Last week Ben Haines, CIO of Pabst Brewing shared some insights into the business transformation happening at Pabst as part of a webinar we sponsored on the Proformative Network. You can view the webinar here.  Having been in business since 1844, Pabst has some of the most iconic brands in America – Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz, Old Style and Colt 45.  The challenge for Ben and the team – deliver a five-year transformation in less than 18 months.

Pabst is transforming for the new world. Photo courtesy of

Pabst is transforming for the new world. Photo courtesy of

Regardless of business segment, Ben’s quandary is actually the same challenge execs in most large organizations are facing.   All businesses now must cope with changing consumers, aggressive competition and difficult market conditions, yet much like Pabst, they are often attacking the problem with old world legacy technology tools.    On premise technology means months and years long deployments, high expense and limited insight, much less business return.  As Ben said during the webinar, “Most times by the time your technology project finally roles out, the business has changed three times and you are hopelessly behind.”  Thinking specifically about performance management is legacy challenge is particularly acute.

Typically, performance management on the old world starts with some basic questions:  How are we doing? Why is this the case?  What else should be we doing?  Ben shared this graphic that illustrated his view of performance management from 5 years ago.

Among the problems with this approach according to Ben,

“Organizations typically have at least four different technologies, often in silos, with no single view of what is going on, much less what should we being doing about it.  The result is that IT spends more and more time and money on tools, while finance and business owners default to Excel for analysis, or try to develop or buy their own solutions.”

Ben’s list of where IT went wrong?

  • IT became department of “no”
  • Businesses and finance didn’t get actionable planning
  • Business became comfortable with technology
  • Vendors started selling to the business
  • No connection to delivering shareholder value

CIOs now are leading the revolution, driving strategy and using the cloud to execute projects rapidly in order to deliver business value.  Ben and his team at Pabst using this approach to deliver new solutions fast – going cloud first to deliver new solutions to the finance and the business, including Gmail, Yammer, Box and Zendesk, with Tidemark for analytics and planning.   More insight on Ben’s strategy can be found in Doug Henshen’s article in InformationWeek, “Pabst Brews Up Alternatives to BI Software.

Core to making this transformation happen is making mobile central to the solution strategy.  In the case of Pabst, transforming to the new world meant addressing the needs of a workforce that is 85% mobile.  As a result Pabst moved from Blackberry to iPhone, enabling a BYOD policy, and aggressively moving to the cloud and using Okta for user management and sign on.  Mobile is no longer a nice to have, but a must have business requirement.

While the transformation  at Pabst is still in progress, Ben’s call to action was to embrace change, focus on solutions for business and IT, not technology, and continue to relentlessly innovate in all areas of the business.  After 168 years, it is time for a change.