Artificial Intelligence… Low-code… Public Cloud… Which technology trends should retailers bet on NOW?

By | News, Retail, Technology

Technology trends are rapidly changing the retail sector. Retailers looking to remain relevant in the future must primarily focus on two developments: High Productivity Platforms and Artificial Intelligence. This became clear during an analysis by IG&H.

In contrast to other technology trends such as Internet of Things, blockchain or virtual reality, High Productivity Platforms and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been identified by Gartner as trends that have reached a mature stage, which enables them to disrupt the retail sector. Both High Productivity Platforms and AI intervene in each link of the retail chain, giving them a new dimension. That’s why IG&H believes that retailers who embrace these developments now greatly increase their chances to remain a frontrunner in their market.

 

High Productivity Platforms; react more quickly to developments

A High Productivity Platform can be based on generating code, as well as on model-driven execution. Low-code, for example, is an increasingly well known High Productivity Platform for software development based on object generated code.

The main business advantage of this technology is the ability to build new functionality quicker and at substantially lower cost, and the success of ideas can be evaluated more rapidly. One method of doing so is ‘rapid prototyping’. Retailers who adopt this trend are able to test new propositions quickly in changing market conditions and with little risk. A striking example is a leading food discounter which temporarily offers a more extensive luxury assortment through an online channel during the holidays. The technology offers countless applications; from small mobile apps to large back-end systems. Because of this, High Productivity Platforms are suitable for medium sized businesses as well as larger multinationals.

The accelerated development of applications shortens the time-to-market with 70 per cent in comparison to traditional packages. This is especially interesting when the development of applications requires customization. In comparison to traditional solutions, total cost of ownership is reduced to a third, a recent study by Gartner found. Next to development time, High Productivity Platforms offer big advantages when it comes to operational controllability in terms of ease of integration, altering applications, and the assurance that applications keep working after the update. All of this against lower maintenance costs.

Boost business with Artificial Intelligence

Data science is a multidisciplinary domain for more effective data gathering and analysis to facilitate better business decisions. Different techniques and algorithms can be applied, such as Machine Learning and AI. Deep Learning, an AI algorithm, is an advanced follow-up technique based on neural networks. Both Machine Learning and AI algorithms are often self-learning, which improves the effectiveness of applications over time and means the complex underlying mechanisms don’t have to be fully understood.

In the current retail landscape, we are increasingly seeing applications supported by AI and Machine Learning. There are ample examples of AI being applied in the chain, from bots in customer service with active customer dialogue, to creating supply chain flow by proactively sending goods to locations even before consumers made their purchase.

Even at the heart of retail, category management, we see AI making a difference with better integral business control. AI can, in contrast to error-prone and often department-coordinated traditional ways of working, make an accurate prediction of sales based on numerous chain factors, leading to better purchasing decisions. Our experience tells us that this prediction is accepted in up to 90% of the cases, leading to higher shelf availability and lower residual stock, in combination with higher efficiency at the department concerned.

In the fashion industry, for example, algorithms are being utilized to predict trends earlier and more precise. With Machine Learning, this enables offering personal discounts to the customer. Through enhanced customer personalization higher conversion ratios can be achieved and purchasing can be done more accurately. This results in lower residual stocks. The urgency is confirmed by the expectation that by 2020 more than 85% of retail transactions will be based on AI.

Dawn of exponential technological developments

Exactly the same reality holds true for us as consultancy. We see that our customers have a need for support with a large number of technologies and trends. To meet this need, our firm has more than doubled in size the last few years in the domains of Analytics and Technology.

The current and expected trends make us realize that we are at the dawn of exponential technological developments. To remain relevant and flexible as a retailer it is crucial to make the right choices. AI… Low-code… Public Cloud… On which technology trend will you bet?

Written by: Iris Huisman (Analist Retail), Michiel van der Werf (Consultant Retail), Sjoerd Norden (Consultant Retail) and Bram Gilliam (Director Retail)

Ruud Schoenmakers: ‘Retailers are becoming digital businesses’

By | News, Retail

The retail market is changing enormously, partially due to the growing success of digital platforms such as Amazon. At the same time, technology is developing further and further and customers are making more online purchases. How can retailers respond to this? Ruud Schoenmakers, IG&H’s new retail partner, shows us.

How will the retail sector look in 10 years?

“Developments are happening so rapidly, it’s actually impossible to look that far ahead anymore. Newcomers, sometimes industry outsiders, are making increasingly large impacts on customer expectations and ‘what it takes to win’ within retail. Until recently it was still possible to downplay these developments. However, these days are now truly behind us.

For example, supermarkets in major cities never used to view restaurants as competition. However, with the current growing success of platforms such as takeaway.com and UberEats, it’s becoming apparent that traditional parties are being affected and need to adjust their business models.”

What is the central challenge facing existing retailers?

“It requires a lot of attention and energy to ensure that the current operation runs smoothly. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly important to change rapidly and to innovate in order to remain relevant to the market.

It is extremely difficult to do two things at once. The question of how to combine these issues in a controllable manner without being hampered by the enormous complexity is causing headaches for many executives.”

What do retailers need to focus on?

“Just like in other industries, such as financial services, there needs to be a realization that the transition towards becoming a digital business is both essential and existential. The moment that you lose clients to new competitors, technology and data science capabilities become your best friend.

At the moment, I would dare to estimate that most retailers currently allocate 90% of their budget to simply keeping the current systems up and running. A mere fraction is used for exceptional, let alone innovative, solutions.

This is not a sustainable state of affairs. It is essential that retailers set up their organizations to be flexible in order to respond to the changing customer demands. Software that supports them in this can lead to a breakthrough, including the high performance, low code platform OutSystems as well as the use of cloud solutions.”

How important will data science become for ‘physical stores’?

“Shop assortments are currently quite static and homogeneous. Data science allows retailers to frequently check what the optimal assortment is for individual locations, leading to optimal turnover and profit margins.

Moreover, data science combined with technology allows retailers to make the switch to real one-on-one interaction with individual consumers via all channels. This is a totally different ballgame to the impersonal and primarily product-based mass communication. Isn’t it a shame that I, a man, keep seeing handbag commercials? It’s a total waste of marketing money!”

How much will organizations have to change internally?

“Successful transformation into a digital business requires different skills, leadership, governance, attitudes, and behaviour. This transition is substantial, impactful, and requires care.

I am very proud of the fact that we at IG&H, as sector insiders, not only can sharpen strategies, but also implement them. A new way of working also requires different behaviour. Our organization’s transformation professionals help executives and employees sustainably adjust their daily work methodology. What’s more, our technology experts can implement the required software so that it stays fast and flexible in the future.”

Behaviour as the key for impactful transformation in the mortgage sector 

By | Banking, News, Organizational transformation

The most impactful transformations for mortgage brokers focus not only on a new strategy, process or system, but also on the behaviour that goes with it. IG&H’s years of experience in the sector have proven this time and time again. Transformation trajectories often only accomplish a part of their original goals due to the fact that employees (and executives) eventually fall back into their old habits. How to prevent this as an organization? 

The mortgage sector is changing fast; technological developments are happening quicker and quicker, customer behaviour is changing and laws are being altered. Mortgage advice, for example, is changing towards a hybrid model. Clients begin the advice trajectory online so that the mortgage advisor can focus on only the most important decisions during their discussion. Smart software and data science technology are also making it possible to respond more effectively to the personal needs of individual clients. 

In practice, we often see advisors making little use of the new possibilities available to them. For example, the steps that a client has followed online are often not used, resulting in double the amount of work. It is also often the case that they do not know how to use new information, such as conclusions stemming from data science research, in practice. 

Consistent guidance

A new way of work calls for adjusted behaviour. It is often the case that employees are told to teach themselves new habits, which often results in them falling back into their old habits. Those who wish to create transformations with real impact on the organization will need to guide employees on the work floor consistently. If this does not happen, many applications and changes will be only partially utilized. 

How do you coach employees after a change in working conditions?

A few necessary basic principles for those who want to create lasting behavioural changes became obvious to us after countless transformation trajectories with mortgage brokers: 


If working conditions change, higher management often has the tendency to tackle problems that originate on the work floor directly using solutions which they have used before. Though this may sound logical, it can have a perverse effect. Previously used solutions have been proven to have an unsatisfactory effect. For this reason, do not immediately spring into action. 


Identify the root cause of the behaviour. We often see that the problem is literally the tip of the iceberg. The behaviour is merely what is visible to us. What is causing it to happen? Which convictions and motivations are strengthening or hindering? Begin working with this ‘undercurrent’ in mind. 

An often seen example is that employees fail to ask for help from each other or their executives. This results in them drowning in work or not sounding the alarm on time if they are experiencing problems. It turns out that people often do not dare ask for help. They are impeded by the belief that they should not disturb somebody else. 

This root cause is important; don’t tell people that they should ask for help more often, opt to discuss the problem during a meeting. Ask the entire team if they experience inconvenience when somebody asks for assistance. The majority of times this is not the case and this knowledge will ultimately lower the threshold. 

A second handle that we use often is the ‘change curve’. Everyone follows the same psychological trajectory from denying a problem, to frustration or resistance and, ultimately, acceptance. This is the case for both employees and executives, though some may start the trajectory sooner than others. The speed of the trajectory can also differ; one person can process a change within minutes, another within months. Some people may never be able to.

Higher management often recognizes the change much earlier than the rest of the organization. Therefore, they experience the change curve sooner. By the time the rest of the organization is informed, they have already accepted the change themselves and often cannot comprehend why the rest of the organization is not yet ready

Take, for example, a certain organization that went through a major change of direction. After months of meetings about what was needed, the management decided to share the outcome in a staff meeting. To their great displeasure, there was no immediate enthusiastic response. Half of the group did not see the impact and the other half wondered what this meant for their job. Taking people into the thought process at an early stage can help speed up the change curve.

Those wishing to prevent their employees from reverting told behaviour will need to guide the new work methodology on the work floor. Attention to both antecedents and consequences are of the utmost importance during this process. 

Shaping the correct conditions is a prerequisite for the creation of new habits. Employees must know what is expected of them and how they can achieve these goals. Organizations spend 80% of their energy on average on the creation of these antecedents. 

It is noteworthy that these prerequisites only play a small part in bringing about behavioural changes on the work floor. The largest part of the behavioural changes is caused by attaching consequences to the behaviour. This is crucial to changing somebody’s daily routine. 


In our experience, it often helps to let teams make explicit agreements over desired results and collaboration. Often, the existing situation has grown in a certain way, and it can do no harm to shake it up a bit. After this, create moments for feedback. For example, keep a frequent team dialogue, or ensure that an executive pays attention to the agreements, both written and behavioural.

Written by: Joppe Smit en Jorien Weerdenburg

IG&H and GroupLife combine forces

By | Banking, Health, Insurance, News, Pensions, Retail

Consultancy firms IG&H and GroupLife are moving forward together under the name IG&H, resulting in a specialized consulting group that is able to help realize business and technology transformations from start to finish.

Both companies have in-depth sectoral knowledge, close customer relationships, high quality people and service. By combining their expertise in strategy, organizational transformation, data analytics and technology, they will be able to more effectively help organizations with transformative matters. The new consortium includes more than 220 specialized professionals.

Execution of strategy requires integral approach

Jan van Hasenbroek, managing partner IG&H: “The rapid developments in the technology sector have an enormous impact on the business models of our clients. In order to remain successful in the future, our vision must include addressing organization and technology together. This will lead to corporate strategies being immediately operable, providing concrete results and sustainable organizational transformation. GroupLife has an impressive track record and a proven methodology in business modelling, implementation of technological platforms, and data management. That’s why a collaboration fits well within IG&H’s strategy to continually strengthen its technological ecosystem.”

Wim Groenen and Tom Bottinga, co-founders of GroupLife: “In previous projects with joint clients, we discovered that we had similar ideas about how to address complex business transformations. IG&H knows how to combine its expertise in strategy, data analytics, technology and organizational transformation with sector knowledge. We are delighted with the collaboration and together with IG&H we can make an even greater contribution to the success of our clients.”

About IG&H

IG&H is committed to help leading organisations in the financial services, retail and healthcare sectors. With 160 involved and enterprising professionals, the consultancy and implementation firm, based in Utrecht, helps organizations take steps towards radical customer centricity. They set high standards for themselves and their way of working. With in-depth knowledge and a personal approach, they aid their clients to help them improve the sector. IG&H is recognized as a ‘Great Place to Work’ and puts a lot of emphasis on a high net promotor score.

IG&H and GroupLife combine forces

By | Uncategorized

Consultancy firms IG&H and GroupLife are moving forward together under the name IG&H, resulting in a specialized consulting group that is able to help realize business and technology transformations from start to finish.

Both companies have in-depth sectoral knowledge, close customer relationships, high quality people and service. By combining their expertise in strategy, organizational transformation, data analytics and technology, they will be able to more effectively help organizations with transformative matters. The new consortium includes more than 220 specialized professionals.

Execution of strategy requires integral approach

Jan van Hasenbroek, managing partner IG&H: “The rapid developments in the technology sector have an enormous impact on the business models of our clients. In order to remain successful in the future, our vision must include addressing organization and technology together. This will lead to corporate strategies being immediately operable, providing concrete results and sustainable organizational transformation. GroupLife has an impressive track record and a proven methodology in business modelling, implementation of technological platforms, and data management. That’s why a collaboration fits well within IG&H’s strategy to continually strengthen its technological ecosystem.”

Wim Groenen and Tom Bottinga, co-founders of GroupLife: “In previous projects with joint clients, we discovered that we had similar ideas about how to address complex business transformations. IG&H knows how to combine its expertise in strategy, data analytics, technology and organizational transformation with sector knowledge. We are delighted with the collaboration and together with IG&H we can make an even greater contribution to the success of our clients.”

About IG&H

IG&H is committed to help leading organisations in the financial services, retail and healthcare sectors. With 160 involved and enterprising professionals, the consultancy and implementation firm, based in Utrecht, helps organizations take steps towards radical customer centricity. They set high standards for themselves and their way of working. With in-depth knowledge and a personal approach, they aid their clients to help them improve the sector. IG&H is recognized as a ‘Great Place to Work’ and puts a lot of emphasis on a high net promotor score.

Ruud Schoenmakers new IG&H partner within retail practice

By | News, Retail

IG&H expands the retail branch of the company with Ruud Schoenmakers as new partner. Schoenmakers joined IG&H as a consultant in 2005. Since then, he has served both national and international customers in the areas of retail, trade, logistics and financial services.

IG&H is a leading player in business transformations, where new platform technology plays an accelerating role. “Our approach is distinctive because sector experts and experts in the field of technology, data science and organisational transformation work together intensively. I really believe in that. That is why I’d like to join IG&H as a partner for a long time. By combining different competencies, strategy becomes reality and we can help our customers make a difference for their own customers,” Schoenmakers says.

The new partner is mainly involved in the changing digital retail market. In recent years he has developed innovative concepts in several areas, including smart pricing, last mile delivery, new business ventures and agile business transformations. As a sector expert he is also involved in converting traditional IT environments into high performance platforms, making customers more innovative, agile and keeping costs relevant.

Although the head office of IG&H is located in the Netherlands, Schoenmakers has gained a lot of experience abroad. He has worked in England, Poland, France, Belgium, Germany and America, among other countries.

“Ruud has proven to be able to complete major change processes for international customers. He has really helped leading retailers reach a higher level in times of disruption. This allowed them to innovate faster and respond better to customer demand. In recent years Ruud has proven to be a true IG&H person; he looks at the facts and at the same time knows how to create energy in the organisation”, says managing partner Jan van Hasenbroek.

Are we in the Dutch healthcare market looking forward to Amazon?

By | Health, Healthcare, News

Last year, Amazon entered into a partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The company also bought Pillpack, an online pharmacy. Both initiatives aim to offer good care at a low price. This step arouses unrest: the share prices of several companies in the med tech and pharmaceutical industries fell. Has a new disruptive healthcare player emerged? And what will the effect be on the Netherlands?

By entering into a partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, Amazon is circumventing the health insurer. The purchase of Pillpack and the plans to open clinics indicate that the ambitions of the web giant go beyond just financing care. If Amazon interferes with technological developments in the healthcare market, the impact will be vast. It fits in with the strength and motivation with which the company has also entered the supermarket sector, for example.

Opportunities for digital platforms in the Netherlands

In other markets, we see tech parties that bring supply and demand together on a single digital platform emerge. This excludes intermediaries, as Airbnb and Netflix are already doing.

Does Amazon have this healthcare role in mind and is their plan to take it outside the US? There are many intermediaries active in the Dutch healthcare sector, for example in health insurance, pharmacy or medical devices. For Amazon and other online disruptive players, there are plenty of opportunities to integrate and digitise the role of these intermediaries.

Exciting, because they will significantly increase the competitive pressure in the healthcare market. A platform offers many advantages in terms of ease of use and experience. It also makes the offer transparent, which lowers prices. And that is the – so far only – goal communicated by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase.

Getting a foothold is difficult

Before a digital player like Amazon gets a foothold in the Netherlands, it will have to overcome many hurdles. Our complex financing structure leaves little space for new business models. The patient is not or hardly willing to pay extra for new services, on top of the premium. This is a major entry barrier for new initiatives.

Health care systems across the globe vary considerably, making it more difficult for platforms to scale up across borders. Crucial to the success of digital platforms is the low cost of an additional user. With different systems, this success factor does not seem to work. Truly successful digital players need a minimum scale that is larger than the Dutch market alone.

To be successful, digital disruptive parties use data and algorithms. In Dutch healthcare, mass data and especially medical data are well protected by laws and regulations. Previously, the national EPD had already failed in the Senate for privacy reasons. Technological innovations in data exchange offer a solution, but are still in pilot phase and not widely implemented.

Finally, healthcare is a service par excellence for which human contact is essential. There is a relationship of trust between doctors, pharmacists and their patients. This can be supported, but it is difficult to replace it entirely by a digital platform of an American tech giant.

Pressure on these barriers is increasing: breakthroughs are imminent

However, we cannot assume that a party like Amazon will be held back by this. Health insurers are increasingly looking for innovative ways to reduce healthcare costs. This may change the payment culture among patients, making them more sensitive to the supply of new parties. Progress is also being made on digital data exchange. This will hopefully be further accelerated by the obligation to share patient data digitally, recently announced by Minister Bruins.

As a result of these developments, the aforementioned stumbling blocks for tech players are becoming less threatening. The current healthcare market can see this as an opportunity for further development. Tech players are successful because in their business operations, they put their customers first. They offer more convenience and excellent service. Ask yourself whether your organisation still meets the needs of the patient or customer to the maximum. Identify the steps you can take to match this level, perhaps in collaboration with successful tech players.

Wondering how (digital) disruptions can take your organization to the next level? At IG&H we are happy to think along with you.

By: Roos Blankena (r.blankena@igh.nl) and Linda de Jong (l.dejong@igh.nl).

Improve inventory management Wehkamp

By | Casestudys, Retail

What did the customer want:

wehkamp.nl encountered challenges in reducing working capital and stock levels while the availability of products remained unchanged. The aim was to improve internal processes and prevent unnecessary investments in distribution networks.

We took into account the following context:

  • Availability on the following day is extremely important for the business model.
  • Mixed procurement NW Europe versus Eurasia.
  • Physical limitations in the network, demanding non-profitable investments if they were not averted.

What was our approach?

  • Short quick scan and design phase to determine approach and improvement potential.
  • Agile, hands-on approach that is result oriented, and in collaboration with management and employees.
  • Weekly stand-ups with direct feedback on improving the results.
  • Focus on the largest suppliers to provide (short-term) evidence for this way of working.
  • We supported teams with data analysis to improve decision making.
  • Multiple preconditions for improving the sustainability of the solution (KPIs and incentives, organisation design, management style, supplier management, etc.)

What have we achieved?

  • In just 3 months, time stocks and working capital were reduced to 25%, the stock turns improved to 60%. The lost sales and operating costs remained unchanged.
  • The incoming receiving capacity in the distribution center improved by 35%.
  • Development of supplier performance monitor.
  • Improved collaboration between sales and operations.

What did the customer think:

“Refreshing, practical approach, with clear results. An advisor who does not only do what the client organisation wants to achieve, and thereby finds a whole new angle of approach.”

Step change in product availability Intertoys

By | Casestudys, Retail

What did the customer want:

Intertoys had to contend with poor product availability, which led to a significant loss of sales. The aim was to increase the availability of DC stock from around 50% to over 80%. The company wanted to achieve this before the start of the high season in the autumn, without increasing the total inventory levels.

What was our approach?

  • Intertoys’ assortment, together with the category management team, validated and sorted in order to identify a regularly refillable assortment.
  • Along two tracks – data quality and merchandise planning – we developed quick wins and a sustainable improvement of tools and processes to complement the right assortment with the right stock levels.
  • Development of a commercial approach to sell surplus stocks at minimum price discounts.
  • Merchandising planners trained in their new roles.

What have we achieved?

  • Availability of the DC stock rose from around 50% to over 80% over a period of about three months.
  • Increased data quality to enable a more streamlined operation.

What did the customer think:

“In a dynamic retail context, we wanted to improve the availability of the DC stock and to develop a reliable replenishment process. The IG&H approach helped us to combine quick wins with sustainable improvements in product availability and stock levels. IG&H provided the right structure and transparency for our activities through the implementation of every step of the project “

Optimalisation of a distribution centre for a large Dutch retailer

By | Casestudys, Retail

What did the customer want?

For a large Dutch retailer, the DC (distribution center) is essential. Keeping logistics costs manageable guarantees competitive prices, happy customers, and a competitive position. Our customer’s current DC is no longer sufficient, but which products will we put in the new DC, and how, and why? For the best results, we will make these decisions based on hard facts and data so that we can optimally focus on the DC.

What was our approach?

A dynamic model that determines the optimal allocation in real time, for every situation. We have built an advanced Linear Program that optimally allocates all SKUs within the DC. This optimum is determined on the basis of costs (hourly wages & productivity, return percentages, turnover rate, etc.) but also, for example, capacity and the characteristics of the SKUs. All input is fully customisable so that infinite scenarios can be compared.

What have we achieved?

On the basis of the most recent data and desired adjustments, S & OP can optimally set up the DC. S & OP not only has the tools to optimise the current situation, but can also use it for future changes. Capacity problems are already clear in advance because predictions, in combination with the tool, can determine the ideal DC of the future.

What did the customer think?

Practical logistics experts. Good balance between concepts and practical applications.