Valuable Insights for Blokker's Commercial Management

By building a future-proof and reliable integration and data platform, modernizing assortment management.

The division of Blokker Holding in 2017 marked the beginning of an ambitious journey to remain relevant and innovative in a rapidly changing retail landscape. After significant changes and a complete restructuring of the IT architecture towards the cloud, Blokker is partnering with Motion10 - an HSO company - to establish a modern integration and data platform. Discover how a strategic, multidisciplinary approach is providing valuable insights into Blokker's assortment and supply chain.

Blokker – one of the most recognizable names in Dutch retail – faced a massive challenge in 2017 when the owners split the holding. Other companies within the holding were sold, and Blokker became a standalone organization, falling under the Mirage Retail Group since 2019.

When we examined our processes and IT landscape and wondered what needed to change, the conclusion was: 'everything.'

John de Keuning IT Director, Blokker

A combination of pressure and speed

For Blokker, staying relevant in a rapidly changing retail landscape in 2017 means there is work to be done. The organization needed to become profitable again as quickly as possible. The outdated structure on both the business and IT sides needed a revamp, and the centralized IT landscape, used by all brands, had to make way for renewed systems that would align with Blokker's future. "We created a digital transformation plan, focusing on the essentials that needed to be addressed," says John de Keuning. "We defined a business and IT architecture, developed financial plans, and implemented the operational IT plan."

Choosing Azure Cloud

Blokker had a long way to go in terms of IT and felt the pressure to modernize as quickly as possible. The substantial amount of legacy systems included proprietary data centers, a centralized e-commerce platform, and many processes without IT support. Shared applications and infrastructure of the holding needed to be disentangled, and a completely new architecture was required to enable Blokker as a standalone retailer to build its future upon.

John explains: "There was no integration solution in place. The previous informatics solution was adopted by Intertoys, and we went in search of an alternative, with the primary requirement being a cloud integration solution. The selection process and our choice of Azure Integration Services in 2017 were mainly based on our confidence in Microsoft's development capabilities."

To move swiftly, Blokker makes critical decisions based on business value, architectural principles, and people. Key pillars include identifying high-impact changes, preferring buying over building, choosing the best available applications, hybrid cloud, 'SaaS before PaaS before IAAS,' and outsourcing all hard IT skills.

Flexibility and Quality

Fast forward to 2021... "After four years of numerous projects and changes, the entire company has been reorganized, including the physical stores, which look completely different now," John shares. "All processes have been restructured, and I dare say we possess one of the most modern application stacks in Retail, all supported by a hybrid, cloud-based infrastructure. The flexibility built in a short time allowed us to be operational for online orders two days after the closure of physical stores during the COVID-19 pandemic."

In 2021, Blokker has more room to focus on the quality of solutions and address processes that were previously outside the scope. There's also a change in the management of the integration platform, and the data warehouse is being replaced by a more modern data platform. This brings Blokker into contact with Motion10, an HSO company, for the first time. They deploy a multidisciplinary team approach called PitWall at Blokker. As a partner they align with Blokker's cloud ambitions, including managing the integration platform. John de Keuning explains: "Since our integration platform's architectures and a new data platform we wanted to build closely overlap – and often even intertwine – this was an additional reason to choose a single party that can oversee both."

Extracting Value from Available Data

The array of applications and solutions available to Blokker's employees is already adding value. Processes are being executed more efficiently and agile. To provide even greater support to the business and employees, Blokker aims to extract more value from available data. This involves setting up a combined integration and data platform. Blokker, in consultation with Motion10, an HSO company, decides which reports and analyses will deliver tangible value for the business before determining the project's course.

Dylan van Riel, Data & AI Architect at Motion10 - an HSO company -, is involved in establishing the architecture for a new integration and data platform. The resulting reports first support Blokker's commercial management. "Previously, assortment management was done with Excel files and macros," Dylan explains. "This had limited functionality for the work of Category Managers, who are primarily responsible for the performance of various product categories within Blokker. We developed four significant Power BI dashboards in which Category Managers monitor the assortment based on product placement, availability, and added forecasting functionality."

This shift from working with different truths and diverse standards provides the confidence and insights Blokker needs. Motion10, an HSO company, also develops an interactive environment for Blokker through an embedded Power App in the dashboard, allowing Category Managers to compare potential new products with the current assortment. It's a new way to enhance flexibility, all with the goal of offering the right products in stores that align precisely with customer needs.

Centralized Governance and a Single Source of Truth

Where decisions were previously mainly based on assumptions and fragmented datasets, Blokker now ensures that the right decisions are made based on a single source of truth, centralized within the new integration and data platform.

John states: "We aim to provide even broader support, replace old practices, and create uniformity in our processes. This allows employees to have the time and space to improve assortment and supply chain management."

The next challenge that Blokker tackles with the help of the new integration and data platform is analyzing point-of-sale receipts. The necessary data sources are connected to the platform, enabling future analysis of product combinations and promotions at the receipt level.

"The data platform is an enabler for process change and quality improvement in the organization."

John de Keuning IT Director, Blokker

Collaborative Thinking, Advising, and Strategic Choices

The partnership between Blokker and Motion10, an HSO company, is proving fruitful. Motion10's multidisciplinary Data, Integration, and Managed Services teams, with the PitWall approach, enable Blokker to continue its modernization efforts. "The team, with their technical knowledge, has prepared our data to be valuable. We expect our partners to think with us, provide advice, and help make the right choices. Motion10, an HSO company, adds significant value in this regard."

Blokker is becoming increasingly agile and adapting to external changes that impact retailers. A strong foundation for innovation is now in place, allowing solutions to be flexibly developed for business impact.

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