By Cliff de Laat

One of the key principles for Middle managers in Agile environments is choosing to focus on trust over control. In my personal experience I have seen Middle managers offering a lot of space and trust in which people are really empowered to be their best self at work. The complete opposite, I have also seen Middle managers trying to control every situation. Not allowing any room for failure or growing of the talents of the team.

Our Middle managers are caught between a rock and a hard place. Targets from their bosses and the teams struggling to deliver on their challenges. It is not easy but nobody ever said it was easy. It requires some bravery but I believe this is one of the key-principles to get the right results. This principle acknowledges the need to empower teams, foster collaboration, and encourage autonomy, while also providing the necessary guidance and oversight to ensure alignment with organizational goals and objectives.

1.     Trust as the Foundation: Trust is the cornerstone of Agile environments. Middle managers should trust their teams to make informed decisions, take ownership of their work, and deliver value. By enforcing an environment of trust, Middle managers enable teams to self-organize and become more innovative, motivated, and productive. Trust empowers individuals and promotes a culture of accountability, where team members are encouraged to take risks and learn from their experiences.

2.     Empowerment through Autonomy: Middle managers should empower teams by granting them autonomy. This means allowing teams to have control over their work processes, task allocation, and decision-making. Empowered teams are more likely to take ownership of their work, collaborate effectively, and find creative solutions to problems. Middle managers should provide support and resources while avoiding unnecessary micromanagement. This enables teams to adapt quickly to changing requirements and improves their overall performance.

3.     Balance with Necessary Control: While trust and autonomy are essential, Middle managers also need to maintain a certain level of control to ensure alignment with organizational goals. They should establish well-defined boundaries and guidelines, ensuring that teams operate within the agreed-upon frameworks. This includes periodic check-ins, progress reviews, and monitoring of key metrics to ensure that projects are on track. However, control should be exercised in a way that doesn’t stifle creativity or hinder the agility of teams.

We look at our principles in the same manner as the Agile manifesto. Although we value the items on the right (Control) we value the items on the left more (Trust).

By Cliff de Laat

I have been involved in many organizations that have made the transition to an Agile way-of-working. In the role of either manager, program/project manager, product owner, or team member. In my personal experience, there was one key factor, one make-or-break role making the Agile way-of-working a dream or a living nightmare. This is the middle manager, team leader, department manager, etc. 

They either support or hinder success. Their role involves executing tasks at a tactical level, managing teams, and developing talent. As a consultant, I have heard colleagues at other firms criticize these managers as redundant or a waste of resources. My personal opinion differs significantly. In Agile contexts, middle managers play a crucial role in facilitating effective communication, fostering collaboration, and ensuring that Agile principles and practices are upheld. The following reasons explain the value of middle management: 

  1. Bridging the Gap: Middle managers translate organizational goals into actionable plans for Agile teams, aligning strategic objectives with Agile initiatives. 
  2. Facilitating Communication: They serve as communication channels between senior leadership, Agile teams, and stakeholders, ensuring alignment and resolving conflicts. 
  3. Supporting Team Autonomy: Middle managers provide resources, guidance, and mentorship to empower self-organizing teams, removing obstacles and fostering innovation. 
  4. Promoting Agile Mindset: They advocate for Agile principles, educate stakeholders, and champion successful Agile implementations to foster an adaptive culture. 
  5. Aligning Performance Management: Middle managers align individual and team goals with organizational objectives, providing coaching and feedback to foster growth. 

The middle manager is critical to the success of an agile department. I have witnessed successful managers identifying when to intervene and when to enable their teams to resolve problems. In my recent experience, I have seen some managers act as the spokesperson for the team, thereby relieving the team of accountability for their actions. As I believe that many organizations and middle managers struggle with making the right decisions, I felt the need to contribute to the community. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing a few principles on my LinkedIn that can serve as a kind of Middle Manager Manifesto (MMM, no pun intended 😁). I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences. Let’s support our middle managers to make our companies successful with them as our hero leaders! 💪 

By Anton Bubberman 
In addition to my work as a management consultant, I recently started as Guild lead Data at Anderson MacGyver. Data is a subject I could talk about for hours, but in this blog, I like to combine it with another passion. I love making music. Sometimes I do it alone, but preferably with others. From acoustically accompanying a singer-songwriter to playing bass or guitar in a big band. And everything in between. 

You won’t get far in a band without structure and agreements. You have to understand what you have to do, what the division of roles is, who your audience is, and what to bring to a performance. There is a nice parallel to be drawn with organizations that want to get more value from their data. It is always an interplay and it is necessary to be clear about the goals, the division of roles, and what you need, technical or otherwise, to achieve them. Everyone on the same page? Fine! But it takes more than that to make it swing. 

The same language 
As a musician, you can know everything about the way sounds are created physiologically and what is pleasing to the ear or not. Yet we do not usually speak in vibration frequencies, overtones, and other scientifically explainable concepts. Musicians do have their own idiom: pitch, chord progressions, rhythm, and feel are the means of communication to achieve a result together. Listeners do not need to know this jargon. They are perfectly capable of naming whether the music touches them or gives them a feeling of dancing. I dare say the listener will notice if the band is mismatched in any of the aforementioned aspects. 

Data management gurus can often spend hours talking about academic concepts around data. On the shop floor, it is especially important that we understand the complexity, but create a common and especially practical language that everyone involved understands. How do we define data quality, what integration agreements do we make with each other and what is the “golden record”? This allows us to act together and deliver value to users. Above all, users of dashboards and reports want their report to work. Like listeners of music, they often know nothing about the agreed-upon language, but flawlessly sense when something is wrong in that area. 

Foundation for improvisation 
The analogy goes even further. When a foundation is in place and rhythm is built together, it becomes a lot easier to improvise. Is a song coming across well with the audience? Then it can be extended spontaneously, with an extra solo. Or the music is stopped for a moment, so the audience can clap and sing along loudly. Does it appear during the performance that more energy is needed or just a moment of rest? Then we play something else. This requires a good foundation and trust. 

Extending this to data: based on a good foundation, you can switch very quickly when necessary. For example, a marketing department is already successfully using algorithms to target potential customers personally through online campaigns. The right data is available, the quality is under control, it is clear what is legally allowed, the right technical instruments (tools) are available and the team knows how to use them. This also leaves room for improvisation. If new trends or opportunities are spotted, it is possible to combine the available data in a different way, slightly extend the algorithm, and thereby easily set up new campaigns. 

Let’s see if we can develop a common language for your organization: with a rhythm and feel that fits your possibilities, wishes, and context. With the right frames for jamming – strict enough to really get things swinging. 

Traveling from A to B has similarities to the digital journey many companies go through. By moving we look at the world from a different perspective: our business, stakeholders, and our customers, stated chairwoman Crystal Reijnen during the kickoff of Anderson MacGyver’s most recent CIO Masterclass. “This is how you discover new ways of creating value, other markets, and possible new market positions.” 

Contrary to what the word “journey” might suggest in terms of etymology, according to the eloquent Management Consultant from Anderson MacGyver, this is by no means done in a day. During the CIO Masterclass in IJsselstein, her colleague David Jongste and Ivo Steffens of NS shared their digital knowledge and travel experiences in front of a room full of technology and business leaders. 

David Jongste, like Reijnen, Management Consultant and as Managing Director responsible for Anderson MacGyver’s activities in the Benelux, zoomed in on four perspectives related to mastering digital journeys: ‘define your digital ambitions, defeat digital demons, master your mindset’ and finally ‘taste the transformation’. 

Jongste: “As IT Manager at HagaZiekenhuis, at an early stage in my career, I discovered the distinctive power of technology and data in optimizing processes. At the same time, I learned how difficult implementation can be within a complex dynamic of stakeholders. Much later, at Anderson MacGyver, I became intrigued by value for the business in a context that at the time was still largely cost-driven.” 

Of the four perspectives, defining your digital ambitions revolves around clarity concerning your goals as an organization and how digital and data can contribute to making a difference. David Jongste cites as an example the ambition of a large logistics service provider, which wanted to focus primarily on the recipient of packages instead of the sender. 

“This change of focus was intended to maintain and strengthen its leading position as the preferred delivery company. In addition, they wanted to make the processes more efficient, effective, and synergistic. This required various digital capabilities. A digital twin of each individual package proved crucial to achieving that.” 

Defeating demons  
Defeating the digital demons mainly involves cleaning up yesterday’s mess, both in terms of legacy IT, organizational flaws, and cultural issues. “Maintaining the old can take a lot of energy and it takes the focus away from things that are actually much more important in the context of the future.”  

Mastering the mindset involves a broad-based perspective on business, technology, and data. “Take as an example a large fresh produce auction, which has a huge amount of data on customers, products, prices, and margins. The technology to leverage that was available, but you don’t get very far without a common language and mindset for business and IT.”  

Ultimately, it’s about tasting the transformation itself, entering the digital arena, and making it all truly possible. “A manufacturing company in automotive was dealing with a slow rollout of a central CRM system. The ambition was clear, but the execution required firm leadership. After all, the road to success is always full of bumps. It’s all about a coalition of well-wishers executing the plan and seeing it through.”  

Digital leaders, according to the Managing Director Benelux, need to understand how they can influence the four aspects of the digital journey mentioned above. “Then it’s about keeping the focus on your goals, making bold choices when necessary and creating a common perspective.” To ultimately get the taste of success.  

Mobile train journey  
In addition to the operation and exploitation of traditional assets, NS is working hard on far-reaching digitalization. The ambition is to become the best digital mobility company in the Netherlands. Ivo Steffens has been with the railroads since 2018 and joined in March 2020 as Director of Commerce and Lead ComIT – an organization of 900 people and 100 teams in which commerce and IT are united.  

“Looking at my hotel school education and career at Transavia and Air France-KLM, the overlap of commerce, technology, and the customer is the common thread,” Steffens said. “Moreover, I am of the generation that always sees technology as progress. And who now sees that it is not just carefree.”  

When he made the 2018 switch from the aviation sector, he was triggered by the NS ambition: to transport all people easily, comfortably, and affordably to home, work, friends, family, and so on – and then to do what you care about. “In doing so, NS has an essential role in keeping the Netherlands accessible for everyone. While we certainly have challenges, we are doing quite well in several aspects.”  

But the market share has to increase and that requires more than being the best train company. Ivo Steffens: “We have to be more attractive to people who want flexible forms of transportation, or who now mainly use the car. The solution is to offer more options for door-to-door transportation: bicycle, e-bike, or shared car.” 

That is not easy in an industry that has taken shape in the Netherlands since the first train in 1839, and within an organization with an 85-year tradition of rail transportation with traditionally a strong focus on owning physical assets. “In contrast, a digital mobility company has to rely primarily on partnerships. Moreover, You are entering a new market, with other players.”  

A digital mobility company must rely also on partnerships

Ivo Steffens – Director of Commerce and Lead ComIT at Nederlandse Spoorwegen

“To be truly digital, we need to deliver the best possible experience to the traveler,” continued the Director of Commerce. “Benchmarks are, in addition to other major international rail companies, digital-enabled mobility providers such as Coolblue, Google Maps and Uber. So, we operate in a totally different dynamic.”  

NS has a lot of legacy IT, but it does have a roadmap to completely overhaul the landscape in the next five years. Ivo Steffens: “We are going for a total overhaul. At the same time, we have to accelerate, because other providers are not waiting.”  

Lessons learned  
To become a digital mobility provider, NS combines several principles: arrange everything within one app, information and service from door to door, easy planning, booking and payment, and a wide range of other modalities. To this end, the products and services of various partners and providers are being brought together.  

While to this end the IT landscape is being modernized, the digital mobility product is increasingly being marketed. The proposition is offered to business customers as a service to be integrated within their existing processes and policies, including as an alternative to the lease car.  

Ivo Steffens learned three important things during his current digital journey: “First, leadership is needed with a focus on people rather than technology.” In addition, it’s all about the combatants in the arena – the people who do it and not others who judge them. Finally, it’s about making choices and keeping things simple. “The important thing is to keep the most important the most important.” 

By Edwin Wieringa

Thanks to agile, the once fervently hoped-for (but until recently only marginally realized) alignment of business and IT within many organizations finally seems to be taking real shape. The challenge now is securing technology competencies internally as a sparring partner for the many process-driven roles and functions.  

Nowadays, you stumble across scrum masters, agile coaches, release engineers and product owners supervising development projects and other processes everywhere. In itself, a good thing. But because hard technology competencies are often hired, major decisions are made primarily by people with limited technical competencies and background. Companies thus spill over in process knowledge and process focus, while their distinctive value is mostly created by external people. There is an imbalance between internal and external – process-oriented versus technology-oriented.

Staying in control

People who deal with the ‘hire and fire’ are at a relatively large distance from the product side, making it difficult as an organization to stay in charge of the technology roadmap. After all, you need to have a good understanding of what needs to happen in terms of content in order to make fruitful use of all the makeable and available capabilities. For example, embracing large platforms for cloud-native development.  

The product owner needs a sparring partner on the tech side: an internal force with a technical background. Together, they need to align IT with what is happening and needed within a specific domain. This can range from a generic solution for operational stability or efficiency, to very specific business solutions.  

Linking pin

The multimodal analysis and organizational form are the linking pin here. After all, understanding the context and nature of the business activities leads to an appropriate organizational design and IT that supports that in all respects. On the business side, you can then make a deliberate move to matters of value: customer-centric, agile services, continuity assurance, innovation-oriented, or otherwise.  

That requires attention at the right level within the organization. Decision makers within management and the board must realize a growth path for in-house people with a tech background. This makes tech more strongly represented in the organization; not just executive, but also at the coordinating and strategic level.  

Are you wondering about how to better balance process and technology focus within your organization? In the upcoming white paper ‘Organizing Data & Technology’ there is plenty of attention to the various phases of development and organizational archetypes, from which you as a board or management can make the move forward. 

Eneco is transforming from primarily supplying gas, heat, and electricity to becoming a reliable energy partner in the sustainability transition. In addition to in-depth knowledge of individual customers, this requires a broader product offering that is delivered in various combinations by an expanding ecosystem of partners. In the commercial domain, technology, under the leadership of Alex Palma, acts as a driver of change. 

Assisted by Anderson MacGyver, a Digital Lighthouse program was set up three years ago, with the broad rollout of Microsoft Dynamics for customer relationship management being the most notable. Due in part to that CRM solution, the tech domain has pushed the transformation to the business. In conversation with involved consultant David Jongste, Alex Palma, Head of Customer within the Business Technology Organization (BTO), talks about the crucial moments, insights, and decisions. 


For Palma, the journey begins with his decision to swap his responsibility for the commercial IT domain at PostNL for a similar role at Eneco. “The energy market is one of the most socially relevant sectors. Full of constant changes and in the news every day. In 2019, in addition to the movement toward sustainability, the acquisition of Eneco by a large, capital-heavy party was already in play. Hence, there was a market and there were resources to make something beautiful out of it.” 

Former CIO Mario Suykerbuyk and Alex Palma knew each other from their previous work environment, where they were involved in a similar transformation. David Jongste stepped in early in 2019 on behalf of Anderson MacGyver, which is also PostNL’s in-house consultancy. “We helped analyze what needed to change in terms of technology and operations to make the transition in the market,” the consultant said. 

This bundled experience contributed to the success of Eneco, now acquired by Mitsubishi. Palma: “We have taken on a large social responsibility: helping the Netherlands and perhaps Europe shift towards sustainable energy use. That means optimally supporting business customers and consumers across a variety of channels.” 

We want to help customers across a variety of channels become sustainable, in the best way possible.

Alex Palma – Head of Business Technology Organization Customer at Eneco

Energy coach 

As such, Eneco is transforming from an energy supplier to an energy coach who knows what drives consumers and businesses within their specific context. “The energy transition requires substantial investments, so the advice and customer experience must be extremely good. This then leads to mutual trust and loyalty, which ultimately forms the basis of every relationship.” 

David Jongste: “Then, you are no longer competing on price, but a partnership is formed.” Alex Palma agrees: “The real value is in supporting the commoditizing process. This shift puts high demands on the supporting technology. The Digital Lighthouse has helped guide this within the commercial domain.” 

Energy providers have traditionally operated based on ‘connection’, which often boiled down to a postal code and house number. “Were you aware that at that time the customer was barely in the picture in a uniform way?” Palma says, “At PostNL, we went through a similar change, although the relationship with an energy provider is much more direct. The intended change is and was from product-focused to customer-focused.” 

A single truth 

There are several interrelated elements in that transition, all of which you need to get right. Jongste: “Getting to know the customer, adjusting the product portfolio, intelligent pricing and a longer-term customer relationship. With these steps, what was the main route and order?” 

According to the Head of Customer, it is crucial to have a clear view of every consumer and business user. “Knowing and understanding what customers want is the starting point of a real relationship. We wanted to have all the information about the individual customer – often spread across multiple internal systems and with our delivery partners – available as a single truth. Having the data in order forms the basis.” 

Palma is aware that many companies integrate existing channels and supporting legacy IT through an intermediary layer, but he believes that this does not solve the underlying problems. “You have only created a shell that masks the underlying problems. That’s why we looked for a more fundamental solution.” 

Solid core system 

“The truth about the customer is the heart of our service,” he continues. “This is where the data from all commercial processes comes together: from marketing, sales, field services, and so on. Our foundation is one CRM system, a solid core where everything comes together.” 

David Jongste: “The program goes beyond IT – it involves different ways of organizing and working within commercial teams, adjacent domains, and with partners. Traditionally, multiple parties interact with the customer. In order for their knowledge and insight to filter down to Eneco, they all need to work from the same truth, the aforementioned commercial core where all customer information is uniformly stored and available.” 

“Moreover, it requires other capabilities to interact with the customer,” adds the BTO Head of Customer. “In the past, we as Eneco mainly engaged in partner management towards parties that approached customers with commercial offerings. Now it’s about developing a customer engagement ecosystem, where we always know how to approach and support customers based on the data.” 


With that, Jongste says, begins the development of customer knowledge and commercial capabilities and processes. “You just mentioned the decoupling of commerce and delivery. Can you tell why that is important?”  

Alex Palma: “In the past, commercial agreements were linked to the product to be delivered – such as a possible discount or the length of the contract. Now there is a split between what we offer commercially and what each partner ultimately delivers to which customer. That provides us with the flexibility to offer products from different parties in a variety of bundles.”  

David Jongste: “That decoupling is an essential step towards greater product diversity – think about offering heat pumps, solar boilers, charging stations, and so on – and hence the role as an energy partner. Not only do you now have a much better customer view, but you can also move forward on the supply side based on a more dynamic ecosystem of partners.”  

Alex Palma: “It is an example of how, through IT and flexibilization of the operating model, you can make the transition from a product-focused to a customer-focused company. Modern technology, in this case in the form of a central CRM system, is thereby operating as a change agent.” 


With delivery, it’s first and foremost about reliably fulfilling the role of an energy coach, proposing the best options for sustainability in the right order. “That means orchestrating both the products and the partners who have to start delivering this in the right way and in harmony.” 

Furthermore, Palma and his team are aiming for a clear, personalized invoice that contains the exact information customers are looking for. “Not too brief, but not too detailed either. All of this should lead to trust and loyalty. From a commercial point of view, these things are absolutely fundamental.” 

“The most successful companies are largely marketed by their customers. Subsequently, you have to be very careful about that, because if you are not transparent in terms of commerce, delivery and billing, you will be downgraded from green to greedy, so to speak.” 


The changing interaction with third parties ensures that transformation is not limited to commerce. A holistic view at products and the customer relationship requires alignment between different departments and domains.  

“When something is delivered ‘behind the front door’ on behalf of Eneco, often those are the moments of truth for your customers – the moments when you really matter,” Jongste states. “The parties in the supplier ecosystem, for example, determine an important part of the brand experience. How do you deal with that?”  

According to Palma, this touches on the question of who owns the customer. “We argue that operational departments and third parties are welcome to use their own data, but that all data on the total context of the customer should be up to date and available. All interaction with the customer, in part on the basis of all that data, is therefore ours.”

Lessons learned 

“It’s not all finished yet, but what have been the most important lessons learned so far?” Palma: “The ‘drive for change’ is always based on a promising perspective and/or a burning house. In the energy market, although there was a need for sustainability, the mix of solutions differed from case to case. The promising perspective was still surrounded by questions on the product side. We may have underestimated that.” 

Since the terrible war in Ukraine and the sharp rise in energy prices in part because of it, there is now a need for change. “Sometimes you have to leverage circumstances to speed things up and give direction – both internally, in terms of technology and for your customers. A better technological and operational base helps us to be prepared for a changing need in the market.” 

Technology helps to be prepared for changing demands in the market.

Alex Palma – Head of Business Technology Organization Customer at Eneco


In summary, three things stand out to David Jongste: based on Eneco’s strategic direction, it was determined what needed to change in the areas of IT and business, in order to then address it step by step over several years. “In addition, the complexity required a good balance between the long term and the delusion of the day. This is where leadership and perseverance come into play.” 

“A matter of keeping one’s back straight while seeking connection in multiple areas,” concludes the Head of Customer within Eneco’s BTO organization. “That is not always easy. There is no cookbook available that tells you exactly how to do it all, either. For me, the most important thing is that we ultimately do what is best for our customers and therefore also for the company.” 

Interested in Anderson MacGyver’s solutions for digital services?

Contact our specialists! We are happy to assist you.

In most of today’s digital agendas you’ll find something like Digital Commerce, KYC (know your customer) and Next Best Action. You want to sell better, faster and more. To do so you need to understand who your customers are. You don’t only want to know what was previously bought, but also that the buyer, for example, is a father of two kids, that likes to play sports and has a college degree. That shouldn’t be a problem in this year and age, right?

The reality is often a different story. Even a simple question like: “how many customers do we even have?” results in different answers depending on the department or person you ask. Why? because they have different sources. One looks in the CRM and the other in the E-commerce portal. And so we have a conversation about the information that is scattered over different applications which than leads to: duplicate customers in one system and customers missing in the other, one system says he lives in Rotterdam and the other says he lives in Amsterdam, different email addresses, et cetera. Bottom line: Missed commercial opportunities, disinvestment in marketing campaigns and decreasing customer satisfaction, no clear and up-to-date customer information, and so on. 

Resulting in a frustrated outburst like: “Just give me the (single) truth! How hard can it be?”. The answer is: You can’t handle the truth! 

Image: single truth illustrated

In jargon we often call this topic Master Data Management (MDM). MDM is the process that creates a uniform set of data on customers, products, suppliers and other business entities from different IT systems. To get MDM in place you should focus on: 

  • Leadership 
    Via governance you set the policies and guidelines and you create an organization where roles and responsibilities are clear. But more important, you manage behavior by explaining the Way of Work and encouraging the right behaviors. 
  • Supporting Technology 
    There are tons of smart technology solutions that claim to support you in getting that desired single truth. They can help with automating business rules, discover duplicates and more.  

I strongly believe that good leadership from the start can prevent the need of complicated and expensive technology. To emphasize that even more: a technology driven solution will never work unless you have your leadership in place. Therefore, we design and implement organizations that ensure a solid data foundation. A few examples of themes that should be addressed are: 

  • Roles and responsibilities 
    This is where it starts. Who is responsible, who is setting direction? What are the agreements between data producers and users on the quality that is needed? 
  • Business rules and policies 
    What are the agreements, what is allowed, who is allowed to view what, what are the regulations (privacy, norm certifications)? 
  • Business Glossary and Data Dictionary 
    Know your data and define it unambiguously and understand its context. 
  • Data Quality Dimensions 
    How is good data quality defined? And how will this be measured?  

These themes might feel overwhelming, so the challenge is to understand the bigger picture, but to start making steps at the same time. Often, we start with a taskforce that helps creating a compelling story, gets the story on the right agenda’s, prioritizes potential solutions and creates momentum with celebrating quick wins with sustainability in mind. 

In this blog we focused on customer data, but you will also need a single true view on other themes. Just think of: products, suppliers, employees and assets. So, the main take away: you can’t handle the single truth, not on your own. But you can organize it.  

Do you recognize these data challenges? I’m interested in your experiences! Feel free to get in touch to talk about data and more.

To live up to its ambition of ‘preferred delivery organization’, PostNL is working to better connect with customers. Through its website, e-commerce channels and app, it aims to offer consumers and business users an unified, personalized experience. Together with Anderson MacGyver, the organizational and technological choices that go along with that were examined.  

PostNL is considered a textbook example of an organization that has been making the right technology choices for over 10 years, following the broad embrace of cloud computing in 2012. Even with regard to new activities around digital commerce, they are building on the standardization of yesteryear, combined with the more recent choice of a service layer architecture.  

As a trusted in-house consultant, Anderson MacGyver was part of the foundation of PostNL’s technology direction, but also thought about digital developments within the commercial domain. The involved consultants David Jongste and Joost Doesburg look back on the choices made in 2021 with client Jeroen Manten, Head of Customer IT at PostNL. Together, they also look ahead to the future.  

Manten: “Somewhere around 2020, the term Digital Experience Platform (DXP) was introduced by Gartner. Exactly at that time, we were looking within the commercial domain for an umbrella under which to hang several capabilities. About a year and a half ago, as a trusted partner, we asked Anderson MacGyver how we could apply such a DXP based on our history and within our specific context and culture.”  


Several initiatives were ongoing within PostNL in the area of commercial IT. This partly fell under the newly established Digital Business Unit, which focused on all visible customer interaction via api’s, web and app. Beneath that lay the Customer IT domain, where there had also been a lot going on over the years.  

“In 2013, we had as many as 750 applications running,” Manten continued. “Many of these we have largely phased out, harmonized, rationalized or integrated within the Salesforce platform over the course of four to six years. Once we realized that base, we were faced with the challenge of contributing to the new strategic agenda: the digital transformation of PostNL.”  

We want to help customers across a variety of channels become sustainable, in the best way possible.

Alex Palma – Head of Business Technology Organization Customer at Eneco

David Jongste: “The strength is that with DXP you had a framework with which you could develop different capabilities, and all the technology choices that go with them. Hence, you could determine in a structured way what you could get out of the market and in which areas you would want or need to develop specific things.”  

Manten agrees: “Until recently, we used the principle of ‘best of suite’ within commercial IT. Everything that could be done within Salesforce we did within this platform. That was strongly related to the phase we were in as PostNL, but did not always bring us what we were looking for. The question in 2021 was: what do we really need to support the intended digitalization?”  


To take those steps, the harmonization and rationalization of the commercial processes on Salesforce was a great first move, according to Jongste. “The ‘1 PostNL’-strategy of several years ago is the foundation for further digitization of customer and market interaction. That is a strong foundation for the current ambition to be the delivery provider of choice for both sender and recipient.”  

Joost Doesburg adds: “It’s about making the entire customer journey digital across all channels, wherever that adds value. In doing so, you thought carefully about the level at which you set up the services, whether agnostic to the platform underneath or not. That was the idea, but to what extent did that work out?”   

“Digitalization applies to our own channels,” Manten said. “But also to those of our customers and any third parties. We want to be wherever the customer is. For that, we need a modular, composable architecture. Within our domain, we use a three-layer api architecture for this purpose: core api’s, process api’s and experience (customer experience) api’s.”  

The question was what PostNL Customer IT could source from parties in the market for this purpose and what should be developed in-house. “Everything from the ambition to be ‘the preferred delivery provider for senders and recipients’. So the question or need from the business is always leading.”  


In addition to the ‘1 PostNL’-platformstrategy around the operational core, the MACH concept within the DXP vision played a conditional role in the shift of focus toward the customer. MACH concerns the combination of microservices, api-first, cloud-native and “headless” front-end user experiences across multiple channels, decoupled from back-end systems.  

“To what extent do you realize the intended acceleration with this?” asks David Jongste. Manten: “We are busy working on capabilities such as personalization. Integration is also at play. We can now move toward ‘best of breed,’ where integration is done based on api’s. Thanks to the MACH foundation, we can now integrate a Customer Data Platform (CDP) as part of the DXP into the value chain within two months.”  

“You can then enrich the core customer data in Salesforce with data unlocked from other sources,” Joost Doesburg states. “With that, you can build profiles and segments of customers so that you can provide consumers and business users with specific information via the CDP. Has this already been realized, or does it still need to be implemented?”  

Jeroen Manten: “We are starting that now. Within the consumer domain, we already have a similar concept with the CCB (In Dutch: Centraal Consumentenbeeld). A recent marketing campaign consisting of a video that featured eight personalized textual elements generated by the CCB. In addition, data from the platform is used for business ruling and machine learning around customer interaction.”  


“Apart from the right choices regarding organization and IT, the consulting process with Anderson MacGyver ensures that we deploy scarce resources on the right capabilities,” Manten says. “We can visualize the focus for the next 1,5 to 2 years, including the target architecture. Besides Salesforce, we deploy point solutions, which fit PostNL’s position, ambition and development phase.”   

Technology helps to be prepared for changing demands in the market.

Alex Palma – Head of Business Technology Organization Customer at Eneco

A consideration in the decision was, for example, that existing DXP functionality within Saleforce places a much heavier demand on technical skills than a specific application that fits within the best-of-breed vision, where it is mainly about the right business rules and questions from the marketers – who are increasingly developing as data analysts. “This allows you as IT to slowly step back. That’s quite a mind shift.”   

“It’s nice to see PostNL supporting business initiatives with the right IT, rather than the other way around,” Doesburg said. David Jongste adds: “When you know what points you want to excel in as an organization, that justifies specialized IT solutions for those specific points. Some capabilities around DXP are critical to PostNL’s competitive ability in the marketplace, and that’s why an addition to the standard Salesforce platform is legitimized.”  


This selection process, according to Joost Doesburg, resembles multimodal analysis, a core concept of Anderson MacGyver that connects business activities with the right technology and organizational choices based on specific characteristics. “Returning briefly to the development phase: where are you now and what will be the next step?”  

Jeroen Manten: “By Dutch standards, we are possibly ahead of any other organization of our size. Internationally and looking at what is possible, we are still at the beginning. The main question is how we will implement this with the business. The DXP vision has now been included in the strategic plan of both CDO and CIO.”   

The next year is dominated by the implementation of CDP capability. The next deepening lies in the area of search and context – both at the concept level and in terms of concrete implementations. “Moreover, we are reshaping the customer IT organization slightly: three people in addition to me, all in a product owner role, are each responsible for a logical cluster of three of the total of nine DXP capabilities within PostNL.”  


David Jongste: “This trajectory shows how important it is to have a strategic vision as an organization. Starting with rationalization and harmonization as part of ‘1 PostNL’, MACH as a pivot to building digital capabilities in the customer domain.” Joost Doesburg: “The platform strategy deployed at the time did not foresee DXP, but it does ensure that you can now develop in this direction.”  

“Digital commerce is like an iceberg,” concludes Head of Customer IT Jeroen Manten. “For the customer, at most 20 percent is visible – via web, the app, or a plug-in. That is the domain of our Digital Business Unit. But that 80 percent in the traditional processes underwater has to be in order to be able to realize visible things for the customer.”  

Interested in Anderson MacGyver’s solutions for digital services?

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Retail and commerce have changed dramatically in recent years. Like many other sectors, retail companies are discovering the enormous power of their data treasures. At a recent Masterclass for Digital Leaders in IJsselstein, the real experts of experience spoke. In addition to Rituals CDO Martijn van der Zee’s practice, Anderson MacGyver consultant Cliff de Laat put the topic in a broader perspective. 

Chairwoman of the day Crystal Reijnen kicked off the meeting with the famous example of the American supermarket chain Target. This company has been applying data mining to analyze customer behavior and do predictive analytics for more than a decade. “When someone buys balloons and toys, a child’s birthday is probably coming up. Target then responds with a discount coupon, for example, to strengthen the connection with the customer,” said Anderson MacGyver’s Product Lead and Management Consultant specializing in digital strategies.  

That in-depth understanding of individual customers did not lead to the desired effect with a customer in Texas. The purchase of a specific brand of soap combined with certain vitamins taught the system that pregnancy was in play. The forwarded congratulations did not go down well with the 16-year-old recipient’s father. Several weeks after his angry phone call, the man called again. This time to apologize, because he became a grandfather. Reijnen: “Target apparently had a keener insight into the life of his little princess than he did.”  

“As consumers, we experience the power of data every day,” she continues. “We continuously receive personalized offers, participate in loyalty programs and have to deal with dynamic pricing. The question facing traditional stores is; how to transform to a contemporary digital experience. What barriers must they break down to do so, and what decisions must their digital leaders make?”  

This is what the Masterclass in the cozy hearing room of the IJsselstein home base, is about. Before Martijn van der Zee, Chief Digital Officer of Rituals, talks about his experiences in the digital domain, the floor is given to Cliff de Laat. Before joining Anderson MacGyver as a consultant three years ago, he was involved in digital projects within supermarket chains Jumbo and Plus, among others. For more than a year he has been active as product owner at Scania Group.  

Innovation cycle  

An excellent customer experience is crucial to attracting and retaining customers, according to De Laat. However, the commercial domain is characterized by a high degree of change, disruption and technological innovation. “All this requires a different involvement from the technology department. More focused on agility than traditional business process support.”  

The emphasis is on time-to-market, on responding to changing conditions, creating the right products. “Business outcomes such as revenue growth and retention are more important than output in terms of the amount of code written. It’s about enabling change and creating satisfied teams as drivers of innovation.”  

The innovation cycle by which business desires become reality, has four elements: ideation, problem, solution & market, and finally delivery. “Together they form a kind of stopwatch,” De Laat explains. “Time starts running as soon as you become aware of something. Time stops when a product or solution is put into use. This automatically gives you a measuring tool for your own agility.”  

The consultant cites as an example the development within food retail from fixed prices on physical labels to automated adjustment on electronic labels and discounts, such as two for the price of one. Digitalization now allows prices to vary based on time of day, specific customers and product condition. “Several iterations, all of which have contributed to what is now possible.”  


De Laat briefly touches on some retail trends. Examples include data-driven customer engagement, AI-based or non-AI-based personalization of customer interactions, sustainability-focused strategy and operations, unambiguous onmichannel experiences – while increasingly blending online and physical.  

To make progress, the aforementioned innovation cycle plays a role in each of these areas. But then companies face a different kind of challenge: scaling up the preferred solution. Cliff de Laat speaks of a “scaling lag,” a brake on scalability most of the time caused by an outdated technology landscape. This usually prevents initiatives from becoming profitable.  

The ‘scaling lag’ is mostly caused by an outdated technology landscape.

Cliff de Laat – Management consultant at Anderson MacGyver

To break through this, a number of principles are important. On the technology front, these include API-first, a containerized and microservices-based IT infrastructure, CI/CD pipelines with automated deployment and quality assurance, a standardized integration architecture and an engineering mindset. In addition, solid and scalable data management, a high-performance and industrialized data architecture and ditto analytics platforms are crucial.  

According to the Anderson MacGyver consultant, it starts with an idea and ends with the delivery of value at scale. “Pressing the stopwatch gives a good indication of how the self-repeating innovation cycle is functioning and the state of scalability within an organization. This also provides handles for improvement,” De Laat said.

Digital commerce

Martijn van der Zee has been working as CDO of Rituals for five years now. Before that, he was responsible for marketing at KLM and Suitsupply. He has a personal and professional passion for the human side of technology in particular. “What is interesting is that the same available digital technology is used in different ways everywhere,” he says.   

Lifestyle cosmetics brand Rituals creates an almost unparalleled and unique experience, both in terms of products and customer journey. The company nevertheless faces several challenges, related to five shifts of focus: from European to global, from natural to sustainable, from store to omnichannel, from brand to community, and from beauty to wellness. 

According to the CDO, the company is building a global brand through a variety of touch-points: over a thousand of its own stores and more than three thousand shops-in-shop, e-commerce, wholesale through third parties and travel: sales at airports by airlines and in hotels. “From digital and technology, we try to support all these activities in the best possible way,” he said.  

Despite their own profit and loss account and autonomy, these business activities must be able to scale up within the bigger picture. To this end, the digital competence within Rituals is part of the foundation just like IT, marketing and fulfillment. 


Van der Zee: “I say with pride that we are a retail-first company. Although I am part of the group working on digitalization.” Indeed, in his view, online is easier than traditional retail. “How many physical stores really capture the imagination? Now compare this to the virtually limitless possibilities of websites.”  

Rituals’ relatively modern and open central IT architecture is a big advantage for strengthening its connection with customers worldwide. “When everything in the back-end is cloud- and SaaS-based and you’ve chosen an integrated set of best-of-breed applications, it’s relatively easy to add a nice front-end. That’s exactly what we’ve done in as many as 30 countries.”  

Customer data and transactional information are crucial components in the data architecture, which is similar across all countries. “When people feel connected to your brand and products, they more easily provide the opt-in that we use to grow the number of data points.” The Rituals customer database is growing rapidly. Half of the new arrivals come in through the physical store, the rest through web, app and campaigns focused on it.

Snowball effect

According to CDO Martijn van der Zee, ‘conquering’ new countries is a snowball effect in which the user experience is central, for example in the wonderfully designed shops. Circling around this are three elements that keep the ball rolling: digital touchpoints, data-driven digital marketing and prompting action. “Once the process is up and running in a country, brand awareness naturally increases and connection to the brand increases,” he says.  

“It sounds paradoxical, but a scalable central setup is necessary to make things happen locally: sales and customer service in the right language and currency, optimal fulfillment and so on. Because we can apply all the experience we have gained to new markets each time, the roll-out in new countries is happening faster and faster.”  

In the question-answer round of the meeting, Van der Zee would later add that the local voice is always represented centrally to be able to respond proactively to specific front-office-related needs. Without compromising speed.  

He shares responsibility for this with Rituals’ CTO and CMO. “Only then can you get things rolling in a decentralized yet scalable way.” For this, not the organizational chart but collaboration is crucial. “A digital leader is by definition a nice person because he or she can’t do anything without the support of people within other domains such as marketing, IT and supply chain. Our data teaches us every day whether we are doing the right things right.” 

We want to help customers across a variety of channels become sustainable, in the best way possible.

Alex Palma – Head of Business Technology Organization Customer at Eneco


Day chairwoman Crystal Reijnen starts the closing Q&A session with a question for both speakers: what drives the shift from agility to scalability? According to Cliff de Laat, this plays out especially when a newly developed MVP or other innovation is very successful and applied on a larger scale. Martijn van der Zee agrees, although there is no standard approach or roadmap. It depends a lot on the organization, industry and product.  

A question from the audience: what are actually the KPIs for scalability? De Laat: “It’s important to know how competitors within the industry are doing. So every organization has a different need in this area. You also need to know how much time and other resources you want to spend on the intended innovation.” Van der Zee adds: “It’s not easy to benchmark yourself. Having an open eye to the competition already helps tremendously in determining where you are approximately.”  

According to the Rituals CDO, what are the key architectural principles for multichannel globalization? “A truly open, API-based, headless architecture” he answers. In addition, you preferably embrace globally standardized and available solutions, which must be able to interoperate with the back-end in terms of architecture. “All this in combination determines speed and agility on the front-end.”  

Interested in Anderson MacGyver’s solutions for digital services?

Contact our specialists! We are happy to assist you.

By Erik Vuuregge

As a car enthusiast, I enjoy reading TopGear magazine. Besides the magazine, I am potentially interested in their events, videos or merchandising. For readers of the Dutch Margriet magazine or a door-to-door newspaper, the situation may be completely different. So for similar products and services, there can be different value streams. A clever mix of economies of scale and differentiation requires a well thought-out organization.  

Customer value should be the primary starting point here. When you have that in your sight, it becomes easier to optimize and manage in a data-driven way than with a traditional focus on business functions. Value streams offer plenty of guidance because you can analyze all the individual steps required to deliver something of value. This includes monitoring the ultimately delivered value itself.  

You then go through all the successive standard phases of the customer journey: from awareness, evaluate, purchase, delivery to service and/or after-sales. At each step you weigh what can be organized generically and where something specific must be undertaken or set up. With magazines it is important to identify differences and similarities. So in terms of offerings, subscription forms, related activities and so on surrounding target groups. And in terms of supporting functions.  

Similarly, an energy company has different activities and functions. In addition to gas and electricity supply, products and services can be provided. Think of solar panels, charging stations, heat pumps, smart thermostats. Often these are relatively separate value streams and processes organized in silos. While supporting functions such as sales, marketing, service delivery can very well be organized generically due to their product-transcending nature.  

We want to help customers across a variety of channels become sustainable, in the best way possible.

Alex Palma – Head of Business Technology Organization Customer at Eneco

Many benefits

For both the organization and the customer, a smart setup has many advantages. For example, both the energy company and magazine publisher have a much better understanding of the market through centralization of the customer view, allowing you to serve it better and more completely. We must move away from the situation where individual products and services all have their own person on top of the rock, with their own decentralized organized strategy and approach. Instead of compartmentalization and self-interest, the delivery of customer value must take center stage.  

You achieve this through a matrix-like setup, bringing certain things together and making others specific – preferably based on reusable modules. Product owners or others responsible for products and services can make their own choices and take ownership better than ever. At the same time, they benefit from everything that can be set up generically. This applies to both large and small organizations.  

Insight is fundamental to such an organizational and cultural change. A thorough analysis of key business activities is a good start. You then make sure that all processes, functions, resources and systems are in view. Moreover, if you know to whom you deliver which forms of value, then you can align yourself optimally with them. Our experience as Anderson MacGyver shows that this leads to significantly better results.  

Interested in Anderson MacGyver’s solutions for digital services?

Contact our specialists! We are happy to assist you.

Anderson MacGyver

The core purpose of Anderson MacGyver is to harness the unrealized business value for our clients by leveraging the powerful potential of technology & data. We provide strategic advice and guidance to board members and senior management to shape and drive their digital journey.