Change is brewing – SAP innovation and efficiency at SABMiller

Interpro’s David Johnson recently caught up with Lutz Von Nida, Head of Global Solution Design at SABMiller who, as a pioneering leader in SAP, is striving to merge ‘IT’ and ‘Process Innovation’ by putting a user-centric approach at the heart of his philosophy. Combining advanced process management and embracing emerging IT tools, Von Nida’s team is delivering critical efficiency and value to the SABMiller business around the world.

“We are working hard to deliver complex multinational IT projects, SAP platforms and delivering IT value to the business, whilst providing innovation at the same time” said Von Nida. “We are embracing modern technologies and platforms, such as SAP HANA architecture within SAP BI. We chose SAP HANA because it gives us more power, speed and advanced functionality. Ultimately we plan to use more products from the SAP Software Suite using ‘in-memory’ technology.”

According to Von Nida, combining software systems with seamless and real time integration with in-memory data storage and access allows users direct access to analytic information – all in real time. “Only this allows our business to stay closely connected with the customers by providing a real ‘omni-channel’ offering. Information is now available, any time at any access point, without running massive BW type analytics, regardless of channel interaction type.

“It comes from a combination of the new database structure of HANA, ‘In-Memory Computing’ and new data models – especially design to retrieve benefits from the new database capabilities, speeding up current and historic reporting,” he explains. “With historic reporting there’s massive data volumes and we can now access them in real-time, which means we can choose how we determine and store our data, whether that’s hot (keep in real-time database for immediate access), warm or cold (pushing this data to an external platform, such as Hadoop or other cheaper (file) storage systems.”

The benefits to the business are clear: SABMiller can access data at a more business-critical speed and distinguish better data fits, meaning information on current products and products or transactions from previous periods is instantly identifiable – a process made possible by developing an in-house ‘Best of Breed’ team who worked closely with SAP directly, ensuring knowledge is retained by the business rather than exploited by third party stakeholders, also paving the way for training, user acceptance and future upgrades all to be managed internally as well.

The goal is to provide advanced capabilities in back-, middle- and front office applications, to provide 360° insight into the business and make this information available – in an aggregated way – to the management.


Von Nida suggests HANA was the logical choice for SABMiller because many of its core markets were already using it in various forms, as well as it performing well to suit the needs of the business.

“HANA overall allows us to harness innovation of SAP and learn and build on In-Memory technology,” he says. “My advice to any business considering using HANA would be to appreciate that it’s a new platform and that it needs re-implementation, rather than a technical upgrade, only. If it’s integrated with other BI systems that offer partial In-Memory, you have to carry out more customisation and maintenance – ultimately it holds you back on new innovation (and drives up costs).

“We’ve ensured that our logistics and financial platforms are lean and have achieved this by re-writing all transactions and upgrading the system for Logistics Transitions. We’re not quite at the ‘Simple Finance’ and ‘Simple Logistics’ stage yet, but we’re getting the system ready via the SAP enhancement packages, to build the bridge for the migration – when the time is right. This is also applicable for core business activities to be supported by software in the cloud”.

Change for success

Despite the challenges businesses may face when transitioning to a new way of working, Von Nida is quick to point out that the positives outweigh the negatives.

“I’d say don’t worry, let’s be positive. Change is good, change is fun and it’s ultimately for the benefit of the business and the team carrying out the work,” he says. “It helps maintain the right focus and clarity from top to bottom. Initially, you have to assure the internal consultants that there’s a need to modernise and they quickly start to see the business value. Ultimately, as professionals, we may not be used to certain ways of working, but there are always different ways to run a project. We show consultants that they can help the client to decide on the deliverables & design them, the programme orientation and ultimately, we can empower the client.”

Implementing process changes must show results, however, Von Nida’s team have set a clear set of KPIs and monitor their progress against these to evaluate what innovation has been nurtured from IT. There are risks too and lessons to be learnt along the way – natural by-products of process evolution, explains Von Nida:

“All projects carry risk. But by using different methodologies to suit specific deliverables, we can assess what’s planned and what is actually delivered. Because I’ve led such transformations before I know that planning and progressing at the right pace is critical. We must all be aware of the impact of every ‘Sprint’ and ‘Phase’ and be mindful to carry out extensive testing and offer immediate corrections. The key is that the quality and approach has to be right to ensure our business realises the successes locally and internationally.  It is, after all, a global goal we share and we share it through innovation. At SABMiller, we add real value and impetus on training and change management – it’s a holistic approach.”

Von Nida believes IT should take the next step and bring innovation to users, enabling them to focus on value-adding activities and less on IT. This is where ‘the IT of the future’ comes to the fore to generate value for the business.

He said: “We’re working hard on ‘Process Excellence’ and combining ‘Business Processes’ and ‘Implementing the Solution’ into one step, to compliment the global views.”

Final words of wisdom to businesses looking to deliver a lean, efficient and innovative way of working are about the importance of planning and foresight, suggests Von Nida. “Have a long-term vision to prevent ending up in a dead end,” he says. “Start small and most importantly, scale fast. The organisation must be ready for change with no overheads. Obviously, there’s always a cost component but you need to bring innovation to the business before it’s too late. Something I always re-iterate to my guys is to adopt innovation, not IT. Good luck!”

About Lutz Von Nida

Lutz Von Nida is a highly experienced and successful senior SAP Leader with 15+ years’ experience with process & SAP solution competence in the Food, Beverage, FMCG, Chemical & Retail industries.

Von Nida’s experience sits within managing multi-country process harmonisation projects and SAP implementations. Lutz has led multiple global FMCG companies through the definition and deployment of industry best practices.


Thank Lutz Von Nida, the Head of Global Solution Design at SABMiller for not only affording me the time to create such an article, but for contributing to an intriguing piece.

Who is David Johnson?

With over 7 years of niche recruitment experience, David Johnson leads the SAP Freelance practice in Europe for Interpro. David personally specialises in Freelance SAP Supply Chain & Logistics and Business Intelligence requirements for clients in the DACH region. David’s team recruit for niche and hard to find SAP subject matter experts across various modules.

If you wish to discuss this article or any other SAP topics with David, you can contact him on +442035986538 or


Leave a Reply