Bol.com
Case

Bol.com & Finext: Flexibly responding to the market

with Vena

Bol.com is growing rapidly, both through organic growth and the development of new business models. This requires agility and speed from the finance department. To achieve this, the online retail platform engages Finext to switch to Vena Solutions for flexible and detailed insights per virtual store.

Bol.com and Finext: Flexibly responding to the market

For bol.com, responding flexibly to the market and zooming in on details is crucial. "We want to forecast at a granular level for all our stores," says Erik van Rossem, senior business planning controller at bol.com. The organization is decentralized, with a lot of autonomy for the 40 virtual stores. "Previously, we used one big Excel model for the input from all the stores. Then you are mainly concerned with getting the data together and making a conclusive forecast, instead of getting to the bottom of the drivers," explains Juriaan Verberck of bol.com.

Growth in numbers and business models

Since its opening in 1999, bol.com has developed tremendously, both in terms of sales and product offerings. While the platform focused primarily on selling books online at the start, it now sells 22 million items to more than 10 million customers. In addition to selling its own products, there are more than twenty thousand partners who sell through bol.com.

The rapid growth is twofold, Erik explains, "We are growing both organically, by dozens of percent a year, and through the development of new business models." This growth is the reason for moving to a Performance Management solution. "We want to be able to properly summarize the story of the business in numbers, so we know what dot on the horizon we want to get to. We can then steer toward that with driver-based goals," Erik continues.

Neutral view during careful tool selection

The choice of a Performance Management solution is taken seriously by bol.com. A broad selection process is started, with a longlist of 12 parties. This longlist leads to 8 demos and 3 Proof of Concepts (POCs).

During tool selection, Finexters play a major role. "We wanted Finext involved because of their neutral view. Every software vendor tells a great story, but Finext implements all the tools so they can paint a real picture of what is available in the market." "Every situation is different. That requires a measured process to arrive at the tool that best suits the organization's goals," says Maarten Bronda, involved in tool selection from Finext.

The choice fell on Vena Solutions, with flexibility being a key argument. "In Vena, we found that splitting up a country or adding a new store was easy to do ourselves," says Juriaan. "We don't want to have to wait for consultants for every change. If something changes in the business, we want to be able to adjust it quickly in the tool."

"Vena is flexible and quick to fathom for 'financials'. We could really do the implementation together with bol.com, which contributed enormously to the final result," says Rogier Louter, closely involved in the implementation process within bol.com as a consultant from Finext.

Rapid implementation of Vena

During the implementation this is also apparent in practice; within a few months Vena is implemented, with Erik and Juriaan doing much of it themselves. The time for this is made available by the deployment of an interim controller from Finext who takes over Erik and Juriaan's regular tasks. This allows both controllers to free up 40% of their time for the implementation.

Juriaan and Erik are therefore positive about the cooperation with Finext. "Because we had such good support during the preliminary process, we chose to do the implementation with Finext as well. That turned out well," Erik explains. "Experts from Finext also contributed ideas around setting up the model and the tree of dimensions. Without that knowledge, we would never have been able to build such a clean, maintainable, environment."

Flexibly responding to the market

The online retail organization is excited about Vena's results. "From finance, we have to be able to keep up with the growth of the organization. In an Excel world where everything is tied together, adding a new business model has so much impact on the results that it is almost impossible to do it without error. Now we are able to react quickly and add more cross-sections," Juriaan says.

"We want to facilitate the organization to be agile and to respond flexibly to the market. Vena supports us in this."

This flexibility fits with bol.com's strategy to respond quickly to developments in the market. "We want to facilitate the organization to be agile and react in a short cyclical way," Erik explains. "Take the rise of audiobooks. Seven years ago, we couldn't have known that audiobooks would emerge, but we had to issue a schedule."

The increased flexibility also provides a new challenge. "Technology is no longer a limiting factor," Erik explains. "The new limiting factor is on the human side; do people understand what they are asking for? More understanding also means filling in a multitude of variables. If they use the tool properly, users spend only a quarter of the time forecasting. That time gain, however, is marginalized as the demand for detail increases."

Removing limits from Excel

Vena is now mainly used for P&L, balance sheet, cash flow and store planning. However, Erik and Juriaan see many more applications for Vena within the organization: "In the future, we want to use the tool not only for finance, but also for employee turnover, logistics and customer service, for example. We are only at the beginning; many organizational units can benefit from it. Everyone runs into the limits of Excel, so let's use the power of Vena to remove those limits."