Category Archives: Retail

Retail

Performance testing at bol.com

On Monday October 12th Rob de Groot and Chris Kramer of the bol.com test automation team and development process innovation team will present on performance testing at bol.com. The presentation is for the Dutch Web Performance & Operations Meetup, as a pre-event for the WebPerfDays.

Rob and Chris will elaborate on how performance testing evolved at bol.com and show how modern tooling like Docker and Mayfly fits into the future of performance testing? Mayfly is the user story centric Continuous Delivery development platform, developed by bol.com.

The event will be hosted at bol.com headquarters in Utrecht (map).

RSVP and join!

Finding billion dollar startups in Europe

The WSJ billion dollar startup club

The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource are tracking venture-backed private companies valued at $1 billion or more. This group of companies is called the billion dollar club.

The infographic created by the WSJ can be used to track how the membership of this club evolves and what the valuation of these companies individual and as a group is. In line with the findings in the Digital Evolution Index there is a limited number of European companies in the club and their number and valuation aren’t growing as fast as Asia and USA ones.

In January 2014 only 2 of the 42 companies in the billion dollar club are from Europe. In September 2015 just 10 of the 118 are European based companies. Here is the list of billion dollar startups in Europe:

  • Spotify
  • Global Fashion Group
  • Delivery Hero
  • Powa
  • Adyen – Read: The unicorn of Amsterdam
  • BlaBlaCar
  • Klarna
  • Home24
  • Shazam
  • Farfetch
  • Funding Circle

Rocket Internet and Zalando exited the list in October 2014 because of their IPOs. All are located in the countries with the best internet infrastructure: United Kingdom (London), Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and France.

The TechCrunch billion dollar startup club

Besides WSJ and Dow Jones VentureSource TechCrunch also curates a list of Unicorns. A Unicorn being a private company with a post-money valuations of $1 billion or more. The TechCrunch Unicorn Leaderboard features one European company that isn’t listed at the WSJ’s list: Auto1 Group from Berlin, Germany.

The picture in both leader boards is the same: there is a relative low number of billion dollar European startups. It is the same in the emerging Unicorns list.

Does Europe fall behind?

Looking at both the WSJ and TechCrunch list of unicorns and the findings in the Digital Evolution Index it certainly looks like Europe is falling behind. If the EU wouldn’t agree why would they have bothered to start a digital agenda (a Europe 2020 initiative)?

Thomas Petersen has written Why is Europe failing to create more unicorns? Mainly stating that there is no true single European market, the EU doesn’t make it better for entrepreneurs (yet worse because of legislation and political sub optimisations), and there is geolocation where both money and technical knowledge gravitate to.

Besides those, there is a reason that al European unicorns are situated in the countries with the best internet infrastructure. Larger parts of Europe aren’t in that position yet.
Some of the European countries with unicorns are in the stall out group in the DESI index. Meaning that measures should be taken to get their momentum back because they run the risk of falling behind.
Again Europe should work really hard on creating a true single digital European market. Reducing the number of laws and trade barriers is key.

Another interesting week for studying organisational culture

As expected reactions, stories and initiatives didn’t halt just a week after the NY Times published: Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace. This was just the beginning of an interesting study of the culture of high demanding organisations.

Julia Cheiffetz - studying organisational cultureLast days I was moved and impressed by Julia Cheiffetz story. The Executive Editor at HarperCollins Publishers wrote about here experience at Amazon: I Had a Baby and Cancer When I Worked at Amazon. This Is My Story. If you don’t have a Medium account and don’t want to get one check the coverage and quotes on GeekWire. Julia’s story shows both upsides and downsides from the culture she experienced at Amazon. It offers a strong perspective.

Given her experience at Amazon I think she gives great feedback to Jeff Bezos in a very strong way. Feedback he asked in a reaction on the NY Times article. Julia Cheiffetz:

You asked for direct feedback. Women power your retail engine. They buy diapers. They buy books. They buy socks for their husbands on Prime. On behalf of all the people who want to speak up but can’t: Please, make Amazon a more hospitable place for women and parents. Reevaluate your parental leave policies.

And on hiding behind numbers:

You can’t claim to be a data-driven company and not release more specific numbers on how many women and people of color apply, get hired and promoted, and stay on as employees. In the absence of meaningful public data — especially retention data — all we have are stories. This is mine.

The thing here is that culture is reflected in the way you act on a daily basis. If it doesn’t show there, it is just words…

Alternative leadership principles will change the culture

Another way of providing feedback requested by Jeff Bezos, was the launch of a blog called Amazonian Manifesto. The post were published by “A Concerned Amazonian“. The text suggests that there is some collective behind this avatar.

The blog publishes alternative leadership principles for Amazon. In short they are:

  1. Obsess about the Customer
  2. Obsess about the Employee
  3. Obsess about the Partner
  4. Hire and Develop the Best
  5. Own and Fix
  6. Invent and Simplify
  7. Deliver Results

It is clear that these principles are inspired by and based on Amazon’s current leadership principles. However new dimensions are added (focus on the employee, the partner, own and fix) that are ment to heal the flaws that could lead to an unhealthy work environment. It is clear that different guidelines and measurement will lead to different results…

What if Amazon studied culture at Zappos (it owns)

Delivering Happiness - studying organisational cultureAnd what would happen if Amazon started studying organisational culture at zappos.com, a shoe and clothing shop it acquired in 2009? Zappos was founded in 1999 by among others Tony Hsieh, who wrote Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose . A book that is described as:

The visionary CEO of Zappos explains how an emphasis on corporate culture can lead to unprecedented success

and features quotes like

I made a note to myself to make sure I never lost sight of the value of a tribe where people truly felt connected and cared about the well-being of one another. To me, connectedness—the number and depth of my relationships—was an important element of my happiness

Zappos culture is obsessed with customer happiness. And Tony Hsieh is for Zappos obsessed with creating a corporate culture based on connectedness and care. That creates different and great results. The book Delivering Happiness offers great insight on how to achieve this and what choices have to be made. It is a great read.

Digital Evolution Index shows Western Europe is stalling

Earlier this year The Fletcher School published the Digital Evolution Index. The Digital Evolution Index analyses the key underlying drivers and barriers that govern a country’s evolution into a digital economy:

  • Demand – including consumer behaviours and trends, financial and Internet and social media savviness.
  • Supply – including access, fulfilment, and transactions infrastructure.
  • Institutional Environment – including government effectiveness and its role in business, laws and regulations and promoting the digital ecosystem.
  • and Innovation – including the entrepreneurial, technological and funding ecosystems, presence and extent of disruptive forces and the presence of a start-up culture and mindset.

The data/ scores for all 50 of the included countries (XLS) can be downloaded.

The index is developed to identify how a group of countries stack up against each other in terms of readiness for a digital economy. Based on the performance of countries on the index during the years 2008 to 2013 they are categorised to one of four trajectory zones: Stand Out, Stall Out, Break Out, and Watch Out.

  • Stand Out countries have shown high levels of digital development in the past and continue to remain on an upward trajectory.
  • Stall Out countries have achieved a high level of evolution in the past but are losing momentum and risk falling behind.
  • Break Out countries have the potential to develop strong digital economies. Though their overall score is still low, they are moving upward and are poised to become Stand Out countries in the future.
  • Watch Out countries face significant opportunities and challenges, with low scores on both current level and upward motion of their DEI. Some may be able to overcome limitations with clever innovations and stopgap measures, while others seem to be stuck.

How to read the Digital Evolution trajectory chart

Digital Evolution Index
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The Digital Evolution trajectory chart

The Digital Evolution trajectory chart
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In the example of The Netherlands, their Digital Evolution index is still top-10, however the Evolution within the Digital Ecosystem is at the bottom of the 50 included countries. Similar data is seen for more Western European countries. Of that region the United Kingdom and Ireland are just in the group of Stand Out countries.

Harvard Business Review uses the Digital Evolution Index to compare The Netherlands and Singapore:

Take, for example, Singapore and The Netherlands. Both are among the top 10 countries in present levels of digital evolution. But when we consider the momentum – i.e., the five-year rate of change from 2008 to 2013 – the two countries are far apart. Singapore has been steadily advancing in developing a world-class digital infrastructure, through public-private partnerships, to further entrench its status as a regional communications hub. Through ongoing investment, it remains an attractive destination for start-ups and for private equity and venture capital. The Netherlands, meanwhile, has been rapidly losing steam. The Dutch government’s austerity measures beginning in late 2010 reduced investment into elements of the digital ecosystem. Its stagnant, and at times slipping, consumer demand led investors to seek greener pastures.

Actions for Western Europe

The Stall Out economies of Europe, including the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium and France, could jumpstart their recovery by taking advantage of increased regional integration, selling goods across national borders to the 500+ million consumers in the wider EU.

The Washington Post is skeptical on the creation of a single European digital market. In June 2015 an article stated that it will be hard for Europe to overcome their innovation deficit. This is largely due to confusing and complex national regulations.

Besides that Stall Out countries are also tend to be “aging”. Attracting talented, young immigrants can help revive innovation.

Germany is also in the Stall Out countries but is home to a very ambitious company Rocket Internet. Their mission:

To Become the World’s Largest Internet Platform Outside the United States and China

They have been busy launching e-commerce start-ups across a wide range of emerging and frontier markets. Their companies are poised to become the Alibabas and Amazons for the rest of the world: Jumia, which operates in nine countries across Africa; Namshi in the Middle East; Lazada and Zalora in ASEAN; Jabong in India; and Kaymu in 33 markets across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Update October 2015

In the last days of October 2015 HBR published a post: Europe’s other crisis a digital recession. It looks into how Europe has dealt with falling behind in the digital era. The post covers 3 reactions:

  • Frustration with — and even rejection and censure of — the more dominant U.S. position.
  • At the regulatory and policy levels, authorities have doggedly pursued U.S. tech companies.
  • Acknowledgement by the President of the European Commission (EC), Jean-Claude Juncker, of Europe’s severe digital decline. The EC’s pronouncements signal the beginnings of a “Digital Maastricht Treaty.” The proposal is to create a “Digital Single Market” in the EU.

The story offers Europe 4 take aways:

  1. Harmonizing across the e-commerce value chain.
  2. Reforming immigration policies.
  3. Investing in innovation capacity.
  4. Developing a risk-tolerant culture.

Links and references

Interesting days for studying organisational culture

These are interesting days for those studying organisational culture or are just interested in this field. It all started this weekend when the NY Times published: Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace. The newspaper that won 117 Pulitzer Prices devoted two reporters for six months to this article that is very critical on the organisation culture at Amazon.com. The article was said to be based on interviews with more than 100 current and former Amazon employees.

A lot of reactions focussed on the bias of the NY Times article. An Amazonian posted a respons on LinkedIn . This post can be seen as a a point-by-point rebuttal.

Amazon is a big company, and gets referenced often. I’ve read many articles that describe us. Some are more accurate than others. Sadly, this isn’t one of them. This particular article, has so many inaccuracies (some clearly deliberate), that, as an Amazonian, and a proud one at that, I feel compelled to respond.

The NY Times gave room for the view of Jeff Bezos and other Amazonians as it published Jeff Bezos and Amazon Employees Join Debate Over Its Culture. And of course there is an internal memo from Jeff Bezos (that can be found at the end of this page and on Medium):

Jeff Bezos:

… The NYT article prominently features anecdotes describing shockingly callous management practices, including people being treated without empathy while enduring family tragedies and serious health problems. The article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day. But if you know of any stories like those reported, I want you to escalate to HR. You can also email me directly atjeff@amazon.com. Even if it’s rare or isolated, our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero. …

The case study continues

That’s were our study of organisational culture continues: Where’s the truth? Is Amazon.com the hell in Seattle? How does this large influential company really behave and does it live up to it’s values. Since the company published its leadership principles we know what it uses to judge itself (or at least says it should use).

Several articles and posts tried to discover the point of view that is closest to the truth (if there is one). GeekWire spoke with a wide range (so probably not the over 100 that NY Times did) of current and former employees to get their take on the story and their insights into the company. It offers a more balanced view. And more and more it becomes clear that perception is everything.

Journalistic questions about The Times’ exposé

And there are other questions to be asked when looking into this matter. That is just what Jeff Jarvis (known by me for his book What would Google do?, but there is more) does in his article Hacking Through Amazon’s Jungle of Coverage.

  • The NY Times article isn’t transparant to what standard is Amazon being held.
  • Another problem to Jarvis is that The Times should have presented enough of conflicting evidence so that we could weigh evidence and decide for ourselves.
  • The Times did not say until halfway down its very long piece that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, which some say is closing in on The Times.

And as Jarvis states:

… one starts to believe The Times might have an agenda, one is left trying to suss out what it might be: against Amazon and its owner, Bezos, who is a competitor; against technology, a direction too much of media is taking…

So the discussion moves to how well the NY Times did on this article and moves away from what should be the focus: issues that arise from high demanding work / work places.

And what did it show me?

Reading all the quotes and soundbites of former and current employees I once again realised that perception is everything. It is not just the NY Times that wasn’t clear to what standards Amazon.com is being judges, none of the employees are clear on this either. What are their expectations of their employer?
And I don’t have SMART criteria either. I tend to benchmark my current employer to previous ones and to my impression of how it is like to work at other organisations. Besides that I’ve been working for smaller companies, I think that I could quite easy come up with former colleagues that were let go that would either bash the work place and it’s culture or to some level agree that there wasn’t a good enough fit.

That leaves me with the question how to deal with the issues that could arise from high demanding work places? What are the issues (in specific cases)? Are there ways of organising or designing an organisation to deal with these? Could we train people to handle the issues we can’t find counter measures for? Please share your thought in the comments…

fulfillment vernieuwingen

Normaal gesproken staat het domein van fulfillment niet volop in de aandacht vanwege de nieuwe ontwikkelingen. In de afgelopen maand heeft bol.com twee fulfillment vernieuwingen aangekondigd, waar ik met mijn collega architecten een bijdrage aan heb geleverd:

Bol.com bouwt eigen fulfillment center voor groei en innovatie

Een eigen fulfilment center biedt meer ruimte om verder te groeien. Daarnaast zorgt het ervoor dat we ons assortiment en onze diensten zoals ‘Vandaag Ophalen’ en ‘Logistiek via bol.com’ kunnen blijven uitbreiden. Ook biedt het de mogelijkheid om verder te kunnen innoveren met een nog snellere en betrouwbaardere levering. Gemak voor klanten staat daarbij voorop.

fulfillment centerHet nieuwe fulfillment center, dat in 2017 zijn deuren zal openen zal bij de opening circa 50.000m2 grondoppervlakte hebben. Dat is te vergelijken is met zeven voetbalvelden. De komst van het nieuwe bol.com fulfilment center betekent voor Waalwijk en omgeving opnieuw een groei in het aantal arbeidsplaatsen.

Bol.com kiest voor eigen DC en handmatig pickproces

Naar aanleiding van het bovenstaande nieuws gaf de logistiek directeur van bol.com Huub Vermeulen een interview aan het blad Logistiek. Dit achtergrond artikel geeft een interessant inkijkje in e-fulfillment bij bol.com.

Korting bij aankoop van de grond in Waalwijk

Volgens het Brabants Dagblad heeft Bol.com heeft een fikse korting gekregen op grond die het in Waalwijk heeft gekocht voor de bouw van een nieuw distributiecentrum. Uit de hypotheekakte blijkt dat de webshop voor 10,6 miljoen euro tien hectare grond heeft gekocht aan de Kloosterheulweg nummer 14. Omgerekend betaalt de dochter van Ahold 106 euro per vierkante meter, exclusief btw. Dat is fors minder dan de prijs die de gemeente Waalwijk doorgaans voor haar grond vraagt; 140 euro per vierkante meter.

Vandaag ophalen – Same day delivery betaalbaar

bol.com afhaalpuntDe andere fulfillment vernieuwing waar klanten direct van profiteren is Vandaag Ophalen. Vandaag ophalen is een nieuwe dienst die vandaag leveren betaalbaar en makkelijk maakt. Klanten kunnen al binnen enkele uren na bestelling hun pakketje ophalen bij Albert Heijn. Bestellingen die op werkdagen ’s morgens vóór 12.00 uur zijn gedaan, liggen nog dezelfde dag ’s middags klaar bij het afhaalpunt, uiterlijk om 17.00 uur.

Michel Schaeffer, marketingdirecteur bij bol.com:

Binnen e-commerce maken nog maar weinig consumenten gebruik van ‘same day delivery’, omdat ze meestal niet bereid zijn hoge bezorgkosten te betalen. Bij de ontwikkeling van Vandaag Ophalen hebben wij dan ook lage kosten voorop gezet. Door de bezorging van bestellingen te combineren met een dagelijkse bezigheid – boodschappen doen – hebben we de dienst niet alleen betaalbaar maar ook makkelijk gemaakt. Zo kunnen consumenten op één moment van de dag in één winkel terecht voor al hun aankopen. Hiermee maken we ‘same day delivery’ toegankelijk en bewijzen we opnieuw dat online winkelen oneindig veel mogelijkheden heeft.

Contentcuratie met expertlijsten

expertlijst boekenMet ruim 9 miljoen producten in de winkel valt er natuurlijk van alles te ontdekken in een winkel als bol.com. Om je te inspireren en wegwijs te maken in dit enorme aantal, worden er steeds meer experts en productkenners uitgenodigd om expertlijsten te maken.

Naast productspecialisten in dienst van bol.com krijgen verkopers, leveranciers en affiliate partners de mogelijkheid om selecties te maken en zo bezoekers van bol.com te inspireren met hun unieke assortimentscuratie. Uiteindelijk kan iedere gebruiker van bol.com straks zelf een selectie maken van artikelen; vanuit een bepaald thema, een hobby, een actualiteit, specifieke vakkennis of vanuit persoonlijke favorieten. Als lijstmaker kan je zelf een selectie samenstellen uit het omvangrijke assortiment.

Op dit moment loopt de pilot. Ik kreeg de kans om een aantal expertlijsten aan te maken. Je kan ze hier vinden:

Heb je opmerkingen of vragen over de expertlijsten, laat een gerust comment achter.

Presentaties februari 2015

Voor februari 2015 staan er diverse presentaties op de planning met name op het gebied van architectuur en agile:

Kennissesies agile architectuur bij Ordina

Op 5 februari organiseert Ordina een kennissessie over agile architectuur in de praktijk. Net als op het LAC zal ik een presentatie houden over de waarde van architectuur en time-to-market. Waarin ik laat zien dat juist architectuur waarde en snelheid kan bieden bij de time-to-market. Dit aan de hand van voorbeelden uit de praktijk bij bol.com .

Symposium Move IT – Logistieke optimalisaties mbv Big Data

Big Data machinesOp 11 februari organiseert studievereniging Inter-Actief Symposium Move IT. Een symposium waarop transport, logistiek en distributie centraal staan. Thema van de presentatie die ik samen met een collega van de afdeling logistiek geef is: Wat is de rol van IT en big data bij het optimaliseren van de performance in de logistieke keten?

Bol.com heeft ruim 5 miljoen klanten in Nederland en België. Met ruim 9 miljoen artikelen en 15 miljoen kliks per dag is bol.com het schoolvoorbeeld van een big data omgeving. Om alle klanten optimaal te kunnen bedienen, moeten onze IT-systemen optimaal werken. De IT-organisatie neemt daarom een cruciale rol in, met 31 scrumteams die worden ingezet op alle organisatieniveaus.

Door deze multidisciplinaire teams worden continue verbeteringen geanalyseerd, ontwikkeld en live gebracht. Dit allemaal in nauwe samenwerking met bijvoorbeeld de logistieke afdeling.

De afdeling Logistiek is verantwoordelijk voor het betrouwbaar en stabiel houden van de supply chain. Daarnaast worden logistieke oplossingen bedacht en uitgewerkt. Dit betekent dat voortdurend alle logistieke processen en systemen onder de loep genomen worden en vernieuwen. Samen zorgen IT en Logistiek dat systemen en applicaties van bijvoorbeeld het ordermanagement optimaal functioneren.


Architectuur in agile omgeving

Daarnaast zijn er twee presentaties / Q&A sessies gepland met bedrijven uit diverse sectoren waarin we laten zien aan de hand van praktijkvoorbeelden hoe binnen bol.com architectuur wordt ingevuld in een agile omgeving. Daarbij gaan we zeker in op hoe je scrum gebruikt in een software ontwikkelomgeving met meer dan 30 teams.

Presentatie op LAC congres – Agile architectuur presentatie

verleiding - Agile architectuur presentatieWoensdag 26 november en donderdag 27 november is het jaarlijkse LAC congres. Dit congres voor architecten in de wereld van organisatie en IT heeft dit jaar als thema: “Architectuur in Actie“.

Presentatie Afweging waarde van architectuur en time-to-market

Op donderdag zal ik een Agile architectuur presentatie geven in de track architecuur in actie: “Afweging waarde van architectuur en time-to-market

Zo’n beetje iedere architect of ontwikkelaar komt op het minst in de verleiding: een snellere time to market realiseren ten koste van de architectuur of de kwaliteit van de implementatie. Het komt voor in software-aanpassingen, maar ook meteen bij de introductie van nieuwe technologie. Aan de hand van voorbeelden uit de afgelopen twee jaar, laten we zien hoe we hier bij Bol.com mee omgaan. Bij een bewuste keuze kan architectuur of de architect wel eens de factor zijn die de versnelling kan realiseren.


Het complete programma van het LAC congres.

Book – The everything store

The everything store

The everything storeThe idea of the everything store was simple: an Internet company that served as the intermediary between customers and manufacturers and sold nearly every type of product, all over the world. It is the story of Amazon.com, one of the most successful companies in the world. And the story of its driven founder Jeff Bezos.

Reading the book I think that there are a few defining moments and lessons. Frugality is an important factor in retailing and especially for amazon:

Frugality We try not to spend money on things that don’t matter to customers. Frugality breeds resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for headcount, budget size or fixed expense. All of this comes from Bezos himself. Amazon’s values are his business principles, molded through two decades of surviving in the thin atmosphere of low profit margins and fierce skepticism from the outside world. In a way, the entire company is scaffolding built around his brain—an amplification machine meant to disseminate his ingenuity and drive across the greatest possible radius.

Ever since the late 1990s, Bezos had been claiming that Amazon was a technology company pioneering e-commerce, not a retailer. But that sounded like wishful thinking. Amazon still collected a vast majority of its revenues by selling stuff to customers. Despite Bezos’s protestations, Amazon looked, smelled, walked, and quacked like a retailer—and not a very profitable one at that… However

It was the combination of EC2 and S3—storage and compute, two primitives linked together—that transformed both AWS and the technology world. Startups no longer needed to spend their venture capital on buying servers and hiring specialized engineers to run them. Infrastructure costs were variable instead of fixed, and they could grow in direct proportion to revenues. It freed companies to experiment, to change their business models with a minimum of pain, and to keep up with the rapidly growing audiences of erupting social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Today in 2014 Amazon’s cloud keeps growing fast. It has invented a market in the computer industry with a great future.