Shaping the future of food retail: Jumbo’s best practices

By 26 August 2019Podcast, Podcast

Shaping the future of food retail: Jumbo’s best practices

Family-owned supermarket chain Jumbo entered the Dutch market in 1979. Thanks to the acquisition of other supermarket chains such as Super de Boer and C1000, the yellow giant can now call itself the second biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, with 646 stores and 80,000 employees. The Jumbo Tech Campus (JTC) was established two years ago. But why would a supermarket open a tech campus?

In our podcast, Innovative Leaders by INFO, Head of Jumbo Tech Campus, Anneke Keller, talks about the necessity for a tech campus. She also discusses the Jumbo formula, agile working, pathfinders, making mistakes, the paper-cone model, and how the best practices of others become the best practices of Jumbo.

This podcast is also available on Spotify en Apple Podcast. Please note this podcast is in Dutch.


The Jumbo formula

At the JTC, they ensure that Jumbo is as online and digital as its customers. Keller begins: “The technology serves the Jumbo formula.” The Jumbo formula is based on the fact that grocery shopping should be as swift and smooth as possible: “At Jumbo, everything is focused on the customer. That is why we started the Jumbo Tech Campus,” states Keller. “To facilitate growth and to make sure that we can offer our customers the functionalities that they want.”

But how do they know what the customer wants? Keller explains that they actively ask for feedback and that their customers are more than happy to oblige. Whether the feedback comes from the site, through social media or from the store clerks, Jumbo always knows what’s up with their customers. “And we then use that feedback to create nice new things for [the customers],” says Keller.

Jumbo bushalte Neude

One Jumbo

Of course, Keller doesn’t make these “nice new things” by herself. Together with her management team, she is responsible for the JTC, which consists of 40 agile-working teams. The various IT departments that were previously spread out over the organization are united on Campus. To ensure that customers have the same experience online as in-store, the JTC works towards an omnichannel strategy. As Keller describes it: “One process, one culture, one way of working, one whole, one Jumbo.”


Agile way of working

Sometimes it’s hard to unite commerce with creativity. The salespeople want to grow fast, whilst the creatives want to create cool stuff. Keller innovatively solved this eternal dilemma by linking each JTC team to a product owner from the relevant department. The product owners monitor the backlog and make sure that the item with the most business value goes to the top of the list. In addition, the various management teams jointly determine the strategic priorities of the company, so that everyone is working towards the same goal(s). Keller also states that it helps that “technology just became more interesting” over the recent years and that as a result “the discussion [about technology] isn’t limited to the IT department anymore”.

“One process, one culture, one way of working, one whole, one Jumbo.”

Anneke Keller - Jumbo Tech Campus | INFO Podcast

Industry best practices

Jumbo “only” started the JTC two years ago. Isn’t that a little late considering other companies that have been doing this for many years? Keller doesn’t think so, she mostly sees benefits: “Because we learn from other companies, we move faster. We’re very exteriorly focused, we aren’t about to reinvent the wheel every time.” This doesn’t mean that Keller simply copy-pastes technology and strategies from competitors and other tech-based companies, she always makes sure to check what works for Jumbo. In addition, due to her rich career history (KPN, TomTom, Coolblue), she has plenty of experience herself and knows that she can count on the experience and expertise of her co-workers.

“Because we learn from other companies, we move faster. We’re very exteriorly focused, we aren’t about to reinvent the wheel every time.”


Jumbo’s best practices

Although Keller says that she likes to look at other companies’ best practices, Jumbo has a couple of its own. First of all, JTC uses pathfinders. The pathfinders are a team of fifteen people who all have their own hard skills and they umbrella the other teams. They communicate with everybody in the company and share their knowledge and wisdom as widely as possible, so that all teams may benefit from it. They translate feedback from the organization and the customer to specific items on the backlog.

A second best practice is to keep the organization as “flat” as possible: “With a family-owned business like Jumbo decisions and corrections are easy and fast.”
Another thing that Jumbo does really well is failing. Keller says that she encourages her team to “become proficient in what goes wrong now”. She believes in the age-old adages ‘learning by doing and ‘learning from your mistakes. Keller: “The faster you learn, the faster you’ll be able to innovate and that is the Tech Campus’ goal.”

No big bang

Another goal of the JTC is to make software in a modern way. For Jumbo, this means that they won’t be doing any more “big-bang releases”. Keller explains that these types of releases usually take a lot of time and that more often than not the software used is already outdated by the time of the release. That’s why Keller likes to work with shorter sprints: “You then quickly see the results of your work and the effect it has on the organization. And you’re more flexible, making mistakes less dramatic and systems more stable.”


The paper-cone model

What also needs to be stable is the corporate culture. Keller states that pathfinders play an important role in establishing and maintaining corporate culture, but there’s something else as well. As the NextGen Leader she is, she believes in the paper-cone model. Do you know how Dutch people get their French fries in a paper-cone-shaped bag with a big dollop of mayonnaise on top? Keller compares her place in the organization to be at the bottom of the bag. The top layer – the best one, the one with the mayonnaise – consists of customers. The middle layer is made up of Jumbo employees that interact with the customers on a daily basis. All the way at the bottom of the bag, we find the managers who are responsible for facilitating the top-two layers. Fries may be bad for your body, but they’re great for your company ;-).


Dutch-style innovation

When asked, Keller indicates that they are not too concerned with the innovations that their (mostly American) colleagues make the six o’clock news with. So no drone deliveries for now. Keller: “We are looking into it, but we think it is more important to be able to capitalize on opportunities that arise in the market.”

That is why Keller uses the aforementioned omnichannel strategy, in which the store, the website, and the app will be further integrated with each other in the coming five years for a seamless customer journey through all facets of the company. Her answer when asked about possible speed bumps on the road to Jumbo’s omnichannel shows that Keller, like many of her NextGen-Leader peers, thinks in terms of possibilities: “I think that’s a difficult question. I think nothing will stand in our way, as long as we make sure that we are sufficiently agile to respond to the market,” she concludes.

Listen to the complete Dutch podcast here.

Jumbo bezorgservice Amsterdam

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