Heard it at the pub

For most people stopping by the pub means having a beer, maybe a Blue, at the local watering hole. For employees of Labatt Breweries of Canada, the Toronto-based company that makes 50 brands of beer including Blue and Budweiser, it means something altogether different.

In 2001 Labatt launched

an ambitious corporate intranet project called The Pub. Since its debut, The Pub has not only changed the beer company’s approach to business intelligence and knowledge management, it has also made it possible for teams to effectively collaborate online. To do this, Labatt has implemented an enterprise portal that not only improves overall communications between employees but also eliminates silos of information between business units.

How did Labatt convince 3,800 employees, from Newfoundland to British Columbia, and many of whom work in breweries without the benefit of their own computers, that The Pub was a better source of corporate information than traditional meetings, newsletters and bulletin boards?

Labatt installed information kiosks to give employees easy access to The Pub, and it ran the intranet like a news wire. “”We provide national, regional and local news,”” says Sharon Mackay, director of public affairs. “”We provide frequent updates, sometimes twice a day.””

Those frequent updates were the key to The Pub’s early acceptance.

But over time, the Intranet’s ability to break down information silos, and create an open BI environment has been at least as important.

For example, if anyone in marketing wants to review brand positioning data, a recent presentation made to a corporate client, or a particular Blue commercial from the 1960s, they can find what they are searching for in The Pub’s multi-dimensional database.

“”It’s huge,”” says Jonathan Starkey, IT manager responsible for The Pub. “”I get lots of positive feedback.””

Once used primarily as communication and knowledge management tools, portals can also improve workforce performance and link that performance to business value. To improve performance, workspace portals must align to processes and roles in specific industries, and ensure that knowledge can support decision-making, which has become a critical need in the competitive brewing industry.

In terms of online collaboration, The Pub has reduced confusion over document versions and eliminated instances where two people are working on the same document at the same time.

How does the future look for The Pub? Starkey wants to introduce a workflow component to his company’s Intranet in 2004.

This will make it possible to track an initiative, for example a Budweiser-CFL cross-promotion, from marketing through legal affairs, planning and distribution.

“”The idea is to establish a predictable path along with document support for every new activity,”” says Starkey. “”The workflow system will automatically ensure all necessary approvals are obtained.””

With workplace efficiencies like that, the executives at Labatt may just end up with more time to spend in a real pub.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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