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Blokker

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Promotions are part of the daily routine of the average retailer in the Netherlands. This is no different at Blokker. There is a lot involved in properly organising and arranging a promotional campaign. Mansystems/FlowFabric has developed a solution especially for this, Promotie Manager application.

Nannet Boonstra, IT project manager at Blokker, and Branko Sandifort, Mendix Business Consultant at Mansystems/FlowFabric, discuss the promotions process at Blokker and how Mansystems/FlowFabric provides support in streamlining this.

Blokker is a well-known retailer in the Netherlands. Please continue.

"Blokker's got everything for your home, that's what it is known for. Blokker has been around for more than 100 years, and has traditionally been a family business. I don't think there's a Dutch person who is not familiar with Blokker. At Blokker we have been working on system & process improvements in recent years and on responding to and meeting the current needs of the consumer."

Is that why optimisation of the promotions process was started?

Nannet: "Yes. We do a lot of promotions at Blokker and this is becoming increasingly diverse. For example, we have a dedicated promotional leaflet for each promotion period. Traditionally, promotions were always prepared in Excel. But as the number of promotions increased, not everyone had a good overview anymore, so things often went wrong. At that point we started talking about implementing a tool and a new workflow."

How does the application contribute to the business objectives of Blokker?

Nannet: "The application mainly contributes to improving transparency, increasing the quality of promotions and creating a less error-prone process. There are many different departments involved in a promotion, from category management to supply chain and the Promotions Team. In the application you can see for each promotion where your colleagues are in the process. Everyone works with the same data in the same application. This ensures a high degree of transparency and quality assurance."

Do fewer things go wrong with a promotion when Promotie Manager is used?

Nannet: "Yes. And fewer mistakes goes hand in hand with a degree of time saving, because you do it right the first time and have fewer correction rounds."

Is it true that you have a more elaborate version of Promotie Manager?

Branko: "This is correct. In particular, Blokker has extra functionalities for the change process. This means that when a promotion has already been approved and completed, the changes that follow are checked through the workflow. Blokker is one of the few companies in the Netherlands that has set up this process in such a tightly organised manner."

Nannet: "This was very important for us. We produce a lot of promotional leaflets, and a lot changes during the process. It is precisely during this change process that we want to keep a close eye on what is changing and ensure that nothing goes wrong there. Together with Mansystems/FlowFabric, we have expanded the current functionality so that our own process is optimally supported."

How many changes are there and what does this involve?

Branko: "When we were just starting to improve the change process, there were an average of 70 changes per week."

Nannet: "Yes, and maybe even more."

Branko: "If an item is no longer available or a price has changed, a change immediately occurs."

Nannet: "Or deleting an article, or moving a promotion to a different week, it can be all sorts of things."

Have those changes now been reduced with the help of Promotie Manager?

Nannet: "The arrival of Promotie Manager has brought about a tauter and better process with fewer (unnecessary) errors, as a result of which the number of corrections (i.e. changes) has decreased."

Branko: "There is now greater insight into the change, and greater grip and transparency within the change process. This makes it possible to learn from changes. The sooner it can be tackled, the better it is for the organisation, the various departments and the process."

What other changes in the promotions process has Promotie Manager brought about?

Nannet: "Working with Promotie Manager ensures a structured process and means we work more efficiently. Everyone now works in the same application and with the same data, which has improved quality!

Branko: "The data in Promotie Manager is fed in from the source systems. So the employees do not enter the data themselves. That also ensures greater quality."

Nannet: "That's right, it's less prone to error as a result. The biggest improvements are therefore in the areas of quality and susceptibility to errors. Other improved areas are the cooperation between team members and the transparency that the application offers. It is now clear to everyone what we are going to do, when we are going to do it and what this is going to deliver."

Branko, you say that data is fed in from the source systems, what do you mean by that?

Branko: "First, each category had its own Excel document, these were then combined, emptied and merged. Now there is a single system in which everyone works. The data from this is loaded from the external systems into the application, for example the delivery of items. Because of this, the data is always up to date and correct, because there are not 10 different people entering the data."

Branko Sandifort

"The promotion process is a constantly changing one within retail, including at Blokker. This ensures that processes are continuously improved and therefore also the process in Promotie Manager. We are making the application smarter every day, in order to take more and more work off our hands."

So do you no longer have to enter any data yourselves?

Nannet: "Yes, but we only need to enter the promotions. This still takes a lot of time, but the application also makes it possible to duplicate these promotions. Often a promotion has a cycle of several weeks. So when a promotion is repeated, all you have to do is duplicate it from a previous promotion. This is going to save time, because you no longer have to enter each promotion separately.

Branko: "Creating a promotion is indeed a lot of manual work at the moment. The application makes it possible to make use of promotions that have already been entered in the past. This means that the entry process should get faster and faster. Even updating the promotional data could eventually be automated."

What would have been the impact if you hadn't implemented Promotie Manager?

Nannet: "A lot of frustration among the staff. Lots of mistakes, dissatisfied customers. Because if something goes wrong in the process beforehand, those mistakes feed through to the leaflet, and ultimately this negatively affects the communication towards the customer. It is also no longer appropriate to use Excel when working on an important integrated business process."

How long will it take for the application pay for itself?

Nannet: "It's hard to give a quantitative answer to that. But qualitatively speaking, it's hard to imagine that we would still have been working in Excel."

Are there any wishes for the future?

Nannet: "Ensuring that the process continues to improve and integrate multiple facets of the promotion process into Promotie Manager. Recently, the communications team has started editing the texts for promotional leaflets in Promotie Manager. In 2020, we will look at the extent to which we can integrate Space Management into the tool. The package of communication channels is also becoming increasingly diverse and we will facilitate these preparation processes in the tool so that it is clear to all stakeholders and can be applied by them.

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