’re probably not going to get the most out of the investment.
The other way is to build a new foundation for the house, keeping a very consistent vision for what the structure is going to be and why. But you have to be very careful in how you go about the restructuring. At Coca-Cola there was a lot of duplication in the [SAP and IT] camps, but also a lot of knowledge.