Now showing items 21-40 of 205

    • Cost estimation and tendering optimization through data science for a multinational construction company

      Bulcke, Richard; Parmentier, Sébastien; Vanzieleghem, Jeroen (2022)
      BESIX, a large multinational contractor, is one of the few companies that is able to build the most extraordinary skyscrapers, hotels, maritime works and other infrastructure works in the world. The examples are countless and range from the Burj Khalifa (i.e., the tallest building in the world) and the Tour Triangle (i.e., the newest state-of-the-art building in Paris) to the Princess Elisabeth Base on Antarctica. Also, Legoland Dubai, Ferrari World Dubai, the Warner Bros Theme park and two of the new stadia for the 2022 Qatar World Cup are constructed by BESIX. Even the very own new campus building of the Vlerick Business School in Brussels is constructed under BESIX’ guidance. Unfortunately, due to a cloudy economic environment with rising material prices and the nature of the industry (i.e., low margin, high volume), the financial performance of the construction industry is lagging. As such, construction companies must find new and alternative ways to help them make a better selection of projects and a better cost estimation. Hence, they will be able to continue constructing such mesmerizing construction works all over the world. The construction industry has arrived late to the digitalization revolution. This means that lots of untouched potential in data-driven decision-making and Machine Learning based optimization have yet to be discovered. Luckily, driven by its mission to create sustainable solutions, BESIX is already quite developed in its data management. The next step is to use this lead and start using data analytics to increase its profitability. The goal of this In-Company Project is to help BESIX choose better tenders and make a better cost estimation by using data science and exploiting the Master Data Management. The project is structured around three business use cases that help keep focus and attain the objectives of increasing BESIX’ profitability and efficiency. The first business use case calculates a probability of winning a tender by using historical tenders and their win rate. By only having seven input variables, the algorithm can generate a probability of winning a new tender with an accuracy of 82%. Even more, when the algorithm is used in the right context, it can improve the accuracy of the decision by approximately 20,59%. A few recommendations follow up on this algorithm and eventually it proves the advantages of a data science approach to the goal. The second business use case makes use of the probability of winning a tender in combination with an order book correction, a strategic profitability correction and a profitability margin estimate to pinpoint the interestingness of a new tender in a ranking of historical tenders. This grasps a part of the intuition and experience of the commercial department. It protects BESIX from losing its know-how due to retirements and resignations. Finally, the third business use case is advantageous after a positive tender decision is made. It tries to optimize the cost estimation for the bid. The conceptual solution is to find patterns in historic project data and to forecast a cost for specific packages in new tenders. This business use case will need to be developed in a strong closed loop, where there is feedback from the tender department, which will enable a better quality of the algorithm. The final chapter, a roadmap for implementation, describes the different steps of how to implement the data science solutions. Furthermore, the second and third business use cases were discussed with several data science companies. Consequentially, in the final chapter, a market study is made of the different partners that would fit BESIX to develop the final two business use cases. By implementing these suggestions, BESIX will be ready for the future of construction, of which, however challenging, data science will be a part. That will enable BESIX to continue astonishing the world with its construction works and to excel in creating sustainable solutions for a better world.
    • Refinement of an industrial company’s cost model

      Peeters, Marie; Baeten, Christophe; Priem, Lennert (2022)
      In this paper, different proposals are examined and argued through which Airtec's cost model can be optimized. Airtec is part of the Swedish company Atlas Copco and it produces screw elements that are internally resold to build a screw compressor. Airtec's activity consists almost exclusively of metalwork operations and the assembly of the element. Currently, Airtec uses a cost model that works with activity-based costing: different kinds of costs are allocated via different activity and resource drivers. The purpose of this report is to refine the model. The objective of all the discussed suggestions is to increase the accuracy of the cost calculation. More specific, eight contemporary topics will be addressed and each proposal can be individually considered: tooling at supplier, wage, replacement value, incorporating CO2 costs, intracompany rent, allocation of indirect costs, cost drivers, and cost of complexity. This list is ranked from largest to the smallest expected impact on the cost model. In order to refine the cost model of these activities, we propose changes in eight areas. In Section 3, we propose in more detail how to allocate the costs to toolings that are present at suppliers’ premises. Section 4 explains the impact of incorporating the full wage instead of only a percentage. In Section 5, we assess the impact on the cost model of using replacement value instead of acquisition value. We proudly present a model in which Airtec's entire CO2 footprint is allocated to the costs in Section 6. For the CO2 footprint we take into account the energy costs, business travel costs and transport costs. The transport cost is allocated based on the distance from the supplier of the raw material to Airtec's production facility in Wilrijk. Section 7 assesses the discrepancy between the market prices and the intracompany rent price that Airtec pays to Atlas Copco. In Section 8, Section 9, and Section 10, the allocation of indirect costs, cost drivers and the cost of complexity are discussed. Some of the suggested improvements find their origin in our comparative analysis between Atlas Copco’s Chinese production site and the one in Wilrijk. All our suggestions are accompanied by a critical analysis of the current way of working, a literature review, an argumentative and benchmarking approach of best practices from literature, an elaborate explanation of the proposed change, and a detailed numerical example of the impact on the cost calculations. All collected ideas form a solid basis for further optimization of the cost model.
    • Innovation Guide

      Giroulle, Arthur; Van Campenhout, Dario (2022)
      Presently, Roche Pharmaceuticals and Roche Diagnostics mainly communicate to their target stakeholders such as clinical biologists, pathologists, specialists and pharmacists based on their own product and service portfolio. There is limited interaction and synergy between both entities and their offerings remain traditional. As the Belgian healthcare system is moving into a novel era, the company needs to be at the forefront of innovation. Roche is striving to instil a culture of co-creation with their customers in order to accelerate innovation in a consequential manner. Therefore, it has become increasingly important to establish a relationship based upon trust, science and mutual care for the patient with hospital management. These gentlemen and women determine a hospital’s strategy and are driving innovation across their healthcare institutions and networks. This guide offers a swift overview of the interviews conducted with hospitals’ executive managers in the context of a Vlerick Business School study. The innovation guide offers Roche the opportunity to access the current needs and limitations of several Belgian innovative hospitals. Therefore, future approach strategies can be personalized according to the hospital.
    • Challenges of fulfilling the financing needs of flemish starters

      Haesmans, Andreas; Schrantz, Bob; Van Houdt, Yoran (2022)
      Starting companies are extremely important for the economy as they create many positive external effects. Hence, financial institutions bare the important role to support the needs of these starters, so that they have a higher chance of succeeding. PMV even goes a step further and was specifically created by the government to provide affordable financing to the Flemish starters. To achieve this goal, PMV is split up in several departments. At the highest level, it is divided into three branches. Namely, investments in infrastructure and real estate, equity-, and debt-financing. This research project covers PMV/z, which is focused on providing starting companies with debt-financing. More specifically, the project was carried out, under guidance of Emmanuel Damman, the head of “PMV/z-leningen”, which is the department that provides starters with subordinated loans. The scope of the project is to provide recommendations on the current products that “PMV/z-leningen” offers and to evaluate how these can be improved based on the market insights. First, the target group, namely the starters, was analyzed for specific trends. By analyzing data of the client base of “PMV/z-leningen”, we were able to map the locations of where these companies were founded and in which industry, they are active. Since many different industries exist, we based the conclusions on three categories, namely, old economy, knowledge intensive, and technology companies. It was observed that, although technology has such an important role in our daily lives, old economy companies still represent most of the starter landscape and sign up the highest growth. Furthermore, it was discovered that the province of Limburg is lagging behind technology companies compared to the other provinces. Second, taking a deeper look into the portfolio of PMV/z enabled us to gather more insights in how the department functions. Here, the question was asked what type of starters PMV/z is currently missing. Comparing the founder characteristics of its portfolio with the market distribution taught us that on average the entrepreneurs requesting PMV/z loans are younger than the average starters. They are also less likely to be a female, as PMV/z’s portfolio underrepresents female founders. Additionally, in terms of industry there is a serious overrepresentation of “Hospitality sector”, “Wholesale and retail trade”, and “Financial and insurance activities” causing an underrepresentation of other industries, such as “Construction and real estate” and “Human health and social work activities”. Moreover, although the number of loan requests from technology companies increases over the researched period, their percentage share relative to the total loan requests decreases over the same period. Third, although raw data gives clear views on certain trends, it is important not to miss the voice of starters as PMV/z’s products must have the right fit with starter’ needs. Performing twenty-eight interviews with both starters and organizations (financial and support) gave us a better view on how PMV/z could improve its products. Additionally, a survey was distributed to starters resulting in 523 responses. Both the survey and the interviews gave good insights into the needs of starters. More precisely, starters need clarity in the support and financing landscape and require financing in the early stages of their company. Further, starters want easier access to the solutions “PMV/z-leningen” offers. Lastly, to start and expand their business, starters value tailored advice, primarily through mentors. Finally, to make recommendations, all three sections are linked. In total, four recommendations were made. First, we have learned that it would be beneficial for “PMV/z-leningen” to facilitate more support during the application process as a big hurdle currently is that starters have difficulties successfully finishing the application. Possible solutions are changing the utilized language and providing assistance before and during the completion of the application. Second, by easing some requirements it would also significantly increase the number of starters reached. We believe that if these two recommendations are implemented, it would have a positive effect on the starter landscape. Third, it is crucial to improve the brand awareness of PMV/z, since currently only a minor percentage of starters are aware of it. Finally, to solve the fragmentation in the support market an overarching platform where starter can go to for all their financing and support needs should be established.
    • The post-merger integration of biotechs by a pharmaceutical firm

      Heyrman, Pascal; Lenfant, Harold (2022)
      Pharmaceutical industry remains one of the largest sectors for M&A. Pharmaceutical companies are active in M&A, searching for new sources of competitive advantage and growth. In the last few years, the focus of big pharmaceutical companies has shifted from the so-called mega-mergers, to targeting acquisitions of smaller companies that support their research and development (“R&D”) activities. Often these are biotechnological companies, that derive drugs not from chemicals, but from extraction or manipulation of living organisms. In this context, UCB has acquired several spin-offs emerging from innovative ecosystems over the past years. To create value, these biotechnological companies must be nurtured and integrated through a post-merger integration process (“PMI”). To guide this process, UCB created a Post-Merger Integration playbook. It captures the industry’s best practices along with UCB’s own learnings from some recent acquisitions, distilled into an overview of the key steps and considerations for delivering a successful program. However, this playbook does not consider some of the research specificities that are inherent to research-driven entities like biotech. The goal of the project is to identify the recurrent issues and capture them into guidelines or adjusted processes, to ensure that research-based acquisitions will be integrated smoothly in the future. To identify these recurrent issues, a thorough case study was made of three research-based acquisitions made by UCB: Element Genomics, Ra Pharmaceuticals and Handl Therapeutics. To develop these case studies, 40 interviews were conducted with employees both from UCB and the acquired entities. With the information gained from these interviews, a narration as well as an analysis of the integration of the three past acquisitions was made. From this analysis, patterns of acquisition motives were identified. The theory regarding integration models was developed and transposed to the case study, with variations. Finally, a grouping of cultural and organizational challenges was presented and a set of specific recommendations for future integrations was developed.
    • Mapping and optimizing the process of an ever-growing company fleet

      Dejonckheere, Julie; Van Parys, Olympia (2022)
      In 2018, Airpower NV, the Wilrijk-based site of Atlas Copco, a Swedish manufacturer that is the leading provider of sustainable productivity solutions such as compressors, vacuum solutions, etc., started offering salary-sacrifice cars to all white- and blue-collar workers in addition to the company cars already offered to the management of the company. Consequently, the multinational’s fleet grew to approximately 1100 leased vehicles in 2022. However, the car fleet processes (car application and pool management), remained relatively unaltered despite this large increase. In order to cover all the extra activities the salary-sacrifice cars entail, the process became more complex and inefficient over time. On top of that, the volatility of the market and the electrification of the fleet is putting even more pressure on the already strained processes. For many years, Atlas Copco has been working together with one leasing company, Athlon, which offers full-service leases including not only the financing, but also the performance of some operational tasks, such as maintenance, repairs, fuel cards, insurances, etc. Atlas Copco gives its employees the opportunity to choose a car from a list of fixed configurated models, which is drawn up in consultation with Athlon. In order to get an understanding of how the processes are currently organized, a detailed visualization, including the different stakeholders involved, was necessary. Next to that, a clear indication of which inefficiencies are embedded in the process had to be provided together with some recommendations on how to improve the process incrementally. Radical suggestions to perhaps re-build the model from scratch also had to be considered. The foundation of this research is the visualization of the following two as-is processes. The first process is the car application process in which employees who are eligible for a car, apply for one. The second process is the pool management process covering the procedure when an employee terminates his leasing contract early be due to several reasons such as a lay-off, voluntary leave, etc. Both processes were visualized using the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN). The processes were built from scratch by interviewing the stakeholders who are involved in the process and by examining the documentation that has already been made available. The main issues discovered during the visualization of both models were the high complexity of the processes and a range of misunderstandings between stakeholders regarding tasks, responsibilities and procedures. Following the visualization of the process, the inefficiencies in the process were identified using two different techniques. First, we used process mining to identify the discrepancies between the theoretical model and the actual flow of data, which revealed that in reality the cases often follow a In-Company Project – Atlas Copco – 2022. Mapping and optimizing the process of an ever-growing company car fleet 3 different flow through the process than is assumed by the stakeholders. The as-is models were adapted according to the actual flow of activities. Second, a waste-analysis and a root-cause analysis were conducted to identify the inefficiencies, the non-value adding tasks and their root causes in the processes. These analyses exposed that many inefficiencies are embedded in both processes in terms of reviewing, errors requiring rework and unnecessary email correspondence between the different stakeholders. Afterwards, a benchmarking exercise was performed by interviewing the fleet managers of other companies. These interviews provided us with some interesting insights into best practices of fleet management. The main takeaways of these interviews were that most companies work with more than one leasing company, outsource their insurance and fuel cards, offer a more limited choice of cars per employee level, with some opting to entirely outsource their fleet management. Based on the inefficiencies identified and the best practices we discovered, we came up with both incremental changes that can be implemented easily and quickly, and more radical changes that put into question the entire process and thus require rebuilding the process from scratch. To conclude, we trust that this research will contribute to a more efficient, cost-effective and less complex process in two ways. Firstly, by mapping the car fleet processes to make all stakeholders aware of their assigned responsibilities and the end-to-end flow of the as-is process. Secondly, by proposing changes to simplify the processes without compromising quality and the experience of the stakeholders.
    • Distributor management program

      Spruyt, Silke; Vandevenne, Margot (2022)
      Ajinomoto Omnichem NaturalSpecialities identified a bottleneck in the collaboration with its distributors. The company currently lacks a clear structure to harmonize information flows, and to guide and follow-up on its partnerships. Therefore, this project aims to develop a formal framework to coordinate information streams from NaturalSpecialities to its distributors and vice versa, as well as to create an evaluation system to assess the partner’s performance and finally, design an action plan for Ajinomoto Omnichem NaturalSpecialities on how it can implement these changes in the company. The research questions steering this study probe for: (1) the variables needed for the development of a formal framework to harmonize information flows, and (2) the elements required in an evaluation system to adequately assess the distributors. Methodology: The research initiated with several in-house interviews to get acquainted with the NaturalSpecialities’ team and its current way of working, and to identify possible points of improvement. Afterwards, qualitative interviews with distributors (N=5) were conducted to gain insights into their preferences and view on the collaboration with NaturalSpecialities. The five interviewed distributors were chosen based on the sector, the geographical location, the percentage of NaturalSpecialities’ products in the total product mix and the company’s size. Based on these qualitative interviews, a quantitative survey was composed and sent out to all forty distributors of which twenty-one responded (N=21). Since this sample was too small to perform regression analysis and other statistical examinations, the survey was predominantly scrutinized based on correlation analysis and logical reasoning. Results. The results indicated that the overall level of trust between NaturalSpecialities and its distributors is very high. Also, a trustworthy relationship is regarded as extremely important by mostly all respondents. The distributors are also very open to share information with NaturalSpecialities regarding clients (type and name), new innovations or applications, sales volume, and prospection work. Only with regards to sharing the sales price, the respondents answered a bit more reluctant. Although the results show a relatively positive picture concerning sharing information with other distributors, the respondents were more hesitant to share client information (type and name) and new innovations. Almost all partners were open to work with an information sharing platform, providing it will only be used to share documents, such as technical data sheets, and not to replace daily communication via email and phone calls. Moreover, regarding the legal stipulations, respondents preferred drafting a simple contract with some basic clauses over an extensive detailed agreement, regardless of whether they already had one with NaturalSpecialities. Finally, the distributors interviewed were strongly against working with binding targets, although they did not close the door completely for non-binding ones. Conclusion. Based on the results, this study developed a framework to harmonize the information flows between NaturalSpecialities and its distributors. This framework is built on five pillars: (1) communication, (2) information sharing, (3) business review, (4) technical support, and (5) legal. As trust is the most crucial aspect in the partnership, it serves as an umbrella for the whole framework. In second order, this research worked out an evaluation system using the Analytical Hierarchical Process (AHP) technique that assesses and ranks the distributors’ performance over a year. This system is based on five objective criteria being the number of prospects, the number of projects in the pipeline, the sales volume, the presence on distributor and business review meetings and the personnel turnover. The judgement of the sales contact is also taken into account as a sixth subjective criterion to ensure all nuances about each distributor (size, sector, market situation, …) are considered. Important to note is that the information stemming from the framework is needed as input for the evaluation system. To finalize the project, an action plan to implement both the framework and the evaluation system is constructed and can serve as a guideline. Limitations. The research also faced some limitations. Next to the small sample of five distributors that were interviewed, only twenty-one distributors responded to the survey. Moreover, the distributor profiles differed significantly which made it challenging to create one general framework and an accompanying evaluation system. Also, the evaluation system is based on AHP, however it had to be altered for this project as AHP is not used in the literature as a distributor performance evaluation method as such. Lastly, the criteria possibilities for evaluating partners are limited as some aspects are too complicated to measure. Recommendations. When transforming the current way of working, this study proposes to always prioritize trust within the relationship, consider the distributors’ concerns and thus assess the impact of the decisions on the partnership. It is therefore crucial to communicate directly to distributors about all (possible) changes and explain thoroughly why these are necessary and beneficial for both parties. Next, this report advises to provide understandable and up to date documentation, such as technical data sheets and application leaflets. Furthermore, organizing (smaller, continental) distributor meetings or trainings more frequently could possibly enhance the exchange of information with NaturalSpecialities and among distributors. The company can also develop or establish a platform to facilitate sharing documents and tracking orders, providing it does not replace daily interaction with the distributors. On top, a simple legal agreement with some key clauses in which mutual expectations, the scope of the collaboration and the common goals are clearly stipulated should be sufficient to regulate the partnership. Lastly, NaturalSpecialities can work with non-binding targets, within reason and determined in consultation with the distributors, to spot early on, if and when a distributor faces difficulties.
    • Co-developing a sustainable framework to assist in implementing sustainability initiatives

      Brizido, Beatriz; Martens, Kim; Mellibosky, Paula (2022)
      Giopato & Coombes initially unveiled its creative mind and designs within the lighting industry in 2014, consisting of a luxury-driven product portfolio. Due to its growth, the company began thinking about the consequences this can have on sustainability. Therefore, they partnered with Vlerick Business School to tackle this challenge together. The design industry is still not at the forefront of green businesses, but Giopato & Coombes sees an opportunity to make a difference here. From within, they are looking to see how they can help the fight against climate change and are seeking guidance on how to initiate this journey. Upon understanding Giopato & Coombes' business and aligning with their goals, the project hit the ground running beginning with a stakeholder analysis, where key stakeholders were identified to determine which rank higher in importance and consider how sustainability would impact those most relevant. Once key stakeholders were identified, the approach to analyzing the impact initiatives would have on the company would be done by surveying and collecting information via interviews. The survey was built on the premise of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a means of gauging where Giopato & Coombes can intervene and make a difference. Clients, suppliers and employees were either interviewed or given a survey to determine what sustainability means to them and which SDGs they consider to be most important. Deriving from these assessments, material topics relating to Giopato & Coombes within the lighting industry were finalized and strategizing ensued. The SDGs served as a functional foundation for this stage since topics surrounding the current climate crisis are covered and allow companies looking to engage by providing a framework on which goal, they can tackle as a company. Based on the SDGs, the next step was to develop material topics where stakeholders were asked to rank in terms of importance. Twenty material topics were selected and of the twenty, three were explored further in-depth based on importance assigned from Giopato & Coombes stakeholders, including the founders. The following report will discuss the results obtained from conducting the surveys and assessments including a breakdown of three pillars under Giopato & Coombes’ new sustainability framework. The three pillars are based on Employee Safety, Health & Wellness, Product quality & safety, and Responsible Sourcing material topics, which proved to be the ones most relevant to both stakeholders and founders. From the more material issues, three pillars were built: Employee Well-Being, Product Excellence and Sourcing. Under the three strategic priorities are several initiatives provided as solutions to the drive of incorporating sustainability into the Giopato & Coombes DNA. Within Employee Well-Being, launching a wellness program, engaging in charity partnerships and organizing team-building activities are three initiatives to be explored and serve as recommendations to accomplish the material topic: “All employees are provided the necessary tools to maintain their safety, health, and wellness standards and explicit policies are put in place to ensure these standards are met.” Secondly, regarding Product Excellence, achieving globally recognized certifications within the luxury industry and incorporating sustainability incentives to the product will assure that Giopato & Coombes is “Creating and developing all designs to follow quality and safety standards”. Finally, Sourcing aims to improve trust and enhance the relationship between Giopato & Coombes and its stakeholders while simultaneously tackling the challenge associated with responsible sourcing. This goal will be achieved through the implementation of supplier compliance agreements, the increase of local sourcing practices and the usage of Aura blockchain technology. The three pillars mentioned above are considered feasible and in line with Giopato & Coombes’ current brand image and the area where they want to implement sustainability into their future journey. There is a desperate call for all industries operating within the business realm to heavily consider revamping their business practices for the sake of saving future generations. The main theme concerning sustainability is the urgency to act now so we do not sacrifice the livelihood of future generations.
    • Mapping out the maturity within digital transformation/ industry 4.0 at a consultancy firm’s customers and prospects on a European level

      Bastien, Elise; Messely, Amy; Tack, Marthe (2022)
      Exponential growth of technological possibilities has changed the way organisations operate and build relationships with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders (Matarazzo et al., 2021). If organisations wish to stay competitive in the long run, they should adopt digital transformation capabilities to achieve operational excellence, improve customer relationships and optimise their business models (Guo & Xu, 2021). To create value for customers, prospects and 9altitudes, a research was designed to assess how mature European organisations in the manufacturing and supply chain industry are in the field of digital transformation. These insights are to be used for two purposes: a magazine and an online benchmarking tool. Based on this information, the following two research questions were put forward: “How mature are European Manufacturing & Supply chain companies in the field of digital transformation?” “How can digital maturity be measured in order to develop a benchmarking tool?” The conducted research consisted of secondary and primary market research. As secondary market research, a thorough desk research was completed in order to properly draft the primary market research. The aim of the desk research was to create a deep understanding of digital transformation within the manufacturing and supply chain industry. Secondly, different ways of measuring digital maturity were compared. The Spider Chart, which is based on the three domains Strategy, Organisational readiness and Technology (with each three subdomains), was chosen as the measurement model for this research. Thirdly, a clear segmentation for the primary market research was drawn out based on several buyer personas. The primary market research focused on people on decision-making level, active in a European organisation in the manufacturing or supply chain industry. For this, there was a specific focus on the countries were 9altitudes is active: Belgium, Denmark, France, The Netherlands and Slovenia. For the primary market research, a mixed-method approach was used combining qualitative and quantitative market research. Based on the desk research, a questionnaire was developed for in-depth interviews. After three pilot interviews, the final questionnaires for either the interviews and the online survey were created. Customers of 9altitudes were contacted to participate via the sales team and/or recieved an email that was sent out through the CRM system. Prospects were gathered through our own network and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. As an incentive, participants were promised the general research findings, personalised feedback and the chance to win a balloon flight (linked with the 9altitudes “reach new heights” baseline). An overall average digital maturity score of 3,15 out of five was found. This score was calculated based on the average of the three domains of the spider chart: Strategy, Organisational readiness and Technology. For Strategy, an average maturity score of 3,4 out of five was found which was determined by looking at three subdomains: customer obsession, sustainability and business trends. When asked about the strategy in the interviews, a lot of the companies indicated that they are moving forward with a strategy to implement digital transformation. Companies that do not have a good strategy for digital transformation are not able to see the bigger picture. Customer-obsessed organisations use data to respond to the needs of their customers, look at the bigger picture and focus on new and innovative ways to satisfy their customers (Heydenrych et al., 2020). To achieve this, it is important to use tools such as buyer journeys and personas (Halb & Seebacher, 2021). While most companies stated to know their customers’ pain points, less than half implemented these tools. This can indicate that organisations overestimate themselves. In addition, not enough companies actually measure customer satisfaction and the evolution they make over time. A second part of the Strategy that was researched is sustainability, which has evolved to a strategic business requirement according to van Herzelde & Vervecken (2022). Despite the importance, only half of the organisations indicate to consider it as a vital part of their strategy. These organisations are resetting their sustainability goals to improve their supply chain, waste management and overall efficiency. Business trends are the last subdomain of the strategy, which most of the companies pay attention to. A second domain on which digital maturity was measured is Organisational readiness. Evaluating the three subdomains change management, ‘one team, one dream, one goal’ and project-based way of working, results in an average maturity score of 3,3 out of five. Overall, only one third of interviewed companies stated to be completely ready and open for change. Only half of the organisations are using specific change management methodologies for this, while people are the key part of a successful strategy (Claes, 2020). The other half manages change in different ways or do not know how they approach this. These results indicate that some organisations might have difficulties implementing digital transformation and could integrate change management into their daily operations to improve performances. Besides, only half of the companies claim their employees understand the values and the mission of the organisation which are translated into behavioural do’s and don'ts on which people are managed. When asked about the last subdomain, half of the respondents can move quickly and easily in reaction to a changing environment, which is in line with the number of companies implementing change management. This agility empowers organisations to implement digital transformation. Technology is the last domain on which the digital maturity was measured, with the lowest average score of 2,8 out of five. The three subdomains are technology embed innovation, IT architecture and scenarios for the future. A One-Way ANOVA indicated that large enterprises score higher on technology than small enterprises with less than 20 employees. When asked about technologies, organisations allocate high importance to cyber security, RPA and Big data. These are interesting trends for 9altitudes to provide more information about. Both the online survey and the interviews indicate that scenario thinking is not widely implemented. However, companies who think in scenarios for the future, are more able to proactively anticipate on the latest trends and stay digitally agile. Based on data, companies can be proactive instead of reactive. The ultimate goal is to use data to enable scenario thinking so that long-term plans can be made with more flexibility (Viaene, 2020). The fact that not a lot of companies implement scenarios, indicates that there is room for improvement. Most companies indicated people, company characteristics and limited resources as the biggest obstacles when implementing digital transformation. However, qualitative interviews showed that companies are well aware of the importance of digital transformation to stay competitive and improve business performance. The average maturity score of 3,15 out of five is rather high, but there is still a lot of room for improvement, certainly in the domain of Technology. A clear questionnaire was developed considering all nine subdomains of the spider chart. This questionnaire can be used as input for the benchmarking tool on the website of 9altitudes. The answered research questions provided 9altitudes with content to create a magazine and a measurement design to develop the final benchmarking tool for the website. Through these two initiatives customers and prospects of 9altitudes are able to benchmark themselves against their peers. It has been proven that organisations with a high level of digital maturity perform better on revenue growth, time to market, cost efficiency, product quality and customer satisfaction (BCG, n.d.-a). Having up-to-date information about their organisations’ performance allows customers and prospects of 9altitudes to shape their digital transformation journey in order to stay competitive and improve performances. It can be concluded that by launching these two initiatives, customer loyalty and an opportunity to generate leads due to insightful customer and prospect interactions are strengthened.
    • Sustainable strategy for the supply of agricultural inputs for the federation of market gardening producers of lower Guinea

      Bulen, Lars; Samaniego, Ana; Waelput, Gianni (2022)
      The Republic of Guinea, and particularly the Lower Guinea area, has a wealth of agricultural potential that is ideal for market gardening. This market gardening production is based primarily on local expertise that has been built up over time. Leading producers' federations such as FOPMA-BG, which is made up of members organised around the goal of producing quality and quantity market gardening products for mass consumption, tries to support and coordinate the farmers in Guinea. Moreover, Lower Guinea can benefit from technical and financial partners who are ready to give support. However, despite these assets, the main actors of these market gardening sectors are still struggling to become leaders on the national agricultural production scene. Which is causing a lack in profitability and prohibiting them to be sustainable over time, resulting in problems in all different domains. For this project, however, the scope and the objectives are to tackle the problems related to the inputs for the farmers, problems with monitoring their data and problems in increasing the capacity of the farmers. The goal is to accompany FOPMA-BG in a strategy to mobilise internal and external resource to improve the supply of agricultural inputs to the members. This culminates in the research question: “What actions can be undertaken to improve the supply and availability of agricultural inputs to strengthen the capacities of FOPMA-BG so that it is a representative federation?”Findings Through the 4C analysis done by interview questionnaires in Guinea, the environment around the research question was mapped. It indeed revealed that there is a big need for improvement in the supply of agricultural inputs. The main needs for the members are timely access to quality inputs, access to profitable markets and access to financing. Although, there are immense difficulties that lie ahead, such as supply shortages, increasing global fertiliser prices, and insufficient professionalism among farmers with high illiteracy rates. The current landscape in Guinea is also not ideal with poor infrastructure, no agricultural bank, and political turmoil. The strategy and recommendations must really tackle these issues. But there are assets that FOPMA-BG has at its disposal to deal with them. It is clear by now that private-public partnerships are immensely important. The federation has a lot of partners, and they are all committed to improving the supply of agricultural inputs. They all also expressed the importance of training to strengthen the capacities of the farmers. The land and climate are also very suitable in Guinea, with fertile soils and abundant rain. A strong tool that FOPMA-BG has at its disposal is the village savings and loans associations. They have proved to be an ingenious way to mobilise resources of the members to facilitate the access to financing. And the analysis has proved that financing is foundational to the success of any supply system. The advantages of these savings groups (GVECs) will certainly be exploited to create a suitable strategy for FOPMA-BG. Recommendations. The strategy to improve the supply of agricultural inputs is based on a strategic framework for African agricultural input supply systems developed by the International Fertilizer Development Center. There are three pillars to the framework that will improve the supply of agricultural inputs. First, the profitability of the members must be increased. Second, the risks must be decreased. Third, non-farm income must be incentivised. However, the success of these three actions lies on the federation being strong. So organisational strategy is also included in the framework. There are four main recommendations that flow out of this strategic framework. The first main recommendation is to organise grouped purchases of inputs for the members. Grouped purchases of agricultural inputs based on forecasted needs are a sure way to get timely access to quality inputs at a reasonable cost. The unions will order these inputs at microfinance institutions against credit. The necessary amount will be surveyed by handing out forms. Once the credit has to be reimbursed, the unions will collect the funds from the GVECs directly. This will decrease the default rate as there is a social pressure for the members to then reimburse the GVEC. This process will also incentivise the formation of more GVECs, which brings along other advantages. More members will get access to financing, and this will also increase their financial literacy. This is paired with more solidarity funds that help manage personal risk related to the farmers. And the funds from the GVEC can also be used to invest in new communal non-farm income. The second main recommendation is to organise grouped sales for the members. This enables the members to have more market power. Additionally, grouped sales will give them access to lucrative contracts with the hospitality industry and mining companies that are abundantly present in Guinea. Selling together will also decrease some transaction costs through economies of scale. So overall, this strategy increases their profitability. However, when these grouped sales are coupled with fixed pricing via forward contracts, they can also help manage the commodity price risk. The third main recommendation is to promote and incentivise fertiliser use. This has the aim to increase to the output of the farmers to eventually increase their profitability. There are three ways to achieve this. First, there are financial incentives whereby an NGO pledges to cover 50 percent of the costs incurred by purchasing fertilisers for one year. After seeing the benefits of using enough fertiliser, members will be incentivised to use more at their own expense. Second, there are social incentives whereby success stories of farmers who optimally used fertilisers are spread around. This will encourage other farmers to do the same. Additionally, the federation must build upon mutual solidarity so that members will share their technical knowledge with each other. Third, there is additional training. Members need to be adequately trained in the proper use of fertilisers. Especially composting to obtain organic fertilisers is important, since this is more sustainable for the soil.The fourth main recommendation is to implement an index-based insurance to manage production risks. This agricultural insurance offers farmers insurance contracts based on measurable indices such as precipitation. This system makes administering the contracts and paying back the farmers easier. For the implementation of this type of insurance, FOPMA-BG needs to build strong public-private relationships with actors in the value chain, such as the Federation of Farmers of Fouta Djallon, NGOs, and microfinance institutions. These four recommendations are designed around the general strategic framework but are built to match the specific circumstances of FOPMA-BG. Behind the success of this strategy lies a strong organisation, so the internal capacities of the federation must be strengthened as well. When all this is successfully put in place as a long-term transformation plan, the supply of agricultural inputs for the members of FOPMA-BG will improve.
    • Identifying business opportunities to increase an international home appliance player’s popularity within a younger customer segment

      Beernaert, Adriaan; Shai Salustri, Luisa (2022)
      Within the household appliance sector, Miele has always been a brand name linked to quality and reliability. The last years, new competitors have entered the market and Miele has seen its position as preferred brand dwindle among younger consumer groups. The history of the brand is also noticed in their sales structure, where there is still a big focus on offline sales, often with long lasting partnerships with independent retailers. In the last decade, the importance of these offline sales channels have been wavering, and new online channels have taken the lead. Competing with new entrants in these channels is not always easy, as they can focus their attention on these new channels without the responsibility of providing a future for historic partnerships, of which Miele has plenty. With the changing competitive landscape and a possible change in customer behaviors and preferences, Miele Belgium, commissioner of this study, decided to study the upcoming generation of appliance customers in more detail. By gaining information on this new generation and their consumer preferences, Miele hopes to evoke the same feelings of loyalty and favoritism the brand has been known to evoke among its older customers. To contribute to this goal, the objective of this ICP is to discover how Miele can reach the mind and the heart of the 25-35 y/o customer. In order to formulate a structured and thorough answer to this question, three themes have been identified. In the first theme the target group is further analyzed. The average customer journey and the customer needs and expectations were researched by reading the generational researches already available on these topics. In a second phase, focus groups with local household appliance consumers belonging to the target group were organized. In the second theme, the AS-IS situation of Miele Belgium was analyzed. To gain insights in Miele’s current way of doing business, semi-structured interviews with employees from all departments were conducted. In a second phase, many internal documents describing Miele’s current values , sales & marketing strategy and upcoming business projects were investigated, using the information present on the companies shared drive. In a last phase, Miele’s brand positioning and the positions of their main local competitors were analyzed. This was done using the PESO-framework, which consisted of a number of anonymous store visits combined with a content analysis, which focused on the brands’ websites, social media channels and press messages. In the last theme the insights gathered in theme one and theme two were combined to create several recommendations. For each of these recommendations, the insights from the first two themes that led to the recommendation are reported as well as a detailed description of how the change could be implemented operationally. During the research many trends and characteristics were described as being specific to this generation. The urbanization trend, the experience economy and the disappearance of gender roles were all world trends linked to this upcoming generation. The target group also has some globally identified expectations. They are known to like brands that help them define their own identity, engage with them and to assist them in living their lives. Next to that, the target group has the tendency to be information addicts and to influence the consumer choices of their peers by reverberating. When delving deeper into the local consumer expectations when buying household appliances, six main purchase drivers were discovered. Within the target group, reliability was seen as the most important aspects of the machine. Price and convenience came in on a close second place. The other three purchase drives: design, sustainability and connectivity were considered but of a lesser importance compared to the three previously mentioned purchase drivers. Concerning the customer journey, it was discovered that almost everyone within the target group started their journey with an online research phase. Within this generation of research addicts, sites which allowed them to compare were heavily preferred. Consequently, the importance of being clearly visible on the online dealer web shops, such as Coolblue, was mentioned by many of participants within the target group. The need for independent information is also high within this generation. Many tend to search for reviews by independent consumer organizations or previous purchasers to help them make their decision. After this phase, around half of the target group still liked to touch the product physically in a store before the final decision was made. When finally ready to make the purchase, a majority of the target group saw no difference in buying it online or offline. Rather, they focused on aspects such as price and quality of the after-sales service. Regarding the AS-IS situation, a first insight gathered is the importance Miele attributes to their values, recently redefined in the ‘Creators of Quality’ framework. The values immer besser for customers, employees, planet and performance were mentioned in many of the conversations. References to these values can also be found when parsing their current sales and marketing strategy. Throughout their product portfolio, Miele very clearly state that they focus on offering premium looking appliances of indisputable quality. These same values are communicated to their customers. Miele always uses their channels to publish articles with a luxurious and traditional look and feel. The information they share on social media is often related to a high-end lifestyle, such as cooking multiple course dinners. When comparing this to the competition, the difference in focus on a premium look and feel is even more noticeable. Many competitors communicate about other relevant topics, such as the convenient lifestyle their machines can generate, the sustainability aspect inherent to the appliances or the low prices and high quality they offer. In the end, there were two main reasons identified that prevented Miele to obtain a higher percentage of consideration within the target group. A first reason is their strong focus on communicating about the premium quality of the their products. This communication was very well remembered and internalized with the target group. The target group described the brand as being very desirable, but due to their sole focus on evoking a premium feeling, the perceived affordability of these products was quite low. A second reason the brand is not being considered is its price. Although this might seem very similar to the first reason, the difference lies in the nature of both barriers. Where the first reason is a psychological barrier, describing the product as unobtainable for the consumer, the second is a real financial barrier. To lower both barriers five recommendation have been put forward. The first recommendation concerns an extension and change in branding of the existing Miele Outlet. By leveraging the trust consumers have in Miele’s quality, Miele can start offering heavily used, refurbished products to lower significantly the financial barrier for entry. The second recommendation describes a change in the offline sales strategy. By introducing a more varied and customer centric array of reasons to buy Miele, the ‘not meant for me’ feeling can be lowered. Sales employees could talk about the low lifetime cost of the appliance, the convenience the machine is built to introduce into the lives of the target group or the longevity promised by Miele. The Miele Experience Centers could also change their offer to include more activities that are tailor made to the interest of the target group. The third recommendation concerns the possible entry of Miele on the rental/lease market. Within this research a low enthusiasm in the target group was discovered. The segments within the target group that were interested had a combination of high service expectations and a low willingness to pay. The possibility of a failed entry should be considered, thus local quantitative studies are strongly recommended before investing too many resources in this project. The fourth recommendation covers the Miele reputation of being a traditional brand. During the research, a big threat of the new entrants, such as Samsung, was discovered. Already many customers within the target group felt the connectivity features Samsung was adding to their appliance were attracting them to move away from traditional brands, such as Miele. The unproven reputation of these new entrants is the only reason why the traditional brands have not lost too much market share yet. In order to prevent this from happening Miele should focus R&D on creating technology, such as embedding IOT in their appliances. Accompanied with this, is the recommendation to already communicate about the current technology inside their appliances. Changing both the content and way of communicating this message should help Miele to shed their reputation of being traditional and help them to gain consideration among this digital-native generation. The last recommendation describes complementary communication angles Miele could introduce to lower the feeling of unreachability within the target group. The communication on quality could be complemented with topics of equal importance within the target group such as convenience, their future and sustainability. Lastly, it’s important to notice that the insights within the documents are mainly qualitative in nature. The insights in the customer group as well as the recommendation given can thus be described as been explorative. It is strongly advised that Miele validates all the findings and strategic recommendations they wish to implement in a large, representative post study.
    • Disclosure of inside information within the belgian biotech industry: a quantitative and qualitative analysis

      Baudewyns, Don; Vernimmen, Daan; Vingerhoets, Vincent (2022)
      As investing in biotech companies is subject to high risk and the information within this industry is often technical, it is important for investors that this information is disclosed in a comprehensible manner. This research investigates how the FSMA could improve the disclosure practices of inside information by Belgian biotech companies with respect to the FSMA Opinion, that sets out guidelines in this regard.1 Therefore, press releases published by both Belgian and foreign biotech companies are analysed. This analysis is complemented by a study on US case law and regulatory insights from Japan and Australia. Last, data of Belgian press releases is analysed in order to map the Belgian biotech companies’ labelling practices.
    • Transforming to a SAAS business model: Development of a product packaging and pricing strategy

      Gutarra, Claudia; Lancksweert, Christian; Ghekiere, Cyriel (2022)
      Mediagenix is the world leader in providing software solutions for the broadcasting industry. Today, its Whats’On software is the most advanced platform for managing and programming radio, TV, and online content channels, and orchestrating the content supply chain. The broadcaster landscape is evolving as new streaming players like Netflix have disrupted the market leading to reduced margins. With margins under pressure, broadcasters have been looking to improve their operational efficiency and have looked for economies of scale through M&A. On top of that, customer needs are evolving ever so more rapidly, which requires software providers to be able to deliver software updates faster. Mediagenix wants to seize this opportunity and prepare the company for the challenges of the future by transitioning its traditional One-time license (OTL) business model to Software-as-a-service (SaaS). Transformation to SaaS is more than switching to subscription pricing. It is a complete overhaul of the company which will involve changing the culture and mindset of the employees, obtaining new capabilities in customer success and product development as well as aligning key business processes and KPIs to the SaaS model. The business model transition implies a complete transformation of the company. Overview of the research objectives. The Mediagenix management has hired the Vlerick team to advise the company on three key projects which are part of its SaaS transformation. The first project is to analyze the potential of switching the current long-time customers who have bought the OTL years ago and currently pay a service and maintenance (S&M) fee to a subscription program. The company has asked us to build a revenue model in which different scenarios could be analyzed. The expectation is that the Vlerick team advises Mediagenix on which incentives and possible coercive measures it could use to switch clients to subscriptions. We are further expected to formulate an opinion on the subscription pricing level. The second project is to develop a new product packaging model for Mediagenix. Currently, the company has a product offering of around 110 different software modules, add-ons, and business APIs. Today, these are sold on an “a la carte basis” which leads to exceedingly long sales cycles due to the difficulty for the customer to understand the full product offering and link it to their needs. On top of that, price negotiations are made more difficult by an untransparent and complex pricing process. Mediagenix has asked the Vlerick team to build a product packaging for them based on customer needs and industry best practices. Lastly, linked with the previous question the new product packaging is developed Mediagenix asked us to advise them on setting the pricing levels for the new product packaging. The company has asked us to build a revenue forecast based on the new packages and pricing levels. We summarise our assignment into three research questions we wish to answer: - How should Mediagenix switch its existing customer base to a subscription model? - How should Mediagenix package its product modules to optimally serve its different customer segments? - How should Mediagenix price the new packages? Summary of the methods. OTL to SaaS To analyze the impact on the revenue of switching from an OTL software on-premise to a SaaS Subscription license fee, we will need to build a financial model to measure the impact of migrating current customers from the former to the latter. In order to build different scenarios, we will need to develop assumptions on subscription pricing, costs, benefits offered, discounts, OTL buybacks, customer churn, and the switch rate. We will rely on the results of surveys from the Business Developers Community as well as from the Steering Committee. This will help gauge their idea on pricing, potential value adds, and customer willingness to switch or potential churn rates. Based on this information, we will build a revenue model and analyze a couple of different scenarios. We will then develop recommendations, based on best practices and interviews, on how to switch to SaaS. Product Packaging in SaaS. After having analyzed the transformation to SaaS from a traditional OTL model, we will delve into the product packaging of SaaS products. We will first analyze the best practices in the industry through methodical literature research. Then, with the data gathered, interviews, and analysis of the product portfolio, we will have a better understanding of the customers’ needs which will enable us to build different sketches. Afterward, we will create a thorough questionnaire to be sent to the Business Developer Community. This will help us in our Leader, Filler, and Killer approach so to better match the needs of the current market segment. We will then create a final prototype of the product packaging that will be sent to the Steering Committee in the form of surveys. This will be done based on the Delphi Methodology, whereby two rounds of the questionnaire will be created and analyzed so to create the optimal packaging solution. Pricing. Both the questionnaire sent to the Business Developers and the two survey rounds sent to the Steering Committee will be used for the pricing. Through our literature research, we have gathered an important amount of information about the different value metrics associated with the SaaS industry. These will be analyzed before deciding which metrics to use. We will also go through the different pricing methods we believe to be appropriate in this industry. We will proceed with a Cost-Plus Analysis to establish a lower bound of our pricing. We will also establish the pricing of the packages based on the 2022 existing price list. Based on the Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity method, which will be conducted through the different sets of questionnaires, we will also determine an appropriate price range for the new packaging. And finally, we will be complementing this study by using the standard price based on this industry. We will then offer a comparison between these approaches before offering our recommendations on the pricing strategy. Conclusions & Recommendations. OTL to SaaS Switch. We concluded that Mediagenix should pursue the OTL to SaaS switch with their current client base. Even with OTL buybacks and price reductions, the company could significantly increase its total recurring revenue by € 5.4 million within the next 5 years. We advise Mediagenix to focus on switching clients with OTL’s dating back more than 5 years. We present them with a plan that would offer a one-year soft switch period with price reductions and a hard switch after three years where clients with OTL older than 5 years are forced into the subscription model. We advise Mediagenix to hold off on the switch to subscription for clients with OTL younger than 5 years for one year to reduce the cost of the OTL buyback. We advise them to work on a similar trajectory with a soft switch period with incentives and a hard switch period. Lastly, we advise Mediagenix to consider the wider implications of the transformation in terms company of culture, product development, sales enablement, and customer success capabilities. Product Packaging. We advise Mediagenix to adopt and further refine the hybrid product packaging model we have developed for them. We believe combining the Platform Plus Bundles model with Good Better Best tiers in the base platform will allow the company to create more structure in its product offering while maintaining flexibility for specific customer needs. We advise the company to build an internal team to further refine the packaging and test the prototype with trusted clients for feedback and review. We further advise Mediagenix to push their existing customers to sign up for the new packages in order not to have two pricing systems. Lastly, we advise the company to investigate feature gating some functions in their software to help upsell clients and create more clear distinctions between the packages. Pricing. Based on our research and revenue modeling we advise Mediagenix to adopt the pricing we obtained from the Van Westendorp surveys for all packages apart from the good package where we advise the cost-plus margin pricing. This combination offers a combination of revenue growth at higher margins. Based on our cost assumptions and pricing exercise we call into question the feasibility of launching the good package to the small media market as the cost vastly exceeds the target customer’s willingness to pay. We recommend the management to review the strategic decision of entering that specific market segment. We further advise Mediagenix to test pricing levels with short-term contracts of 1 to 2 years for new clients to test pricing levels.
    • The laptop that grows with you: The effects of a flexible subscription model

      Sefzik, Jana; Verhasselt, Thomas (2022)
      The EdTech scene has experienced a growth spurt due to COVID-19. As a result, education has shifted more towards an online environment. This increased demand for digital products from the education sector has allowed many companies to grow and profit, The Rent Company being one of them. Currently, The Rent Company provides laptop devices to over 200,000 students in the Netherlands, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. This education hardware is offered as part of the Easy4u proposition where a student is guaranteed continued access to a laptop for the duration of the subscription with repairs and loaner devices included. Nevertheless, The Rent Company has found a gap in their current market offering. Due to the rigid fixed subscription model, The Rent Company is unable to offer a laptop that “grows” with the students, resulting in many of them dropping out once their subscription ends even if they still have more than four years of studies to complete. For this thesis, The Rent Company asked the research team whether it is possible to offer an all-encompassing subscription plan to the schools, caretakers, and students. The main goal is to create a model that incorporates the different demands and needs of all different types of customers whilst ensuring the model is flexible enough to meet the changing demands. This thesis has created such a model based on existing literature, internal interviews, expert interviews, and a survey. The result is a model that is both flexible, ensures recurring revenues, and promotes a sustainable life for each laptop. The researchers have also incorporated specific aspects to take into consideration when and how to implement this model from a change strategy point of view. Current literature agrees that a laptop has a lifespan of seven years. Nevertheless, due to planned obsolescence and changing customer needs, a laptop is preferably kept for a maximum of five years by users. Of these laptops, around 70% to 90% can be revamped, ensuring a second life, and reducing the carbon footprint by up to 45%. Although there is a literature gap regarding educational laptops, a second life laptop can be used for up to three years. For the Total Cost of Ownership of such a model, companies are advised to approach their value chain from an activity-based costing concept. Key to the success of a prolonged life cycle for assets is the ability of the company to recognize responsibility centers and assign costs to them. For the implementation of these changes internally, this essay combined both a processual and a descriptive model which can guide the company during the implementation of this and any future change projects. The main takeaway is the need to remain flexible, as change is uncertain in nature, though also the ability to follow several key steps along the road to implementation. By combining the literature with three expert interviews, sixteen internal interviews and a survey with 437 customer responses, this thesis discussed the internal issues in detail. First, most consumers (+60%) seem interested in the possibility to continue using the Easy4u subscription, even after their initial subscription runs out. Nevertheless, a demand for a more updated or advanced model is clearly present in the higher years of secondary education. Communication, both externally towards the customer and internally between departments, is lacking. The communication towards the customer is described as “subpar” and the internal communication distance is often referred to as “the wall”. Other internal issues are the high exposure to seasonality, missing documentation, and the internal data and process system Easy4u. With these criteria in mind, this thesis created a complete model applicable to the Netherlands and Belgium. The main findings are that using this model, a laptop has a maximum first lifetime of four years (three in Belgium) after which the device is mandatory to be swapped resulting in the students following a Device-as-a-Service model. Because of this, it is expected that the throughput time for repairs will significantly decrease, and the peaks times in repairs and preparation will be more spread out. Next, each laptop is revamped within its ADP and care pack coverage, resulting in a final margin for The Rent Company. Once the devices are revamped, they can be offered to a secondary market chosen by the company. Financially, this model trades in some financial certainty for scalability and customer personalization. Internally, the support for the first life model is unanimous whilst the second life model has been subject to many different opinions regarding how to deal with the revamped products (scrapping, selling, renting etc.). This thesis concludes with several key recommendations for the management of The Rent Company. First, a decision needs to be made regarding where and how to deploy the revamped laptops. Several possibilities are listed ranging from using it in the existing markets as a cheaper subscription option to selling it to third parties in developing economies. The second recommendation is regarding the Easy4u platform. A decision needs to be made on how to use the legacy platform in the future: as a generic central database or a platform specified to complete actions for a select few departments. The third recommendation is regarding the change strategy. By combining a theoretical and practical framework, two to four key action points have been suggested for each of the four change dimensions. Crucial are better internal communication, more documentation, and the creation of internal sponsorships by setting up project teams with different focus areas and responsibilities. Moreover, a timeline in which the different steps required to bring this project to a successful launch are explained with a full-scale deployment of the model within four years.
    • What are the investment opportunities within the continuous learning market in Europe?

      Hanssens, Rachel; Van Ruiten, Isabelle; Wauthier Eléonore (2021)
      Sofina is a Belgian family holding founded in 1889 with a net asset value (NAV) of €8.9bn. It is listed on Euronext Brussels and is also part of the BEL20 since 2017. The uniqueness of Sofina lies in its patient capital, its established history as a family-owned investment company and its key partnerships with worldwide investment leaders. The firm has a global reach with investments in Europe, Asia and the United States. Sofina deploys three investment styles to partner with companies across different phases of the business life cycle: long-term minority investments, investments in venture and growth capital funds and investments in fast-growing businesses. Through an optimal mix of participations in said styles, Sofina performed particularly well in 2020, with a shareholder return of 18% and a jump in NAV from €7.6bn in 2019 to €8.9bn in 2020. The holding has four focus sectors: Consumer & Retail, Digital Transformation, Healthcare and Education. For the latter, Sofina is now looking to gain a better understanding of the fastest growing segment: continuous learning. Though poised to grow by 203% by 2030, this space has been left untapped by Sofina to date. In light of these findings, Sofina has mandated a Vlerick In-Company-Project (ICP) team to identify the investment opportunities within the European continuous learning market. This project is positioned within the fast-growing business investment style. The global education market has undergone massive transformation and growth over the last years. From a value point of view, the industry more than doubled over the course of the last two decades, growing from $2.8tn in 2000 to $4.2tn in 2010 to $5-6tn today. According to HolonIQ projections, the industry is set to reach $10tn by 2030, implying a 4% CAGR between 2000-2030. Albeit a century-old industry, education grows at a faster rate than the GDP of most advanced economies. The education market can be segmented in multiple ways. The consensus in the literature is to differentiate between four learning stages: Pre-K, K12, higher education and continuous learning. Whilst only representing 6% of the global education market in 2019, continuous learning is poised to note most growth by 2030, doubling its market share value-wise to 12%. The continuous learning market’s growth is driven by the changing demand for skills which is in turn is driven by key trends that are shaping the need for reskilling and upskilling the existing workforce. This trend that further supports Sofina’s rationale to deep-dive into the continuous learning market. The primary driver of the changing demand for skills is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The trend of digitisation, automation and the increasing use of data and artificial intelligence are changing the way business is done and live their day-to-day lives. These innovations are happening at a faster pace which is further fuelling the pre-existing skills mismatch. Not only the nature of work is changing, but also the workforce is shifting. On the one hand, there is the ageing population which increases the need for learning for older people to stay relevant within the current workforce. On the other hand, a shift in generations within the workforce will take place. Millennials and Gen Z attach great importance to learning and development opportunities in the workplace. Moreover by 2030, 80% of new jobs added to the European economy are considered to be high-skill intensive. Our research highlight that both IT skills and soft skills are expected to be required by the majority of the workforce within ten years. Therefore, we deep dived into the different subsegments within IT skills and soft skills as well as into the different learning methods that exist to teach those skills. The IT training market is worth approximately $70bn in 2020 split between data & software ($31bn), cybersecurity ($9bn) and IT infrastructure & cloud computing ($30bn). Based on our research, data/software training is delivered via different learning methods. Two delivery methods in particular, hands-on platforms and bootcamps, have been identified as well tailored for teaching advanced IT skills. Moreover, cybersecurity has also been highlighted as a universe for potential investment. Within cybersecurity, we distinguish between technical training and awareness training. Both markets show tremendous growth potential and attractive industry structure with a lot of new emerging companies. On the other hand, we noticed that the competitive landscape of IT infrastructure and cloud computing is dominated by a few big players such as Amazon Web Service, Google Cloud, Microsoft. Therefore, those markets are not interesting for Sofina because ultimately the holding would always have to deal with those huge tech companies as end suppliers. The soft skills training market is segmented in six learning methods: microlearning, short classes, medium classes, executive classes, coaching and mentoring & peer-to-peer learning. Among these methods, coaching has been identified as the most effective learning method for soft skills development and implies the the largest future potential. Based on data from the International Coaching Federation (2020), the total market size of coaching approximated $15bn in 2019, of which B2B with 65% accounts for the lion’s share. Given that the pricepoint for corporate coaching is often up to 3 times higher than B2C, it can be assumed that the actual market is potentially even larger. The prospects of the coaching market look promising. Coaching platforms enable to deliver coaching in a more scalable and affordable way. In addition, the online segment is projected to further grow on the back of democratised pricing of new coaching platforms. Our findings served as the basis for the ultimate deliverable of this In-Company-Project as they stipulated the rationale of our investment recommendation. We developed a universe-specific longlist, shortlist and profile one-pager of promising investment targets for the four selected universes: handson platforms, bootcamps, cybersecurity and coaching). We collected company names from industryspecific reports and enriched our list with players namedropped during expert calls and meetings with the Sofina education team. In total, 203 companies have been identified during this first screening. Those 203 companies constitute our longlist. Next, we shortlisted candidates based on five criteria set by Sofina: investment stage, presence of existing investors identified by Sofina as core or target investors, customer focus of companies (i.e., B2B was favoured to B2C), business model (i.e., pure players were favoured to multi-solution providers) and employee growth. We believe that these companies fit within Sofina’s investment strategy and are well-positioned to capture current and future value in the continuous learning space. The most suitable candidates not yet on Sofina’s radar have been profiled in 15 one-pagers. In conclusion, we recognise investment opportunities within the European continuous learning market in providers of IT training solutions (i.e. interactive platforms, bootcamps and cybersecurity) and providers of soft skills development (i.e. coaching). The team recommends Sofina to schedule more expert calls to further collect insights on the position of the 15 selected targets vis-à-vis other emerging players as well as industry incumbents. If favourable, the team suggests to establish first contact with the entrepreneurs to gauge investment interest.
    • Data services: the way forward for the banking industry Simge

      Hocalar, Simge; Raymaekers, Nina (2021)
      This thesis discusses the question “Is the bank ING Netherlands in a position to propose a data insight solution to its wholesale clients?”. This subject emerged as external elements push banks to be more data driven and innovative. Market trends such as open banking initiatives, traditional revenues being under threat and increasing clients’ demands create an urgency for ING to adapt to the current market reality. The scope of this paper is narrowed down to look at the validity behind answering this question across three evaluative axes: desirability, feasibility, and viability. This was done by first exploring if the bank’s wholesale clients would be interested in such insights through a primary customer research, then by examining if its internal capabilities were adequate to doing so through analysis, and finally confirming viability of the project via an internal situation analysis. For the purpose of this study, we focused on the bank’s Dutch entity, gathering most of our information from employees in the departments of payments, sales and data analytics via semi-structured interviews. Through our research we were able to establish that all three components were addressable for this proposition. Our analysis of desirability has shown that ING’s wholesale clients want to better understand industry trends and habits of their customers, in order to make strategic decisions regarding store offerings, closures or expansions. In gathering such information, they currently are frustrated by incomplete data sourced internally or embark on a lengthy process to get it externally giving them only a snapshot in time. Therefore, to satisfy their client’s needs, ING has to incorporate information on share of wallet and segment overlaps in a potential product offering. It is clear that clients will be interested in acquiring this product under this form. Regarding the feasibility, we conclude that if ING decides to continue with this project, the bank is capable to develop such a data-driven product. First of all, the clients’ needs are addressable in terms of ethical compliance. This means that ING is able to create a final product which is both desired by clients and feasible for ING to execute. Furthermore, ING is able to offer the data insights in subscription-based bundles, since this is preferred by the clients as well as achievable for ING. The creation of a platform would support the distribution of the bundles and can be easily created as ING has the experience and a data analytics team is available. Lastly, internally the bank has the necessary components that are relevant in constructing the data proposition. The strategic mindset focused on data, the strong positioning and the unique selling point enforce the possibility that ING is able to create data insight solutions for their clients. For the viability of this project, we can conclude that ING should pursue a data proposition. The external market analysis indicates that banks should operate in an innovative way and utilize the data they have in order to keep up with the current market trends. Especially threats regarding traditional revenue streams, open banking initiatives and the changing needs of corporate clients push banks to adapt. Furthermore, within the current competitive environment we believe there is a space for ING to establish itself as one of the main banks, as no other ones were yet detected in the Netherlands who offer this type of data proposition. However, ING should be aware of emerging fintechs as they form a substantial part of the competitors who pose a threat. Additionally, previous initiatives showcase ING is capable of developing such solutions, but two obstacles should be considered when taking this initiative further: addressing the ethical dilemmas and monetizing the solution accordingly. In addressing the viability, we have also looked into the value for ING, where it can be either direct or indirect. Lastly, currently three roll-out options have presented themselves for ING to choose from. The conclusions reached from our research and evaluation of the three components can be illustrated by the following: desirability, feasibility and viability for this proposition are all present. Customer facing, their clients have pain points addressable through share of wallet and segment overlap information. Internally, ING has the data, product overview and capabilities needed to shape this proposition. In regard to the strategic decision, no other bank is currently offering this in the Netherlands but there are competitors, ethical dilemmas and monetization are obstacles to projects succeeding, revenue can be indirect and direct, and roll-out can be stand-alone, incorporate or partner. Our recommendations are based on the urgency and time sensitivity of this project for ING. If less time sensitive, they can incorporate this solution into the Dealwise platform, requiring no technical investment and allowing for pairing with loyalty schemes. If more time sensitive, they can decide to keep ownership as a stand-alone proposition within tribe payments, or partner with Alphalyx efficiently and cautiously. When it comes to monetization, an answer from the ethical board is necessary but if positive we recommend going ahead as this would generate a new revenue stream for the bank. We have also presented some advice to the company with points we deem essential to success. The bank needs to learn from and build upon its past initiatives around data insights in order to correctly address and minimise ethical dilemmas this time around. In taking the next steps recommended, clear communication and structure are needed for information and focus of the project to be directed towards success.
    • Performing market research to provide the key elements to design a go-to-market strategy for the branding and launch of an innovative dermatological product in Belgium

      Arnou, Reinhard; Denys, Emma (2021)
      Acne vulgaris is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that affects 9.34% of the globalpopulation. The impact is both clinical and psychosocial, resulting in a considerable burden on people suffering from this disease. It has been described that the microbial skin flora consisting of C. acnes and S. epidermidis plays a large role as constituent in the development of inflammatory acne lesions. Consequently, current treatment guidelines include topical antibiotics to treat acne. As an R&D-driven innovation focused company, Flen Health developed Faceme, a medical device that has antimicrobial properties with a lower risk for development of antibiotic resistance in the treatment of acne vulgaris. The product creates an ideal wound healing environment for the acne lesions to reduce in both number and severity. Next to that, other ingredients contribute to lower sebum production and faster skin renewal. The anti-acne product market is extremely scattered with a very strong competitive landscape. This market consists of three types of products, including cosmetics, topical drugs sold without a prescription and topical and oral treatments available only on prescription. Globally, the cosmetics and anti-acne drug market combined, amount to over 6.5 billion USD in sales. Different sales channels and the very strong market positioning of competitors result in a fragmented market to enter for Flen Health. This report aims to provide the key elements in order to develop a product positioning and goto-market strategy for Faceme. This was done by means of the different steps described in the STP model. First of all, a generic product positioning was put forward based on the product properties and results of pre-clinical data. Secondly, patient’s experienced on suffering from acne and their search for a solution were researched. To design a patient journey pathway, both qualitative and quantitative interviews with patients were conducted. Based on these data, key stakeholders in the decision process of acne patients have been determined. The three main stakeholders are the patient, the pharmacist and the dermatologist. This necessitated the need for a qualitative semi-structured interviews with pharmacists to construct a pharmacist decision journey about recommending a certain anti-acne product. This has resulted in three decision processes for pharmacists i) starting with patients having an acne ailment ii) patients asking for a specific product, and iii) The main drivers for pharmacists to add a product to their in-house portfolio. Based on this research, it was observed that in order to create market disruption for Faceme, the pharmacists would be one of the main stakeholders to focus in order to be able to create large sales volumes. Before pharmacists can be convinced to recommend Faceme for patients, it is recommended to conduct additional clinical research on the efficacy of Faceme, next to a comparison with the main competitors. These have been selected based on usage by patients as well as pharmacy sales volumes. Finally, additional clinical data could also be useful to approach dermatologists and convince them to endorse usage of Faceme. A Rogers 5 factors analysis to determine the market disruption potential of Faceme was performed. This indicated that the strongest attribute for innovation adoption is Faceme’s relative advantage, which can be translated into a USP “Treating acne lesions as a type of wound”. Observability, on the other hand, proved to be the biggest inhibiting factor. Patients, pharmacist and treatment pathways were analyzed to define leverage points. These points were assigned a score based on multiple criteria. This model confirmed the importance of marketing efforts to drive large sales volume but was unable to provide insights into priorities because of a lack of specific data. This did however confirm the need for additional clinical testing. It is strongly advised to conduct additional clinical testing before launching Faceme, as this will clarify which leverage points to focus on and will help to refine how big the relative advantage of Faceme is.
    • Measure to success: KPIs in a growing B2B company

      Cnockaert, Charlotte; De Maeseneer, Margot (2021)
      Serax designs and creates design objects and furniture in collaboration with several designers and sells them B2B through different channels. Sales can either come from the sales representatives, the B2B webshop or direct orders from the distributors. The manufacturing of these products is outsourced before being stored at and distributed from the head office’s warehouse in Kontich. The customers are divided in two main categories, more specifically retail and hospitality. Over the years, Serax has seen an incredible growth in terms of products and customers. The company sells their products in many different countries and has recently expanded to the US. Moreover, the company aims to grow even more and hopes to achieve 50 million euro in sales by 2023. They want to achieve this goal though attracting more customers in and outside their core markets. To achieve this, they will need to work with new and more international designers. As a result of this expansion strategy, keeping track of the logistics and warehouse manually has become increasingly difficult, but so much the more important. Hence, our in-company project focuses on the development of a KPI list across different departments within Serax and ultimately a fitting dashboard. First, a survey is sent out to the two categories of customers. The customer survey is tailored to the customer segments, retail and hospitality, and their corresponding sub-segments and questions the overall performance of Serax, the performance of several company characteristics, the importance of these characteristics and the B2B webshop performance. In addition, customers have the option to leave a comment. The importance of the different characteristics in combination with its performance allows to identify important company objectives from which KPIs can be deducted. The identified objectives mainly relate to the availability of the products, the delivery of correct and no damaged products, the compliance with expectations as well as the high quality customer service and products. In addition, the webshop seems to underperform with regards to its user-friendliness and functionality. Next to the survey, interviews are conducted with employees from Serax and people with relevant experience in the field of company reporting. The inhouse interviews help to map the different processes within each department and the corresponding responsibilities, while the external interviews provide insights in avoiding common pitfalls, such as developing too many complex KPIs and lack of accountability, and finding the metrics of great importance. The information collected from the survey, the different interviews and the literature review allows to construct a strategy map. The strategy map is used to define objectives and corresponding metrics customised to different needs while keeping in mind the overall strategy of a company. The strategy map objectives are presented following four different perspectives, more specifically the financial perspective, the customer perspective, the internal processes and lastly, the learning and growth perspective. After establishing and constructing the company’s objectives following the strategy map, each objective can be linked to one or more KPIs. This allows Serax to measure the desired evolution in terms of the extent to which KPI targets are achieved. Then, objectives are linked to other objectives within the same perspective or another to show how the objectives are interrelated and how each objective contributes to the overall strategy. To ensure the KPI list is as relevant as possible, another approach is applied in this report. The purpose of the second method, being the return on invested capital tree, is to better link the financial objective of a company to its operations. This should be achieved through splitting up the ROIC in as many relevant sub-components that are measurable. These measurable components then represent the KPIs. The combination of both methods yields a long list of KPIs. The full list contains objectives, definitions and the calculation method and was ultimately constructed following the strategy map structure. As not all KPIs can be measured using the information currently available in Serax’ SAP systems, the full list is only partly implemented. The remaining metrics are to be implemented in the future, providing some company process adjustments. Therefore, implementing KPIs is an iterative process that should be revised on a regular basis. Not only measuring the objectives is important but also defining clear KPI responsibilities to assure that employees follow up on them and act upon the information in order to achieve the objectives. In order to engage the employees even more, this is complemented by a hybrid incentive system, consisting of collective, team and personal level incentive possibilities, to motivate the workforce in achieving the pre-set goals for 2023. Lastly, some recommendations for the long and short-term future are listed. These entail solutions to measure more KPIs and current KPIs more precisely. The potential future changes mainly refer to standardising the processes in the organisation such that systems can be adapted to register data more accurately.
    • The development of a future-proof channel strategy to guarantee a strong position within the Belgian temporary staffing industry: a case study

      Segaert, Ann-Sophie; Van Puyvelde, Jozefien (2021)
      Obtaining and maintaining a strong brand position is necessary for a company to survive nowadays, especially within the highly competitive temporary staffing market. In 2015, a Federgon study predicted that technology would change this industry in a disruptive way. The introduction of technology within this market will totally change the way recruiters approach, select, and hire job candidates. Looking at the banking and automotive sectors, where the digital revolution started several years ago, we see that it is important for temporary staffing companies to adapt their business model to these digital changes in order to gain maximum visibility, reach their target audience and keep up with the competition. This project focuses on defining the strengths and pain points in the current brand positioning and MarCom channel mix of Forum Jobs, as well as defining the upcoming trends within the Human Resources Management (HRM) sector. The aim of this project is to come up with a well-founded sustainable action plan for Forum Jobs in order to keep growing and remain successful in the future. The content of this report is backed up by comprehensive secondary research. Firstly, based on theories regarding brand positioning and channel strategies, we were able to thoroughly analyse Forum Job’s current marketing efforts. Secondly, four relatable competitors were analysed based on their channel strategy and compared to Forum Jobs. Thirdly, literature and case studies on the current situation and the expected future of temporary staffing agencies gave deeper insight into the industry. To reinforce this secondary research, primary research was conducted by means of in-depth interviews with HR experts and surveys with (potential) job candidates. On the basis of the primary and secondary research, both a short-term and a long-term recommendation were developed. The short-term recommendations consist of all kinds of improvements that Forum Jobs can implement immediately or within a few weeks. This mainly relates to the increase of website traffic by optimising their ranking on Google, as well as to changes in the communication and content of their social media channels. In addition, we made recommendations to the company about the three job boards they are currently using. The long-term recommendations consist of significant investments that the company will have to make in the long term to stay ahead of its competitors. Both secondary and primary research support the investment in an application. The same applies to sponsorship initiatives, traditional media advertisements and street advertisements
    • Market strategy for a chinese tyre manufacturing company entering the middle east

      Moës, Arnaud; Noé Matthieu; Van Delm, Christophe (2021)
      Sailun is a Chinese tyre manufacturer looking to enter the Middle Eastern market. For this, an extensive research was necessary looking into different aspects. These aspects were: understanding the buying behaviour of the market, the differences and market shares between competitors, the perception of Chinese tyres, the most interesting countries in the Middle East and potential fleets to enter the market as efficiently as possible. To do so, an extensive research had taken place. Interviews with the company itself, tyre centres, distribution centres already currently working with the company and other distribution centres were taken to acquire qualitative data. After reaching a certain degree of saturation, an own research was conducted to acquire quantitative data. By comparing the tyres on the OEM with the used cars market and the actual market in Dubai and Sharjah, the competitive landscape and specific characteristics for the local market could be determined. The research was finally topped off with an extensive online research. For the buying behaviour, clear differences were observed between expats and Arabs. This was largely due to the difference in income level between both groups. As Arabs generally have more wealth, they will prefer convenience over cost-saving. COVID-19 has brought huge opportunity for tier-3 companies to take over lost market share of tier-1 companies. In the OEM, the study found that that, currently, only tier-1 and tier-2 brands are considered. For the used cars market, some exceptions are made to fit a tier-3 tyre to the car. From this research, it appeared that sedans were the most popular type of vehicles, with tier-2 branded tyres dominating the market in the U.A.E. The competition in Dubai and Sharjah is mapped out by extrapolating various samples. By doing so, the main competitors and their respective market share in the PCR- and TBR-market have been mapped out. Dunlop is market leader in this area. Additionally, competitors have been in a broader perspective, in order to create a perception of their global performance. With regards to the country analysis, all potential Middle Eastern countries were reviewed. The review was based on macro-economic factors such as population, GDP (per capita), unemployment rate, household final consumption expenditure and industry indicators such as oil consumption, passenger car sales, commercial vehicle sales and estimated PCR- and TBR-market size. Based on these factors, the countries have been ranked in terms of attractiveness for the country. The top 5 performing countries are respectively, Turkey, Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. For the top performing countries, a deeper review has been performed in terms of fleets. Fleets offer a great opportunity for companies to sell large volumes of tyres in both the PCRas TBR-market. Fleets have reported to receive test tyres from distribution centres in order to monitor the quality of tyres, before engaging in a long-term relationship. For fleets, a crucial factor is the cost per kilometre, as these companies are operating in a competitive landscape. For the PCR-segment, from the sample at a car rental company, it was clear that mostly tier-1 and tier-2 tyres were used to ensure quality but also cost-efficiency was taken into account. For Hertz, Dunlop was chosen which strengthens their position as market leader in the tyre industry for the U.A.E. In the TBR-segment, distinctions are made between front and back tyres. Whereas the front tyre is mostly fitted with tier-1 brands for steering purposes, the back tyres are fitted with tier-3 tyres in order to reduce costs. Offering favourable credit situations is not advised in the U.A.E. as there is a lot of fraud happening which can leave creditors empty-handed. Finally, in the TBR-segment, the most popular tyre size appeared to be 315/80R22.5.