Now showing items 1-20 of 6985

    • Preparing for scaling: A study on founder role evolution

      Van Lancker, Evy; Knockaert, Mirjam; Collewaert, Veroniek; Breugst, Nicola (Journal of Business Venturing, 2023)
      One of the major entrepreneurial challenges faced by scaling firms involves changing their internal organization. Our study focuses on a particular aspect of internal organizing—namely, how founder roles evolve in preparation for scaling. By means of an in-depth case study and a combination of data collection methods, we study the evolution of formal and informal founder roles. For both types of roles, we identify a founder-driven and an interaction-driven phase, during which founder and/or joiner role-crafting take place. Through both types of role-crafting, founder roles are (re)shaped. Particularly unique to our study is that we identify three scaling-specific paths through which the role-crafting of joiners shapes founders' roles. Specifically, founders experience a role efficiency increase as they take over some of the joiner-introduced role behaviors, or a role set decrease as joiners take over some of their (formal or informal) roles. We further point to the importance of psychological safety and value fit for successful joiner role-crafting to occur and for founder roles to change following founder-joiner interactions. Our study adds to the literatures on scaling and entrepreneurship as well as to role theory and role-crafting literature.
    • Organizational frontlines in the digital age: The consumer–autonomous technology–worker (CAW) framework

      van Doorn, Jenny; Smailhodzic, Edin; Puntoni, Stefano; Li, Jia; Schumann, Jan Hendrik; Holthöwer, Jana (Journal of Business Research, 2023)
      While organizational frontlines in the digital age involve complex interactions between consumers, autonomous technology (AT), and frontline workers, research so far largely focuses on the effect of AT on either the consumer or the worker. Bridging the fields of marketing and organizational behavior, we develop the Consumer–Autonomous Technology–Worker (CAW) framework, which reflects the implications of consumer–worker–AT interactions. We consider that AT can be consumer-facing, such as service robots, or worker-facing, such as AT-enabled knowledge-based systems supporting a worker’s decision-making. Drawing on illustrative interviews in hospitality contexts with workers who co-work with robots and the consumers served, we develop research propositions that highlight avenues for future research. We expect consumer–worker relations to strengthen when AT augments instead of replaces the worker. Human leadership is critical for consumers’ and workers’ acceptance of AT, while AT anthropomorphism is less critical in the presence of a human worker.
    • How digitally mature is your finance office?

      Stouthuysen, Kristof (MIT Sloan Management Review, 2023)
      As more CFOs try to capitalize on the promise of data and analytics, many find their offices aren’t seeing the expected gains. What separates digital finance leaders from the laggards? How can CFOs that struggle with the use of advanced analytics catch up with — and even surpass — their more successful colleagues? In this article, I offer a framework to help CFOs assess their office’s current data sophistication, and I illustrate how finance teams can improve their analytics capability by focusing on seven areas: strategic use of advanced analytics, model explainability, cross-functional data collaboration, analytics skills, exploration and experimentation, data-driven culture, and digital inclusivity.
    • Stability and accuracy of deterministic project duration forecasting methods in earned value management

      Barrientos-Orellana, Alexis; Ballesteros-Pérez, Pablo; Mora-Melia, Daniel; Gonzalez-Cruz, Maria Carmen; Vanhoucke, Mario (Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 2022)
      Earned Value Management (EVM) is a project monitoring and control technique that enables the forecasting of a project’s duration. Many EVM metrics and project duration forecasting methods have been proposed. However, very few studies have compared their accuracy and stability. Design/methodology/approach – This paper presents an exhaustive stability and accuracy analysis of deterministic EVM project duration forecasting methods. Stability is measured via Pearson’s, Spearman’s and Kendall’s correlation coefficients while accuracy is measured by Mean Squared and Mean Absolute Percentage Errors. These parameters are determined at ten percentile intervals to track a given project’s progress across 4,100 artificial project networks with varied topologies. Findings – Findings support that stability and accuracy are inversely correlated for most forecasting methods, and also suggest that both significantly worsen as project networks become increasingly parallel. However, the AT þ PD-ESmin forecasting method stands out as being the most accurate and reliable. Practical implications – Implications of this study will allow construction project managers to resort to the simplest, most accurate and most stable EVM metrics when forecasting project duration. They will also be able to anticipate how the project topology (i.e., the network of activity predecessors) and the stage of project progress can condition their accuracy and stability. Originality/value – Unlike previous research comparing EVM forecasting methods, this one includes all deterministic methods (classical and recent alike) and measures their performance in accordance with project duration.
    • Harnessing the potential of older workers through relationships at work: Social support, feedback, and performance

      Marques, Tatiana; Ramos, Sara; Patient, David; Bobocel, Ramona (Work, Aging and Retirement, 2023)
      With the aging of the global workforce, it is crucial to deepen our understanding of how to keep older workers healthy, motivated, and productive. In this research, we integrate job design with socioemotional selectivity theory to propose that social job characteristics relate to employee performance differently for older and younger workers. Specifically, in a three-wave survey (N=454), we tested employee age as a moderator of the relationships between receiving social support and feedback at work, and performance, as well as giving social support and feedback at work, and performance. The results showed that, in general, both receiving and giving social support and feedback are associated more strongly with the performance of older than younger workers. The findings provide important theoretical implications for the study of aging and work; they also offer practical applications for creating workplaces in which older workers can reap the benefits of social relationships to remain productive.
    • A DEA-based approach to customer value analysis

      Cherchye, Laurens; De Rock, Bram; Dierynck, Bart; Kerstens, Pieter Jan; Roodhooft, Filip (European Journal of Operational Research, 2023)
      Firms have become increasingly customer-centric, implying that customers, rather than products, are treated as the most important asset of a firm. The switch to customer-centric strategies also implies that firms are collecting an enormous amount of customer-related data. The purpose of this paper is to propose a DEA-based methodology to determine the contribution of customer segments to firm value. We show the practical usefulness of our methodology through an application to Activity Based Costing (ABC) data collected from a large European telecom provider, which offers fixed telephone, mobile telephone, digital television and internet subscriptions. Our analysis reveals that the average cost reduction potential across all customer segments amounts to 1.26% of the total controllable costs, which represents approximately EUR 5 million when expressed in monetary terms. We also document substantial variation in the cost reduction potential across customer segments
    • Corporate Finance

      Deloof, Marc; Manigart, Sophie; Ooghe, Hubert; Van Hulle, Cynthia (2023)
      This textbook discusses the sources of funding and capital structure of corporations (excluding financial institutions). After an introduction on the objectives and functions of corporate finance, the following topics are covered: investment analysis and minimum investment return requirement, capital structure and dividend policy, long- and medium-term financing, working capital valuation, international financial policy, and other specific financial topics. - The authors link theoretical insight to practical cases. - Written for financial professionals and (post)university students.
    • The time for the future is now: CEO temporal focus and firms’ identification and interpretation of grand challenges – The example of water scarcity

      Fehre, Kerstin; Oehmichen, Jana; Steinberg, Philip J.; Widmann, Bettina (Journal of Cleaner Production, 2023)
      This study examines whether Chief Executive Officer (CEO) temporal focus—the extent to which CEOs devote their attention to the past, present, and future—is related to firms' identification and interpretation of grand challenges. Using the exemplary grand challenge of water scarcity, we adapt mechanisms of the temporal focus literature to the particularities of grand challenges and propose that CEO temporal focus is related to whether firms identify water scarcity as an issue and whether they interpret the identified issue as an opportunity. In our empirical analysis of 727 firm-year observations for the years 2002–2012, we find no support for the hypothesis that firms’ identification of water scarcity is related to CEO temporal focus. However, we show that having a CEO high in future focus is positively, and a CEO high in past or high in present focus is negatively related to interpreting water scarcity as an opportunity.
    • Regularization oversampling for classification tasks: To exploit what you do not know

      Van der Schraelen, Lennert; Stouthuysen, Kristof; Vanden Broucke, Seppe; Verdonck, Tim (Information Sciences, 2023)
      In numerous binary classification tasks, the two groups of instances are not equally represented, which often implies that the training data lack sufficient information to model the minority class correctly. Furthermore, many traditional classification models make arbitrarily overconfident predictions outside the range of the training data. These issues severely impact the deployment and usefulness of these models in real life. In this paper, we propose the boundary regularizing out-of-distribution (BROOD) sampler, which adds artificial data points on the edge of the training data. By exploiting these artificial samples, we are able to regularize the decision surface of discriminative machine learning models and make more prudent predictions. Next, it is crucial to correctly classify many positive instances in a limited pool of instances that can be investigated with the available resources. By smartly assigning predetermined nonuniform class probabilities outside the training data, we can emphasize certain data regions and improve classifier performance on various material classification metrics. The good performance of the proposed methodology is illustrated in a case study that consists of both benchmark balanced and imbalanced classification data sets.
    • On the development of a new training- and customer experience offering

      Kermans, Victor; Van Der Beken, Jeroen; Vluymans, Louise (2022)
      Yanmar is currently redefining its strategy within the market of construction equipment. Yanmar CE EMEA aspires to focus on delivering the best customer experience. Owing to this, the concept of trainings - sales and technical trainings - as well customer experiences, such as product demonstrations must be defined for the future. The crux of the matter can be formulated as a single question. What is the most efficient, attractive, and convenient way to offer product training, technical training and a customer experience to the dealers and end-customers in a financially sustainable way? To answer this research question, data is gathered from a wide range of sources. The data was gathered by internal- and external interviews, customer surveys, and desk research. Its aim is to understand the competitive landscape, Yanmar’s positioning within this landscape and opportunities for Yanmar’s future training- and customer’s experience. Hence, the 3C framework is adopted as a comprehensive foundation. Four main trends could be identified among competitors. First, there is a clear trend or preference for customer centers to provide trainings and organize customer experiences of different types. The centers are situated at accessible locations. Simultaneously, they are often close to plants. The practice is most often supported by a strong online training platform that offers sales training and technical training, among other features. The customer survey revealed that communication is the main reason why dealers are currently not joining. When their view on the important parameters for training was questioned, three parameters stood out. The physical access to machines, the opportunity to share expertise and, for product trainings, the opportunity to benchmark with competitors. For customer experience, the overall experience grew immensely in importance, yet the access to machines and demo remained the most important parameter by far. The company interviews highlighted different hurdles and opportunities. An urgent demand for systematic product trainings came to light which could provide additional homogeneity. The technical training consists of elements which require physical training, yet digital solutions are currently developed and can be expanded in the future. The importance of customer experience was highlighted by the connection of it through the whole customer journey. From sales to after-sales, there is always a customer behind. Delivering the best customer experience constitutes an influential goal with implications for all activities. The key recommendations are presented as five scenarios in which product training, technical training and the customer experience are envisioned with an extensive business plan. There are three categories, i.e., one online scenario is introduced, two local scenarios and two center scenarios. The online scenario focus on the development of online capabilities by launching a digital platform. The platform aims to establish three features, namely connectivity, e-learning and on-demand learning. The on-demand learning serve as physical back-up that support the digital content. The first center scenario proposes to build a center near a production site. This leaves two options, either close to Saint-Dizier or close to Crailsheim. The financial analysis confirms the feasibility. The quality of trainings, the low HR implications and low operational complexity are the main benefits of this scenario. Minor changes are required compared with the current way of working. Nonetheless, synergies would be created by concentrating efforts on a single center instead of two independent locations. The new customer center could include promising customer experience options if incorporated in the building’s design. The second center scenario considers a new accessible location. This aims to boost the overall experience with a more attractive location or more neutral location in between the existing premises. Different locations come with different advantages. Some focus on the customer experience aspect, while other prioritize the potential strain on Yanmar’s workforce due to relocation. In general, the same considerations of the former scenario are applicable here as well. The first local scenario aspires to optimize the currently held local trainings by clustering dealers based on, among others, distance and size. This clustering ensures close relations within the cluster and with a market specific training team. Scheduled trainings would be offered, but the improved proximity could empower two-way communication on demand. Next to trainings, demo fleets and the customer experience can be localized too. The scenario would require a highly mobile training team that is willing to work remotely. Lastly, the second local scenario is based on the cluster scenario. The concept of the Yanmar Tour as organized in 2021 is added mainly to the core markets to boost the customer experience and local product training with an additional brand injection. This could truly realize the vision of customer intimacy and delivering the best customer experience. However, this introduces a considerable added operational cost which has to be overcome to make this scenario feasible. The scenarios are evaluated using 16 KPIs that cover the interests of Yanmar, the dealer networks and compare the solution with the competition. Weights are assigned to the KPIs using the analytic hierarchy process (AHP). Using a decision matrix, a quantitative evaluation of all scenarios is made. The resulting decision matrix prefers the center scenario near a production site, i.e., to build a center at Rothenburg/Crailsheim or at Saint-Dizier. There is a small favour for Rothenburg/Crailsheim. Next, the online scenario ranks third due to the estimated low upfront investments and operational costs. Building center in a new accessible location would imply a relatively higher operational cost, more HR implications and more overall risk; this causes this scenario to be valued fourth. Finally, the local scenarios come in last. While they score great on dealer and competitor related KPIs, the financial strain for Yanmar significantly lowers the score of the scenarios. In short, a center scenario near a production site or a focus on online capabilities is recommended considering the evaluation of the decision matrix.
    • Unleashing e-commerce’s potential an exploratory study about companies’ drivers and barriers to purchase it-related products and services online

      Buckenberger, Jenny; Melis, Mathieu; Zamora, Valeria (2022)
      Inetum-Realdolmen has helped companies navigate through the challenges of the digital world for over 14 years, by offering a wide range of IT-related products and delivering strategic, operational and tactical solutions. The company is part of the Inetum Group, who aims to conquer new markets and to continue building a culture of positive digital flow for all stakeholders. This resulted in a consolidated turnover of more than €2.219 billion worldwide in 2021. Now, Inetum-Realdolmen is innovating its way of doing business, and with the growing importance of e-commerce activities, the company has set high ambitions for its online channels. By developing an online solution that creates a new unified point of entry to their products, services and people for all clients, it aims at generating €1 billion in revenue by 2027 through e-commerce. Similar to the B2C market, B2B clients are now starting to demand customer centricity and the omnichannel trend is finding its way to more and more companies. THis change in consumer expectations means that the online unified point of entry will have to connect with the client base as a whole, while still engaging with each user in a personal way. The company will also have to find a way to, in addition to their current product web shops: the Cloudstore and Rstore, offer their service range online. Therefore, Inetum-Realdolmen is aiming to align the new solution with its clients preferences and find the right strategy to market the solution. Purpose: The current research seeks to discover how Inetum-Realdolmen can optimise its current web shops and expand the online portfolio with projects, professional services and managed services, to create a one-stop shop. It helps clarify which steps within the purchase process are better done using self-service technologies and provides examples of tools that can be implemented to guide clients when buying online. It also explains the feasibility of expanding the offering portfolio with services and suggests how the company can start its go-to-market strategy. Methodology: Fourteen exploratory customer interviews were conducted to understand clients’ preferences towards self-service technologies and human interaction. Both clients that already used Inetum-Realdolmen’s online solutions and clients that avoid using them were asked to map their current purchase processes, explain their experience with Inetum-Realdolmen’s web shops and elaborate on their need for human interaction. In addition, the clients were asked to state their preferences for bundling and mobile solutions to discover implementation strategies. To complete the findings retrieved from the interviews, the research team also analysed Inetum-Realdolmen’s 3 C’s (Company, Customer and Competitors) and explored future B2B sales trends. Lastly, the feasibility and strategies to market the online solutions were analysed based on internal interviews and the scalability was assessed through two exploratory interviews with teams from the Inetum Group in Spain. Findings: From the interviews, it was retrieved that although some of the processes for product and managed services are similar and thus could be standardised, the process of buying professional services and projects can be very complex and specific. Therefore, clients preferred self-service technologies while buying products or managed services as it would help them save time, but required human interaction when looking for projects or professional services due to the need for advice and coordination when specifying the service. Nevertheless, clients also mentioned there was room for technologies that would enhance their experience before and after the specification step in those cases too. When it came to the current online solutions, comparing them with B2C e-commerce web shops resulted in clients stating it lacked intuitiveness and user friendliness. The web shop was mostly used for lower volume purchases and to look up products. Non-users of the web shops clarified that they preferred direct contact with sales persons as it would give them a higher bargaining power and added a personal touch. Clients from the public sector also mentioned working through the web shop would mean they had to process the order twice, which generated more workload for them. From the interviews, it was also retrieved that clients had mixed feelings about bundling offers. Although some clients acknowledged that discounts and correctly putting offerings together brought value when Inetum-Realdolmen combined hardware, licences and services, most clients needed to maintain IT products with different inventory durations or wanted to do added services in-house and were therefore not convinced. For mobile usage, in the interviews it became clear that purchasing products in a B2B context through a mobile phone was not yet done by clients from Inetum-Realdolmen, and is not something they are eager to do. The only way a mobile solution could still bring value was by assisting them in approving and following up on orders. However, many clients were assessed to have a rigid mentality that resisted certain technological changes. In combination with the fact that most of them did belong to Generation X or Y, not being in favour of a mobile application was put into perspective. It also stressed the importance of knowing the technological readiness of the client base when going to the market with a new solution. Recommendations: In response to the findings from the client interviews, cost-benefit analysis, market research, future B2B sales trends and the company’s vision, the following actions are suggested: Grow the Customer Experience Portal to serve as a single point of entry to the Cloudstore, Rstore and a newly developed Service Store; and implement a renewed design with easier access to all offers while providing features like a centralised Admin Centre, Support Centre and Monitoring options. Limit the development of a mobile application of the Portal to a tool that allows clients to follow-up on their orders and use it as a stepping stone to future mobile extensions. This way, creating the one-stop solution will not only potentially increase the amount of business done through e-commerce, but it will also drive clients more towards self-servicing their administrative requests; which will allow account managers and customer success managers of Inetum-Realdolmen to focus on more strategic tasks. Use the client feedback and proposals to transform the current Rstore into a consumer-centric web shop. Regarding this point, Inetum-Realdolmen should improve the product information section in the store with less technical explanations and the addition of reviews. Additionally, it should add a chat-bot/box feature to the web shop to automatically answer simple questions and help clients solve more complex problems in person. Furthermore, a bundle page where customers can view and buy combined offers of hardware, licences and managed services with discounts should also be included. With its new design and features, the Rstore should serve as the part of the Portal all clients’ hardware products are bought through. Develop a Service Store that at the same time covers the online purchasing of managed services and lists and informs about all specifications of professional services and projects offered. In addition, add simple e-commerce tools like search filters and extensions, expert profiles and automatic scheduling to the web shop to help clients navigate through the different services and solutions. This will result in clients not only having a clear view on the full service range, but also having the opportunity to easily start the purchase process online in a self-service way. Reorganise the role account managers now have within the company by freeing up time that is spent on administrative workload and redirect their focus to strategic assistance and client onboarding. This way you make sure the e-commerce strategy can be an integral part of the overall sales strategy rather than as a separate business. Analyse if the company possesses not only the design skills but also the technical skills to develop the Service Store in-house as it is the most flexible option without any dependencies on third-parties nor commissions. The same vendor that was used to develop the Rstore should also be used to incorporate the new features as it will bring cost savings and a higher client satisfaction. In addition, bundles should be implemented as cross selling and upselling opportunities will outweigh the overall lower price. Direct new traffic to the Customer Experience Portal by focusing on SEO and SEA, and convince existing customers of the benefits the portal provides by communicating, for example, the time saving it will create and the availability of customer support. For scalability, reach out to other countries with insights and a tangible solution of the Customer Experience Portal. Additionally, communicate it as a powerful tool that combines the 3 web shops for clients and helps employees focus on strategic tasks by lowering administrative workload. By doing so, the portal should get all the chances of not only being adopted by clients but also being implemented in other countries.
    • Boosting the customer adoption of digital support channels

      Feyder, Caroline; Horta, Tatiana; Lequeux, Louise (2022)
      Proximus is a mobile telecommunications firm in Belgium. The company is a part of the parent organization Proximus Group, which was previously referred to as the Belgacom Group. With over two million customers, Proximus is the largest telecom operator in the country with its headquarters based in Brussels. Proximus faces fierce competition from other telecom firms, such as Orange Belgium, Telenet, Voo and many others. Proximus was established in 1994, which was part of the subsidiary called Belgacom Mobile. Many momentums followed in the next years, such as the firm being the first mobile telephony operator to offer 3G services to general public in Belgium in 2005. In the following years, Belgacom, now Proximus Group, acquired many organizations, such as Scarlet NV in 2008, and consequently expanded its parent organization. In 2021, new innovations were launched including the teleconsultation app Doktr, the sustainable banking app Banx and the launch of two joint ventures to accelerate the fiber roll-out. The current board of directors includes Guillaume Boutin, as CEO of the Proximus Group alongside many others (Proximus Group, n.d.). Our mission at Proximus for our In-Company Project is to boost the adoption of the digital support tools, namely the FAQ pages on the website, the MyProximus app and the Proximus Virtual Assistant, for current residential customers. This problem statement is further defined into five research questions, covering the awareness of the digital tools, gains and pains customers at Proximus might experience using the support tools, the reason why clients still use the call centre the most out of all the support channels, the future behaviour of clients in terms of the usage of digital support tools and what the behaviour is of customers at competitors or in other industries. To provide an answer to the research questions, insights from a wide variety of sources were analysed, more specifically from academic literature, internal and external research, an Ad Hoc VoC (Voice of The Customer) survey and a Benchmarking survey. Firstly, some academic papers and business papers were investigated in which gains and pains were uncovered about the application and chatbot. Moreover, some general insights about the rise of the digital support tools and customer decision making behaviour and perceptions of digital channels are defined and discussed. On the one hand, for applications, the convenience, ease of use and personalization are three examples of gains found in the literature. Convenience, human interaction, miscommunication, and high effort reflect, on the other hand, the perceptions of customers about chatbots. Secondly, market trends reports are discussed in which an omnichannel strategy is stated to be key when trying to provide the best experience to customers across all touchpoints in their journey. Another trend discovered is personalization and the uprise of proactive communication to offer an effortless customer service to clients. The importance of human interaction, through voice bot, for instance, is also highlighted. Thirdly, the Voice of the Customer dashboards, which is an internal source of information at Proximus, offers findings in the use of digital support tools. Around 58% of Proximus customers do not use any digital channel before calling the call centre. When focusing on the website, only 40% of clients are satisfied when looking for Sensitivity: Confidential - Not for you? Notify the sender and delete. See more on support, while the app is rarely considered by them when seeking help. Even though the chatbot is mostly used for getting help, a low satisfaction is observed when only a robot is involved. Fourthly, the management dashboard in Adobe looks into the behaviour of customers on the Proximus website and mobile application. It is found that 28% of clients land on the website after an organic search. Also, customer intents regarding the website and the chat are identified, which shows a high number of visits for the billing section, but no other support section ranks high in the most visited sections. Fifthly, two internal research conducted in 2019 and 2022 are included in the report. The research from 2019 analysing the drivers and barriers for online sales and servicing at Proximus, uncover the easiness to use, the efficiency and the trust as three main criteria for the adoption of digital channels. The results of the Digital Maturity Index from 2022 will be included in the overview of all Verbatims at the end of this section. Sixthly, a benchmark of telco operators in Belgium and other countries as well as firms in other industries provides insightful information. For the competitive landscape in Belgium, a main outcome are the strategies about pushing the digital tools more than the physical ones at, for instance, Telenet. Moreover, differences across FAQ webpages between all firms active in the telecom industry are present. A good practice to take out, is the clear explanation of advantages and practicalities per digital channel offered by Telenet. When comparing Proximus to global telco players, the content format, as well as the wide variety of new features in their apps differentiates these latter from their competitors. Once again, emphasizing the benefits of the channels but also loyalty programs are used in other industries to attract customers into using their digital support tools more. Seventhly, the findings of the Ad hoc VoC survey reveal that the willingness to use the website in the future is lower for Millennials compared to any other generation. When looking at the MyProximus application, this tool is the most known among Millennials, which goes hand in hand with the higher awareness for the channel by these latter and by Generation X. Moreover, for these two generations, the willingness to use the tool in the future is the highest. However, it must be noted that a low number of people mentioned to use the app for support purposes. Lastly, younger generations have a higher tendency to look for support via the chatbot, while a significantly lower willingness to use is found for Baby Boomers. Eighthly, some conclusions can be drawn from the Benchmarking survey. For the call centre, older generations and less tech-savvy customers seem to call more. Looking at the website, younger generations, as well as people who perceive themselves as more tech-savvy use the channel more when seeking support. The MyProximus application is preferred by tech-savvy peoples, since they mentioned they would be willing to use it more in the future than people who don’t perceive themselves as tech-savvy. Likewise, more tech-savvy customers will use the chatbot more than non-tech-savvy clients. Across several surveys, Verbatims were analysed and coded to reveal the gains and pains for each tool. The gains for the call centre focus primarily on the human interaction, the convenience, and the habit. However, even if this support tool is used the most, customers are dissatisfied with the long waiting queues for this channel. When Sensitivity: Confidential - Not for you? Notify the sender and delete. See more on looking at the website, the convenience, autonomy, structure, and the lack of technical issues are highly appreciated in contrast to the high effort to find relevant and clear information or the inability to find any answer at all. The convenience and clarity of the information are positively perceived by clients for the MyProximus app, compared to the unsatisfaction of customers with the technical issues, the relevance of the answers found and the high effort to find information on this same tool. For the chatbot, the 24/7 availability and convenience are the gains stated by the customers. Nonetheless, the pains are the miscommunication, the lack of human interaction and the inability to find an answer for this digital tool. To solve the low awareness of the digital tools for support, while highlighting the gains and solving the pains, several recommendations are provided. To reduce the number of interactions with the call centre, we advise informing the customers of the digital tools when waiting on the phone and to use the Proximus agents in the call centre and shops as digital advocators for the digital support channels. The website should be improved through a tailor-made quiz that gives the opportunity to customers to navigate the website more easily. Interactive videos are also suggested to provide a quicker and more personalized customer service. The proposed SEO campaign tackles the inability to find relevant and clear information from the start of their browsing journey. The recommendations for the application cover the technical issues, as well as the lack of awareness of the tool for support by facilitating the download of the app through a QR code promoted on the website. The proactive pop-up notifications in the app and the personalized FAQ interface will lower the effort for customers to find relevant responses. Furthermore, the new version of the guide for new users in the app will increase the low awareness of the support section within the tool. Lastly, less miscommunication in the chatbot will be achieved through a button-based menu, while the unsatisfaction regarding the lack of human interaction will be solved by giving a name and face to the bot. By combining both a text and voice recognition option for the chatbot the probability of having no answer after an interaction with the digital channel will be significantly reduced.
    • Cost-Benefit Analysis of Heart failure clinic implementation: The case of Belgian healthcare providers

      Pius, Tekpor; Ochoa, Josue (2022)
      Heart failure (HF) is a major worldwide epidemic associated with high morbidity and mortality rates. The prevalence of HF is approximately 1–2% of the adult population in developed countries, rising to over 10% amongst people over the age of 65(81). In Belgium, over 200,000 people live with heart failure and there are 15,000 new cases yearly diagnosed. This has created a significant burden on the regional and national healthcare system, social costs, and impact on HF patients' and families' quality of life. The total cost of heart failure was projected to be around EUR 781 million, devouring an estimated 2% of the Belgian national healthcare budget. Traditionally, HF patients are diagnosed and treated in the cardiology department of most hospitals; however, it is believed that this approach is not reducing mortality rates, rehospitalizations, and poor quality of life. This results in an excessive cost burden on the patient and the healthcare system as the HF patients are not followed up in optimal care. Cardiologists believe that HF clinics offer more improved care management pathways for HF patients with a positive impact on treatment outcomes, they claim that the implementation of Heart Failure clinics leads to improvement in the quality of life of HF patients, reduces mortality rates, decreases readmissions or rehospitalization, and reduces the social cost of the disease. Some studies support the assertion of the cardiologist that heart failure patients treated in a Heart Failure (HF) clinic have better clinical outcomes. Even with the significant evidence of the impact of Heart Failure clinics clinicians are struggling to implement the HF clinic at their hospitals. The guidelines issued by the European Society of Cardiology in support of the implementation of integrated multidisciplinary Heart Failure clinics for managing Heart Failure are broad and do not specify a definite approach to the implementation of the HF clinic. There is no formal recognition of HF specialism for healthcare professionals in Belgium(1). And, the lack of HF nurse training and employment reimbursement further impedes the efforts of clinicians to build the HF clinic with an adequate HF healthcare workforce in their hospitals. The ESC guidelines do not specify the exact approach to implementing the HF clinic, therefore there is a diverse interpretation of what HF clinics are, what services they should provide, and the patient pathway, leading to a situation where different providers are implementing or viewing HF clinics from a diverse perspective. Clinicians willing to set up the HF clinic in their hospital run into the problem of not being able to present a strong case from a business plan perspective to support the need to implement the HF clinic. This report seeks to assist the clinicians in defining what an HF clinic is, the patient pathways, and implementing an HF clinic from a cost-benefit point of view that fits into the existing healthcare system. The report identified that healthcare providers seeking to develop an HF clinic need to look at the clinic from a value-based healthcare approach with an integrated multidisciplinary model to organize the clinic, where the value proposition for the patients' outcomes is compared with the cost of establishing the clinic. HF clinics can be implemented at incremental levels, with the HF specialist cardiologist and HF specialist nurse as the critical resources at the center of the clinic's performance. The implementation model has clearly defined KPIs for HF clinics to measure and report the impacts of the clinic from a healthcare provider and patient perspective to justify and highlight the value-driven approach. These measurements are defined to support the evidence of HF clinic's treatment improvement and follow-up reduction in all-cause mortality, readmission rate, and improved quality of life compared with usual cardiology care. The cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that the HF clinic creates opportunities for the hospital, even at the first level of implementation with the HF specialist and the HF nurse. The HF clinic benefits from cost and capacity offload (from the specialist cardiologist to the HF nurse) to see more HF patients in the clinics and, as a result, generate incremental value from additional services and treatments of following up the HF patient in a proactive preventive approach. When implementing the HF clinic, there is a need to consider the cost-benefit analysis in terms of the capacity and resource implications of setting up the clinic. Given the variety of conditions of the hospitals in terms of resources and readiness, it is possible to start implementation from a segregated consultation (specific time allocation from a shared resource to the clinic) and grow in terms of complexity and services provided for the patients. Following the proposed incremental building block implementation approach will minimize the impact of the additional resources and increase capacity, delivering additional value for the healthcare provider at each step due to the incremental number of patients attended and services provided by the clinic. In conclusion, the cost-benefit analysis supports the transition from the traditional HF care management approach to a clearly defined value-based integrated multidisciplinary HF clinic because of the cost minimization of consultation without diminishing the quality of consultation, the potential incremental revenue stream from additional patients and services provided, and the cost avoidance in patient rehospitalization freeing up bed occupancy. At the same time, it provides a customizable approach for healthcare providers to start the implementation according to their specific conditions taking advantage of the incremental value creation without making an impact on their operational costs.
    • Building a global go-to-market strategy for a premium glamping tent brand.

      Frydrych, Aleksandra; Damani, Mohit (2022)
      The increasing popularity and interest in glamping, which has been accelerated by many factors including the Covid-19 pandemic, have led to more people wanting to try this type of accommodation, to experience for themselves what glamping is really about. Glamping has many faces and there is not one set definition of what glamping is except for one thing that everyone agrees on. That is that glamping means glamorous camping. It can vary from sleeping in a lodge in the mountains, an experience in a yurt in the desert to a romantic stay in a tent on a beach. Autentic is a Belgian designer and manufacturer of luxury cotton bell tents. As a new company on the market, Autentic wants to keep on expanding their network of individual and business clients by entering the glamping market in new countries. All this while building a strong brand and position in the countries where it is already present. In order to achieve it, a well-defined go-to-market strategy for the brand is needed. Strategy that will focus on targeting the right customer segments with the appropriate marketing messages. Set communication plans, taking into account the target markets of the company as well as the competitive environment, will allow the company to build its position globally as a premium glamping tent manufacturer. The results and content of this report are backed by a comprehensive literature review, qualitative and quantitative research, company analysis as well as competitor analysis to have a better understanding of the environment that Autentic is in. Findings from the qualitative and quantitative research as well as other analyses that have been done to provide insights and valuable information based on which we were able to provide the company with the go-to-market strategy. The GTM strategy is divided into parts to provide a more in-depth look at each of them as well as to highlight the importance of each part needing to be executed well in order for the whole strategy to work well as a whole since everything is intertwined. The key elements discussed in this report are the tangible recommendations and actions that Autentic can take in order to get to the position of a premium, global bell tent manufacturer. The solutions provided refer to action that can be taken both short term as well as long term. Some small, easy to execute steps of the plan suggested to the company have already been taken and changed have been implemented. For the rest, when it comes to something as working on the website's design and content is an easier to execute task which will take more time initially but will not be very time consuming in the long run. Other aspects, like creating, updating and analysing the databases, will require continuous attention from the company in order to give Autentic the best possible tools and data to execute important strategic decisions that will benefit its growth.
    • Medical development in a social environment

      De Mulder, Katelijne; Devos, Aline; Maene, Charlotte (2022)
      CESA Alliance SA is a global collaboration of universities, laboratories, independent doctors, and researchers. CESA Alliance currently holds over 229 patents worldwide, which are the main strength of the company and represent its core assets. CESA’s patents contain solutions for a wide range of diseases and disorders. They have cures for oncological diseases and virtually all viral infections, including HPV and Herpes, but also COVID-19. Furthermore, they have a patent on a molecule that can reverse and eliminate neurological disorders and their symptoms. Such neurological disorders include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson, MS, and ALS. After years of research and development, CESA Alliance would like to put their patents to use and engage in product development, finally allowing them to help as many patients as possible. However, big pharma and strict legislation have hampered both clinical trials and market entry in the past and CESA has not been able to break through the barrier these instances impose. To 'flee' these restrictive powers, CESA searched for another place to establish their new mission. It was decided to base their operations and continue their mission from the Dominican Republic under a new company, VEGA Medical. This is advantageous in many aspects. They already have established relationships with government officials, who allow CESA to carry out their activities here as long as they contribute to the local economy. In addition, the location of the Dominican Republic is strategically situated between Northand South America where many of the conditions for which CESA has a solution are extremely prevalent. To increase the company’s credibility and prove its determination in the Dominican Republic towards the government, the company has developed a 5-fold plan they want to implement. A first project to be conducted in the Dominican Republic is a clinical trial on a gel against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that is the main causative agent of cervical cancer. A one-time application of the gel on the cervical cell walls of HPV positive women should lead to a decrease in the level of lesions in only 6 weeks. The protocol was formerly described but a system to manage this study and to ensure follow-up of the subjects must be devised. This since, in the Dominican Republic, there are no legal guidelines in for conducting clinical studies, so no standard procedures are in place. A second project revolves around the development of a coconut oil extraction facility. To use CESA’s patented product for neurological diseases, coconut oil is used as a component of the therapy. Coconut oil has the ability to efficiently cross the blood-brain barrier, and is thus a great carrier for CESA’s products, but only if it is a neutral or therapeutical grade. To find out which coconuts contain neutral or therapeutical oil, a study must be carried out, after which an up-scaled production process can be established. In coordination with the local government, it was decided that once therapies are being established, it would be distributed in a health tourism setting. In this way, CESA puts its patents to good use and people from anywhere in the world are attracted to the Dominican Republic, which is beneficial for the country’s GDP. A win-win. Currently health tourism, which will be managed by VEGA, is only a concept and therefor a business plan and communication strategy is provided. For the fourth topic, VEGA Medical wants to help patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but the increasing social issue of caregiver burden must be tackled first. More specific, caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients must be coached, educated and psychological support must be provided. Therefore, an empowerment program and a control and follow-up system are developed. 5. The fifth and for now, last project of VEGA in the Dominican Republic is the development of a multifunctional technological park. This project is a long-term goal, in co-creation with the government. This will lead to the creation of jobs, innovation, and industrial development in the region. Next to the ability to build the company headquarters, completed with production facilities and laboratories, this poses a good investment opportunity for the company. This project however was not in the scope of this work. The main method of data collection, across all projects was desk research and interviews which allowed us to perform qualitative research. Desk research provided secondary data that gave us insights and important background into the topics but also the environment in which the projects will be implemented. More secondary data was generated from within the company in the form of previously conducted studies, protocols, and reports. Several interviews then provided us with the primary data. Semi-structured interviews took place with 4 physicians, 2 caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, a coconut expert, coconut oil producers and machinery manufacturers, as well as with a lawyer and notary. To gain an even better impression and understanding, field visits were conducted to various hospitals and clinics, coconut oil producers and hotels. Additionally, several SIPOC diagrams to visually represent the (business) processes of both the coconut facility and the caregiver empowerment program were developed. Furthermore, a PESTLE analysis for the health tourism concept was done and the business model canvas was used to conclude a strong business model. Finally, we considered the implementation of health tourism and devised various ways of communicating with the hotels, on the one hand and the patients, on the other, which we concluded as examples. A complete marketing strategy and implementation has been developed. The first project to be started is the clinical trial, which is being conducted by Dr. ESCAÑO and his assistant. The steps or activities that need to be carried out to start up the coconut facility are in place and can be implemented instantly. To begin with the health tourism service, there are several challenges that must first be overcome. The company is encouraged to pilot this project for 6 months, after which a re-evaluation should take place. The coaching program that has been developed for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, has the advantage that it can be implemented anywhere, not only in the health tourism concept. This allows CESA to finally use their patented products to treat people and see some positive growth. To ensure the continuation of the described projects, a new team has been hired. Therefore, a job vacancy was posted via LinkedIn, interviews were conducted, and the two best candidates were selected. After a training session that took place in the week of 6-10 June, the two candidates were approved and will continue to drive the project forward in the future.
    • Accelerating the growth of an online furniture rental start-up: developing buyer personas on a b2c and b2b level to optimize the marketing communication strategy

      Van Cauwelaert, Emma; Wyckaert, Amélie; Alliet, Manon (2022)
      Overproduction and overconsumption of products is a common problem in today’s society, with harmful consequences for people and the environment. The rise of fast business models contributed to this problem, allowing consumers to purchase affordable products with lower quality and higher production risks. However, the increasing awareness of consumers on the environmental damages these business models bring have contributed to a shift in multiple industries. Businesses are consciously looking for more sustainable alternatives to provide to their customers and this trend is also noticeable in the furniture industry. Live Light is an example of such a business. By opting for furniture as a service, the company hopes to fight the battle against fast furniture. They do this by using the circular economy principle. In practice, the start-up rents out existing furniture, environmentally-friendly produced with high-quality durable materials. Once it is rented out, Live Light offers the customer the possibilities to return, swap or buy-out the products. Live Light successfully launched in 2020 and has been growing its customer portfolio ever since. Because of the rapid growth, the spin-off typically struggles with keeping an overview of their customer profiles. Therefore, Live Light would benefit from mapping out their current and potential customer portfolio. This way, they can reach their customers more efficiently and continue the steady growth by providing the right message to the right audience. Hence, this In-Company Project focuses on optimizing the Live Light communication and marketing strategies by developing personas for the B2B and B2C audiences. Within the scope of our In-Company Project, we developed personas and a communication strategy based on available literature, quantitative survey and qualitative interview research. The literature and desk research describes the changing environment that contributed to Live Light's creation and the competitive landscape of Live Light. By means of survey research, we were able to identify the existing and potential B2C customers of Live Light. In total we gathered 594 survey responses, of which 524 were extremely useful. The exploration of the B2B market was examined by means of interviews. A short survey was also attached at the end to find out the decisive value drivers for those decision makers. In total, we conducted 12 interviews including four existing customers and eight potential customers. To gain even further insight into the existing B2B customers, we also leveraged the existing data that Live light has managed to collect to date. From our analyses, five clear segments could be identified within the B2C market. Whereby one of the segments, the Live Light Lover, is seen as the most important target group on which Live Light should focus. This persona is already very present in the current subscribers and there is an attractive market potential of 14% in the market of non-subscribers. This segment is very interested in interior design, quality and sustainability. Live Light Lovers use magazines and social media platforms to get inspiration for their new interior. Instagram and Pinterest in particular are a source of inspiration for these people. They are drawn towards design stores, as these sell the brands they aspire to possess. For the Live Light Lover, it is crucial for design pieces to be sustainably sourced and from an environmentally-friendly company. While this plays a significant role, the quality products have to fit in their well-thought-out interior. Even though price is not the most important decision criterium, it still plays a certain role for these people. Knowing all this, it is evident that the communication message for this segment should highlight the premium quality, design and sustainability aspect. In this research we give detailed examples and tactics on how Live Light could approach this segment. Interviews with existing and potential customers also yielded many new insights. When we began to make a comparison or distinction between the companies, one thing became clear to us. For all interviewed companies, flexibility appeared to be a key driver for furniture rental. Although this driver contains different meanings for each respondent, this one came out as the most pronounced. Flexibility refers on one hand to the possibility of testing the furniture without buying them outright and on the other hand to the possibility to swap. In addition, we noticed that the driver price is also very closely aligned with flexibility. When analyzing this further, it turned out that this was mainly about minimizing financial risks by giving companies the possibility, and thus the flexibility, to make monthly payments. Instead of price, this driver could be formulated as affordability. Because flexibility was so prominent in our analysis, we would advise Live Light to use this in their overall message towards different industries and companies. This way they are slightly assured that they will already reach a large segment. However, further analyses from our B2B survey also revealed that, within the organization, different decision makers could also attach importance to other value drivers. From these results, we managed to identify two more prominent distinctions and build two explorative B2B personas. Our first and most important B2B persona would be interior savvy Isabelle. This persona wants to deliver the best possible design and quality to her clients and thus this is what drives her in her search for furniture. Even though price is not the most important decision-criterium, it still plays a certain role for Isabelle. Sustainability is also always a nice touch, but it is not what prevails in her search. This persona can be reached through social media, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, of which the latter two should be focused on more extensively. She sees Instagram as the optimal platform for promoting her own business but also for finding inspiration. She also finds LinkedIn interesting to get in touch with other companies and thus potential clients. However, this platform is not necessary for advertisement placement. Pinterest is a source of inspiration for her projects. A second persona for B2B is Sustainable Steve. Although this seems like an interesting segment for Live Light, it needs to be invested further in future research to draw definite conclusions. We therefore opt for Interior savvy Isabelle to be the first one in line to target. In addition, by means of desk research we were able to analyze the competitive landscape and current position of Live Light. Here we could conclude that since Live Light just entered the market, they already have a sufficient positioning. However, they should be aware of the increasing shift towards furniture rental and circularity models, and the rising interest of both competitors and customers. As these trends have conquered the US-market already extensively, we are sure this wave will come across the Benelux as well. We therefore advise Live Light to be aware of the already existing and close competitors and optimize their positioning, based on already more established strategies as we see in the US. In conclusion, with this research we provide Live Light with an overview of who and how they should reach their customers to accelerate their future growth. We are certain that Live Light still has a very large growth potential just by adapting some minor things in their communication approach.
    • Go-to-market strategy and partnership assessment for a company supplying smart metering and cloud solutions to mini-grids in SSA

      Kasteel, Alexia; Surny, Harold; Van der Elst, Augustin (2022)
      Lack of access to modern electricity solutions is not only a barrier to basic human rights, but it also impedes economic progress, as well as reaching health and environmental objectives. Luckily, progress towards electrification is improving, thanks to the growing number of mini-grid actors, among others. FlexGrid is one of them. The company provides electricity to remote villages through the development and installation of solar mini-grids. Unfortunately, a significant number of hurdles exist for mini-grid developers and operators to become profitable and to scale up. As such, FlexGrid’s founders decided it was time to diversify and find a new revenue streams to grow. More precisely, they want to enter the market of smart metering and cloud solutions providers and become a supplier themselves. In addition, FlexGrid was not satisfied with its previous suppliers it had experienced in the past and know other operators feel the same way, which means there could be a gap in the market. This report will thus outline a business plan for becoming a supplier, as well as evaluate whether FlexGrid should undertake this project alone or in partnership with another company, namely Solergie, a Solar Home System developer and operator. The business plan highlights the whole project of the new company being launched by FlexGrid, as well as the expected evolution of the company and its activity during the first 10 years of its existence. The new company will target two groups of customers: mini-grid operators and developers in sub-Saharan Africa (such as FlexGrid themselves), as well as governmental organisations with a stake in rural electrification. These customers need reliable solutions, that are easy to use and do not come at an exaggerated price. The three most important competitors (SparkMeter, SteamaCo, and CalinMeter) claim their solution is reliable, yet multiple of their customers experienced otherwise. The new company created by FlexGrid will thus position itself as an incumbent providing reliable solutions, at a lower price than the main actors in the market. The pricing strategy of penetration, i.e., lower prices than competition, aims at grasping as much market share as possible from the very beginning of the company’s existence. Forecasts show that the company will only become profitable from year 5 (2027). However, as from the launch, the new company has in its portfolio the AMADER organisation in Mali, to whom it will already provide 3 500 smart meters through a grant program (FinExpo). The grant that the company will obtain will cover the losses generated during the first 4 years, as well as allow investments to improve and expand the offering. This report also assesses the possibility of launching the new company in association with another organisation, Solergie, active in the development and installation of Solar Home Systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Three scenarios are analysed. Firstly, a Joint Venture partnership for both the smart meters & gateways as well as the cloud solution. As a result, the company would supply a solution that includes components from both FlexGrid and Solergie. Secondly, a Joint Venture for only the cloud side of the business. This cloud solution would combine elements of both platforms, as to create one management platform able to support mini-grid and solar home systems operators. Both platforms are different but present non-negligible similarities that when combined would create an attractive platform, cost synergies, and target a broader range of customers. Finally, a third scenario is depicted in which Solergie would become the hardware (smart meter & gateway) provider of the new company. In fact, the hardware of Solergie is significantly less expensive and is proven to be reliable. The platform would still be the one of FlexGrid. The strategic analysis performed by our team brings the conclusion that a combination of the scenario described in the business plan and the JV for the software solution would be the best way to go. Eastron would thus be the company’s hardware supplier, whilst the software would be created from the combined platforms of both Solergie and FlexGrid. On the contrary, the scenario of a JV for both hardware and software, is not recommended for two main reasons: both partners are misaligned in terms of objectives for the company and the two business models are different, which makes the two metering solutions technically incompatible. Finally, whether the company is launched by FlexGrid alone or in partnership with Solergie, the global strategy will remain the same in both cases: the prices should be kept at a low level, and the strategic positioning should emphasise reliability and a fully integrated service offering. In the first years of the company’s existence, investments should be focused on the improvement of the smart meters and cloud solution. It is crucial that its first customers positively experience the products, as to recommend it to other operators and developers. In addition, R&D investments should be made to develop a new technology aimed at providing analytics services to national utilities which often experience reliability issues. If research about competition is proven to be correct and forecasts are approximately accurate, the new company should be able to grasp market share relatively quickly. Ultimately, becoming a leader in the smart metering and cloud solution market should be a viable and realisable target.
    • Sales development and performance management of key accounts portfolio through data-driven model

      Huybrechts, Sebastian; Lababidi, Adam; Mannori, Andrea (2022)
      This report summarizes an external consultancy project conducted by the Vlerick group at the CSI department at the DHL headquarters in Bonn, Germany. DHL Group provides an international service portfolio in the areas of express delivery, freight transport, supply chain management, e-commerce solutions, and letter and parcel dispatch. CSI is DHL's commercial and innovation unit that works across departments to develop new products and services for the DHL group. The unit is responsible for managing about 100 of DHL's largest and most important customers on behalf of all of DHL's business units. The main goal of this project is built on last year's project and is mainly to increase the effectiveness of the whole process, with the primary goal of increasing the efficiency and accuracy of the nominated customer's selection for the CSI portfolio. This goal is translated into the following objectives: Update the annual financial figures of the CSI customer portfolio. Research the new set of customers that have been added since last year. Improve and enhance the analytical framework that is used by DHL to evaluate the potential fit of any DHL customer to be nominated and included in the CSI top customers Portfolio. Redesign the visualization tools in the dashboard to increase usability and make it readable for non-data experts. The Vlerick team successfully completed the project's objectives by firstly: researching and collecting the financial figures of the CSI portfolio customers, using the customer's annual reports, financial statements, and analyst reports. By accomplishing this, the team managed to build the foundational data needed to achieve the remaining objectives. Secondly, the team re-evaluated the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and their weights executed through both primary and secondary data. Literature research on academic studies and industry data sets, as well as interviews with industry experts and constant collaboration with the CSI unit management and analysts. Therefore, the team recommends the following: 1. Discarding three different KPIs from the model. After a comprehensive analysis of these 3 KPIs and consultation with account strategists, the team came to a conclusion that there is no added value to the model but instead spread of the weights, which results in lowered accuracy. Re-consider the weighting of the KPIs, which is based on subjective conclusions. Instead, the team recommends the usage of the level-based weight assessment (LBWA). The weights of the KPIs in the current model were not empirically verified, which negatively impacted the accuracy of the model. Consequently, the team resolved the issue by applying a data-based framework to determine the weight coefficients of each KPI. Usage of the visualization tools developed by the team to increase usability and make the dashboard user-friendly. By applying these recommendations, the goal of this project is accomplished, which was to increase the effectiveness of the whole process by increasing the efficiency and accuracy of the potential CSI Customer Attractiveness Model.
    • Strategic and financial analysis of malt by-product valorisation comparison of texturized vegetable protein with current cattle feed production

      Braekman, Cindy; Coene, Aurelie; Craeye, Laure (2022)
      Being the masters of malt is the goal of the biggest malting company in the world, Boortmalt. Boortmalt is located in the port of Antwerp where barley is imported by barge and train. After the conversion of barley into malt by a four-stage process, the malt is exported by truck or ship. The malt can be used for different applications: for whiskey or beer production or for the production of malt flour for baking applications. The malting process generates different by-products being the broken and small barley grains, husks and the rootlets. In the light of circular economy, more and more waste streams are being valorised. Today, Boortmalt mixes all these by-products to produce pellets for cattle feed. The rootlets contain 30% of protein, and with the rising demand for plant-based products as sustainable alternatives for meat, Boortmalt wants to understand if the rootlets can be processed into a more high-end product for human consumption. After a first market scouting by ShakeUp Factory, a consultancy company, an idea was to valorise the rootlets into texturized vegetable protein (TVP). TVP can be used in different vegan or vegetarian applications, as texturization gives plant proteins a meat-like structure. As such, the goal of this in-company project was to answer the following research question: “What creates more value for Boortmalt: using the malt rootlets in the pellet production for cattle feed, or to use these to produce texturized vegetable protein?” TVP is only one of the possibilities for the valorisation of rootlets, and other by-products should then also be further processed into new applications. This means that other markets, in which the different by-products can also find their application, should be investigated as well. This in-company project includes therefore a guideline on how to do an in-depth market research. By way of illustration, the market research has been applied on the pellet market and the market for TVP to be used in meat alternatives. Practically, market research has been tackled by answering different questions using specific frameworks. A first aspect that has been investigated was the market attractiveness, which can be assessed by using the five forces of Porter. To understand what factors shape a market and which the minimum criteria are for a company to play in that market, the key success factors analysis has been done. For a company, it is then also interesting to understand where – compared with competitors – it has competitive advantages, parity or competitive disadvantages. This is analysed by performing a VRIO analysis as this shows a company where to give attention to, or in which resources or capabilities to invest in. Macro events however might change the market shape and outlook in the future. PESTEL investigates potential political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal factors that might influence the market, and your business, in the future. As such, a company can anticipate on these events and maybe even adjust its strategy. To complete these frameworks, mainly secondary resources have been consulted on search engines such as Google, Google Scholar but also in databases such as Bel-first, MarketLine and Euromonitor International. Besides, a customer interview which is a primary resource, was conducted for the pellet part to understand Boortmalt’s competitive advantages. Next, also internal information from Boortmalt and its employees has been received. The market research data has also been supplemented with a financial profitability assessment for both markets. The profit and loss statement (P&L) for the pellet production process aimed to understand how profitable this business actually is. Therefore, cost and revenue information has been gathered via Gert Van Laer, projects and asset care manager of Boortmalt Europe. He provided us with all cost information such as electricity, power, labour cost, depreciation, etc. related to every machine of the pellet production process. To draft a P&L for the TVP production process, some general numbers were received from a Swiss start-up, with which Boortmalt is considering to partner up for the TVP production. The numbers gave an overview of the profitability when Boortmalt would outsource this process to a third party. The results of the market research for pellets showed that the market is not very attractive. Also the future outlook shows that the need for cattle and pig feed will decrease. This trend is fuelled by legal regulations such as the nitrogen decree in Belgium, that aims to scale back the amount of livestock. More specifically, the market for cattle feed in Europe even decreased with -0.16 % between 2020 and 2021. However, Boortmalt delivers pellets as ingredient to compound feed producers, and several reasons contribute to the expectation that Boortmalt might keep its position in the market longer compared to competitors. First, as a customer says, Boortmalt provides pellets that are sustainable as the ingredients are coming from waste streams. Second, Boortmalt is known for its accurate filling and buyer orders, which is a competitive advantage. Third, if Boortmalt would not be able to deliver the promised amount of pellets, the company will always communicate this well in advance. These are seen as advantages, and should keep Boortmalt in a good position for the future. Besides this market research, the profit and loss statement also showed that the pellets have an operating margin of 91,8%. This high margin is mainly due to the low costs related with the production of pellets. The low costs are among others due to the absence of any depreciation costs for the machines. That these machines are so old and the fact that there are rising trends in plant-based products for human consumption, were the main reasons for Boortmalt to start discovering new applications for the valorisation of its rootlets. One such a potential application is the production of texturized vegetable protein. TVP is now mainly used for the production of plant-based meat alternatives. The demand of these meat alternatives is booming since recent years due to consumer awareness about health, animal welfare and sustainability. The meat industry is under pressure due to its extensive land, water and energy use but also because of the enormous contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The market for TVP production is attractive, and competition is not really fierce yet. TVP today is mainly made from soy, wheat and pea. Still, there are some technical barriers to overcome and no company has found the ideal recipe for TVP production yet. Boortmalt fulfils all minimum requirements to play in that market. Competitive advantages are the fact that Boortmalt has direct access to lots of protein, and that the company is as such supplier independent. There are two other factors that could give Boortmalt interesting competitive advantages. First, plant-based meat alternatives today try to imitate the meat taste. Boortmalt however would produce TVP with a malty taste, which would result in malty tasting meat alternatives. If customers would like that, which first should be investigated by product testing, then this could be a first point of differentiation. Moreover, the rootlets are quite bitter which is also a barrier for the meat alternative producers, as only a small fraction of bitter TVP can be added without influencing the burger taste too much. Second, studies at the University of Eastern Finland have shown the presence of phytochemicals in malt rootlets from barley. Phytochemicals are said to be healthy. This has not yet been confirmed for Boortmalt’s rootlets, but if that would be true, Boortmalt could use this together with the malt taste in marketing campaigns to distinguish itself from the competition. Besides, confirming this would also answer to the health halo challenge. This challenge is born from the fact that meat alternative burger producers claim that its products are healthier than meat, while there is no evidence for this. The trend for plant-based foods will keep increasing in the coming years and will be supported by legal actions such as the nitrogen decree that will limit the meat availability. Moreover, the idea of implementing meat taxes is rising and more and more European advisory bodies that give feedback and recommendations regarding plant-based diets are founded. The first financial calculations for TVP production shows profit potential, and the margin would be 69,5% on TVP. However, these calculations are based on the scenario where Boortmalt would outsource the TVP production. The long-term goal is to invest in an own production facility, where it also expected that the product margin for TVP will increase due to scale of economies, just as is currently the case with pellets which have an operating margin of 91,8%. The general conclusion for Boortmalt is to go into the production of TVP due to the attractive market outlook and the new plant-based food trend. Diving into the TVP market would diversify Boortmalt’s business and enable the company to create more strategic value by expanding its product portfolio in the food market. Boortmalt has already a potential partner for it, a Swiss start-up, of which they can use the experience and knowledge needed to dive into this new market. Products for human consumption can create more value than animal feed, however the pellets are still very profitable at this moment. That is why the pellets can be used as back-up or as cash cow while Boortmalt is in the transition phase of scaling-up the TVP production.