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Empower AB InBev APAC North Digital Transformation Through Mobility & DevOps Solutions

AB InBev is a global beer company having over 400 brands including Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, etc. We leverage the collective strengths of more than 200,000 people worldwide, working together as one team in 26 countries across the globe and we also sell our beers in well over 100 countries. APAC North is one of our major markets, encompassing three key countries including China, Korea, and Japan.

“We are providing the solutions for shaping, deploying and operating integrated, flexible and secure platforms that will deliver maximum business value for AB InBev’s operations in APAC.” — Keith Davies (AB InBev, VP Solutions APAC)

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how operate and deliver value to customers. As a strategy in AB InBev, we are leveraging more new technologies for our digital transformation to better engage with and serve the needs of our consumers, partners, customers, colleagues, and beer lovers around the world.

While working closely with the business to gain insights into the needs of our customers and consumers, solutions is also scaling our existing capabilities in Mobility and DevOps, and exploring emerging technologies such as AR &VR, IoT, AI, and others based on our Mobility and DevOps platforms.

1Mobile Management Platform

As a precondition, and in order to take full advantage of BYOD in mobile working, we introduced enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform. This platform will ensure the ability for mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM), and mobile connectivity management (MCM). It provides convenient management functions while ensuring security, and provides application and content deployment and protection for enterprise mobility.

The key elements of EMM provide the ability to control and secure mobile assets through:

  • Consolidation and governance of all mobility initiatives.
  • Enforcement of mobile device policy and user access configuration.
  • Streamlining new user enrollment, software updates and device decommissioning.
  • Automated alerting and controls, preventing excessive charges.
  • Secure containerization for email, PIM, and attachments.
  • Secure access to intranet sites, line-of-business applications, internally published mobile apps and documents.
  • Protection of critical business data, user authentication, and encryption.

2. Some Mobile Application Scenarios

2.1 Mobile Applications for Commercial

According to Abacus 2018 China internet report, although China’s internet penetration is just over 50%, its sheer scale means there are 3x the number of Mobile Phone users and 11x the number of mobile payment users in China than in the US.

With such a large mobile user market, we have developed a series of mobile applications for commercial and marketing, beside traditional sales force mobile applications, we are also actively exploring the advantages of mobile e-commerce. In China, we have eStores build on platforms like TMALL, JD, etc., consumers can easily buy our beer in mobile and the developed logistics also provide natural power for e-commerce.

On the marketing side, as the biggest social platform in China, WeChat enables companies and individuals to create “WeChat Official Accounts” in order to promote company or branding. These accounts are to some extent similar to Facebook Pages: anybody can follow them and will then receive push notifications from them.

When accessing one of these accounts, you can usually click a bottom-menu linking to an HTML5 website which might sell products or services. As one of the main marketing platforms in AB InBev, we are not just running different marketing campaign based on these different WeChat public accounts, we also make some innovations based on this platform, such as mobile game, AR, chatbot, etc.:

As a trial, we made an innovation based on mobile Web AR technology to encourage our Budweiser fans to play & take photos with our virtual DJ and share on the social platform (WeChat). It’s really interesting that many users played and shared it in short term pilot and the mobile AR project Won China VRCODE 2018 “Best AR Business Content” Award! In the future, I think we will explore more innovation on mobile like this, and we are also looking forward to the maturity of mobile Web AR technology to bring a better user experience and create more marketing campaign value.

2.2 Mobile Applications for Supply & Logistics

Our supply chain professionals are finding mobile applications to be a necessary tool these days. In an industry focused on the transport of products and goods, mobile apps are giving supply chain professionals a new freedom from the confines of their desks.

With improved technology and updated applications, these devices have become irrelevant, as supply chain and logistics professionals find these services right in the palm of hands. In AB InBev APAC, we are leveraging mobile technology for digital plant optimization in more breweries and gain more benefits including:

  • Real-time updates: better control over inventory and operation.
  • Portability.
  • Precision monitoring.
  • Speed: increased efficiency and productivity.
  • With increased efficiency comes better customer service.

The logistics industry has progressed by leaps and bounds widening its geographical circumference to the entire global arena. The right mobile application can make a world of difference for warehousing and logistics professionals who rely on smartphones or tablets to help them do the jobs.

In fact, the e-Commerce and even the online retailers are largely dependent on the logistics company. Therefore, whether it is shipping the cargo through courier, the movers and the Packers, storing the necessary goods at a warehouse etc. The logistics company will hugely get benefited by online manufacturing industries as they would deliver the goods products right at the doorstep within quick time.

The mobile apps are just more than a boon; it helps in improving a number of activities like managing the inventory, keeping an eye on the warehouse, supervising the goods carrying vehicles and so on. Let’s see AB InBev’s requires the support of mobile apps.

  • Monitor the Location of Vehicle.
  • Helps in Managing Fleet Appropriately.
  • Online Booking of Cargo and Parcel.
  • Tracing the Cargo through App.
  • Get Rid of All Paper Work Formalities.
  • Information about the Driver.
  • Management of the Warehouse.

2.3 Mobile Applications for Others

In today’s mobile-first world, corporate communication and mobile applications are inseparable. WeChat Work, one of the main digital corporate communication solutions in China, has gradually evolved into another multifunctional application running parallel to WeChat.

Today’s WeChat Work has evolved into a multifunctional and efficient tool in AB InBev, not only for corporate coordination but for a company’s wider daily administration, and we also developed lot of mini-programs within WeChat Work ecosystem.

Beside internal applications for collaboration and communication, mobile business intelligence (BI) is the ability to access important analysis data such as KPIs, business metrics, and dashboards on mobile devices. In AB InBev, we can check BI reports on any mobile platforms, which allows us to get push notifications and quickly access important real-time BI information at anytime, anywhere, any devices, for faster decision making, better customer service.

3Mobile Application Architecture

On the mobile front end, same as the mainstream mobile applications, we are using the most commonly three-layer application, clean-architecture also, the top-level application layer, the middle business logic layer, the bottom core data and third-party libraries layer. The business logic module usually development by MVP (Model–View–Presenter) mode.

On the backend, we are adopting a microservices architecture for our highly demanding systems. In a microservices architecture, services are fine-grained and the protocols are lightweight. The benefit of decomposing an application into different smaller services is that it improves modularity. This makes the application easier to understand, develop, test, and become more resilient to architecture erosion. Microservices-based architectures also enable continuous delivery and deployment with Docker/Container way, so we can use Kubernetes for automating deployment, scaling, and management our containerized applications.

Regarding the properties of microservices, some of the defining characteristics that are frequently cited include:

  • Services in a microservice architecture are often processes that communicate over a network to fulfill a goal using technology-agnostic protocols such as HTTP.
  • Services in a microservice architecture are independently deployable.
  • The services are easy to replace.
  • Services are organized around capabilities, e.g., user interface front-end, recommendation, logistics, billing, etc.
  • Services can be implemented using different programming languages, databases, hardware and software environment, depending on what fits best.
  • Services are small in size, messaging enabled, bounded by contexts, autonomously developed, independently deployable, decentralized and built and released with automated processes.

Here is the example architecture for microservice:

Combined with the microservice architecture, we are APIizing the front-end and back-end interactions through API Gateway, not just for security, APIs ensure that the data extracted from one software application is formatted and passed to the next application without change, even if the associated app’s feature sets have been updated. In AB InBev, we will see APIs not just as technical tools, but as sources of strategic value in today’s digital economy.

4. Mobile Application Cross-Platform

In AB InBev, we also require mobile applications support multi-platforms to meet more users and employees’ requirement, especially in China, the more Android fragmented market, so we will select the cross-platform framework and use it as our basic framework for our application development.

According to the current mainstream mobile operating systems iOS and Android, the mobile application development framework can be roughly divided into the following categories:

  • Pure Web HTML5.
  • Hybrid (Native + Web), Cross-Platform Framework optional.
  • Native (Cross-Platform Framework).
  • Fully Native.

In general, the use of the Web and cross-platform framework can improve the efficiency of development, but since the addition of the middle layer control, it may also have performance and function impact, compared to pure native development. So, choosing the right framework based on actual needs is one of the important processes in our architecture design. In AB InBev, we leveraged some cross-platform framework for some application development, like React Native, Weex etc.

5. Application Design Platform

There are many companies build a centralized design platform serves as a reference for designers & developers, providing concise and clear direction. Intentional design creates an authoritative brand voice, and make it as a framework for consistency across a spectrum of applications, which will provide all design elements & infrastructure are modular and adapt to any screen. Similarly, we have also built our own design platform as part of enterprise architecture lego block.

The App design principles for the design platform:

  • Purposeful: We believe in clear, accessible design that focuses customers on the content on the page instead of user interface elements.
  • Inclusive: We engage a broad set of customers by crafting experiences that are welcoming, accessible, and language-flexible.
  • Cohesive: We aspire to maintain a unified experience where each system flows seamlessly into the next.
  • Intuitive: We optimize our designs to create informative, impactful experiences that make our customers feel confident and inspired.
  • Brand Consistency: We are dedicated to maintaining the pride and dedication to craftsmanship that our brand communicates so that our customers can rely on our voice just as much as our products.

6. DevOps for App Development

6.1 DevOps and Agile Process

The software is critical to all organizations, but producing great applications and services that meet business needs requires modern development and delivery processes. This is especially important in AB InBev’s digital transformation, where strategic software development fuels innovation and boosts competitive advantage.

The connection among agile, DevOps, and business outcomes centers on the continuous feedback loop running through live customer experiences to requirements engineering. This shows how well software delivery is performing and supporting the business itself.

To further reap the benefits of agile and DevOps, AB InBev also leverages the responsiveness and flexibility offered by cloud, containers, and other new code design and delivery architectures. This requires making a smooth shift-left of all activities—such as continuous testing—and finer granularity of iteration across the whole of the software delivery and ops cycle. So, we introduced DevOps platform from code management to deploy as described below.

6.2 DevOps Platform and Management

DevOps is a software development methodology that combines software development with information technology operations. The goal of DevOps is to shorten the systems development life cycle while also delivering features, fixes, and updates frequently in close alignment with business objectives.

In AB InBev, we have one strategy direction about migration existing applications from Data Center to Cloud, so we can fully take advantage of Cloud for the scalability and efficiency, and it also allows us to build and retire infrastructure just like compiling source code, which should make SDLC cycles much faster.

As one of common DevOps Platform, Microsoft Azure DevOps (previous Microsoft VSTS) is the DevOps running as a Cloud Services and provides development collaboration tools with internal developers and vendor resources including high-performance pipelines, configurable Kanban boards, and extensive automated and cloud-based load testing in an agile way. As DevOps is intended to be a cross-functional mode of working, rather than a single DevOps tool, there are sets of multiple tools reflective of key aspects of the development and delivery process:

  • Code – code development and review, source code management tools, code merging, code security.
  • Build – continuous integration tools, build status.
  • Test – continuous testing tools that provide feedback on business risks.
  • Package – artifact repository, application pre-deployment staging.
  • Release – change management, release approvals, release automation.
  • Configure – infrastructure configuration and management.
  • Monitor – applications performance monitoring, end-user experience.

“It’s great to see how easy it is to re-use the existing Lego Blocks (e.g. Single Sign-On) by building projects directly within VSTS. Impressive also to see how quickly and easily we can spin up resources such as databases already in the cloud.” — Keith Davies (AB InBev, VP Solutions APAC)

As an agile project management platform, in addition to following agile specifications and processes, Azure DevOps also provides online collaboration capabilities, which provide a communication channel for traditional enterprise project parties and Vendor partners. Contains management of requirements, iterative planning, tasks assignment, Kanban system, test cases maintenance and bugs tracking, etc.

7Future Mobility & DevOps

As long as the development of mobile 5G and the commercialization rollout, which will bring the continuous improvement of mobile network performance. The internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies dominate headlines today, Enterprise mobility can better leverage of this advantage, better empowering in IoT, AR, Wearable device, Real-time BI, and play a bigger role in Industry 4.0 and Marketing 4.0.

With our clear Mobile First strategy and more mature agile DevOps application development processes, enterprise mobility and DevOps will help to realize our business dreams to “bring people together for a better world”.