The layoff of 140 IT people at Coca-Cola signals a shift in direction from internal projects to customer-focused work, the company said.

The soft drink company cut about 14 per cent of its IT workforce earlier this week

as part of what the company called a reorganization. The layoffs affected the department that handles the company’s data collection, computing and telecommunications.

Coca-Cola now employs about 600 IT people at its Atlanta headquarters and about 250 more around the world. No Canadian layoffs were reported at Toronto-based Coca-Cola Bottling Ltd.

A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said the reorganization was meant to turn the company into more of a global IT operation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Canadian IT resources will be deployed in any way.

“”This is a change more in strategy and mind set,”” said Raquel White. “”It’s not necessarily centralized in location. I don’t know that that would change the Canada operations.””

White said Coca-Cola has already gone through a number of IT projects to increase the company’s productivity and efficiency, including an SAP implementation. That now leaves the beverage firm free to concentrate on other areas.

“”Whereas you had a lot of people working on internal applications that helped to support the internal workings of the business, the focus is shifting now to having a greater percentage of resources focused on external — kind of customer-focused — IT strategies,”” she said. “”It’s not that there’s going to be work left undone.””

For example, Coca-Cola works with large customers right now to create tracking systems that measure the sales and marketing effectiveness of Coke products, White said. These technology projects could help customers with invoicing and billing as well as examining which products are selling more quickly and the impact of its packaging.

Jason Bremner, an analyst with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said staff reductions could happen after internal applications have been put in production. Depending on the management style and corporate culture, this may lead enterprises to pursue outsourcing agreements.

“”You have these people who are pretty good at designing and integrating applications,”” he said, “”but they might not want to go down the road of actually managing it or operating it. Or you might not need that many people.””

White, however, downplayed the idea of Coca-Cola seeking outside help.

“”I think on a whole, the company is always looking to improve efficiencies and things like that, so that’s not something that they would ever rule out, but I don’t think there’s a strong focus on that right now.””


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