Brewing a new age: Carlsberg taps technology to modernize a centuries-old company

Brewing superb beer requires a medley of subtle ingredients, a careful concoction that eventually fills your glass with golden goodness. Malted barley melds with hops. Then yeast joins the party. Finally, fermentation and filtration fuse the flavors.

In a word, collaboration.

That harmonious process fueled the research of J.C. Jacobsen, founder of Carlsberg, who tapped science to blend and brew his first batches of lager nearly 175 years ago in Copenhagen. Today, Carlsberg Group is using collaboration on a global scale to quench the thirst of consumers, cater to customers and transform employee interactions.

Once a big brand with a small corporate footprint, Carlsberg became the world’s fourth-largest brewery during the past 20 years as it acquired other beer makers, including Kronenbourg. Carlsberg Group now manages 140 beer brands worldwide. However, integrating all of those breweries marked a new business challenge: merging dozens of IT platforms.

“We needed everybody to start working together,” said Anders Munck, enterprise architect at Carlsberg Group. “We started this journey changing how people collaborate in this business. That was an initial conversation with Microsoft.”

Soon, Carlsberg Group decided to move to Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based collective of Microsoft Office services. That unleashed a digital transformation across the company, and a crucial pillar of that shift involves business to consumers, said Etienne Dock, chief technology officer at Carlsberg Group.

“We are living in a new age. Our consumers are changing the way they want to interact with our brands,” Dock said. “When they come to buy and consume our brands, they need to feel that they have the same kind of experience.”

This is truly a merger of the ancient and the now, of tradition and technology. In 1128, monks mashed barley and selected hops to create a beer now sold by Carlsberg as Grimbergen Abbey. Nine centuries later, Carlsberg is using tools, including Azure, to create “the connected bar,” where patrons enter a tavern, are instantly recognized by their consumer data and – based on what’s known about their individual tastes – learn about to the latest beer promotions.

The digital evolution also extends across the company. Carlsberg Group spans 40,000 employees in 27 countries.

Those employees are equipped with Office 365, using the same cloud productivity services to strip away geographical barriers that could otherwise slow teamwork. Increased mobility among employees allows them to work together to build a brand that’s global, yet caters to local tastes. The company is also in the midst of deploying Windows 10, investing in Surface and exploring Windows Hub.

Indeed, the transformation is all about what’s flowing from the taps and pouring from the bottles.

“There is a physical relationship between a consumer and the beer,” Dock said. “The whole idea of this physical experience starts way before — in the digital world.”