Colruyt Group

How data travel faster and better between suppliers and retailers

For a retailer with an annual turnover of almost 10 billion euro, integration projects are a regular occurrence to improve the contacts between the different retailers of Belgian Colruyt Group and their suppliers. The ability to respond quickly to new demands is crucial. That is why about half of the specialists in the expert department are Solita specialists. 

“Everything we do is related to order to cash. It’s about analysis, automation and integration into other systems.” Robbie Van Hoegaerden summarises the activities of the BCom team within Colruyt Group. Behind these two sentences, however, lies an important activity for the retail group that is the Belgian Colruyt Group.

After all, it includes a number of supermarkets (Colruyt Lowest Prices, Spar, Bio-Planet), but also specialised brands such as the Dreamland toy chain and the Bike Republic bicycle store, and even petrol stations (DATS24) and a sustainable energy producer (Eoly). Together good for a turnover of almost 10 billion euro.

Colruyt Group Corporate OU

“It’s extremely important for a retailer to be able to easily process all information from suppliers, to be able to take the right action and then to store and archive the information in an orderly manner,” the Team Manager of the BCom team continues. “We ‘translate’ all the information that our retailers receive and process it internally so that it’s easily searchable and can be linked to receipts, for example.”

Industry proven standards

In order to standardise that information as much as possible, the BCom team (which stands for Business Communication) developed a canonical model that uses industry proven standards.

“For us, it was extremely important to ensure uniformity. Logically, each company in our group had its own rules, but this is obviously not workable.”
-Robbie Van Hoegaerden

SoftwareAG webMethods product supplements in-house tools

A striking feature of Colruyt Group is the reflex to develop as many activities as possible in-house. The group has the largest communication agency in Belgium in its ranks, it has an extensive technical team, its own leasing company and a real estate team. This way of working also has consequences for IT. Traditionally, it has often opted for tools and software it has developed itself.

Colruyt Group BCOM schematic

“We have since abandoned this approach,” says Robbie Van Hoegaerden. “We now make full use of the SoftwareAG webMethods integration software, especially the components BPM (Process Management Platform) and Trading Networks (which allows us to link with the data of other companies).”

Need for flexible sourcing

It’s here that Solita’s story within the BCom team also begins. “When I started in this team two years ago, I quickly noticed that people were under a lot of pressure,” says Robbie Van Hoegaerden.

“We needed flexible sourcing. That is how I came into contact with Solita. When the person came along, I immediately had a very good feeling about it. The fact that this person is still working in the team is the best proof that I was not mistaken.”

However, it was not the start of Solita’s story at Colruyt Group. It had already been working for the Belgian retailer since 2011. There already was a partnership at the enterprise level, which also led to technical architect, Dries Van Marcke, explaining the group’s integration strategy at the Solita Frontline Summit in 2021.

Meanwhile, the BCom team, which expanded itself, has 5 people from Solita. “For me, three elements are important to achieve a good cooperation,” adds Robbie Van Hoegaerden. “All the Solita employees I know also have these in common. It’s about knowledge of integration software. The employees know how to leverage integration software to provide long-lasting business value. In addition, I look for drive and passion. And finally, I find it important that there is a match in terms of values and the mission of Colruyt Group. That is also the case here.”

"I find it important that there is a match in terms of values and the mission of Colruyt Group. That is also the case here.”Robbie Van Hoegaerden, Team Manager of the BCom team

Internal job rotation

It’s probably precisely this last element that results in Robbie Van Hoegaerden not viewing external consultants as external suppliers.

“For me, they are equal to internal colleagues. I include them in all meetings, involve them in all projects. It is also important for them to have a good overview of all current projects and to learn from other projects.”

It also leads to Solita employees taking on different roles within Colruyt Group as well. “Internally, the job rotation is high and that also plays a role for Solita employees,” says Robbie Van Hoegaerden.

“Of course, it helps that they can take on different roles themselves. Integration developer or solution analyst, for most of them it makes no difference. I notice that Solita is also positioning itself more and more around data. Opportunities will probably come up in that area too.”

“Internally, the job rotation is high and that also plays a role for Solita employees.”
Robbie Van Hoegaerden

Track ‘n trace tobacco

Robbie Van Hoegaerden concludes with a concrete project to which Solita made an important contribution: “Last year, the government decided that a clear ‘track ‘n trace’ system had to be set up for the entire flow of tobacco sales. This is to discourage the evasion of excise duties. For us, this meant that we had to digitise all documents, automate the flow and link everything together: shipping information, invoicing and remittance advice. Since it was an obligation, there was a hard deadline.”

“What was interesting, by the way, was that this project did not stop at Colruyt Group. Our Spar branch managers are self-employed. We also had to help them with these administrative processes. It shows how challenging the integration processes are here.”

Watch the Solita Frontline Summit recording from 2021, where technical architect Dries Van Marcke explains Colruyt group’s integration strategy.