In our Webinar Digital vs Human: paradox or Symphony, Albert-Jan Kroezen of the international water builder Van Oord and Mathijs van der Vlis, Principal Consultant at Agium EPM, explained how Digital Transformation plays out at Van Oord.

Watch the full webinar here.

Moderator Kevin Mottard gets to the point straight away: "The world is changing, is digitizing. At a classic, industrial, and traditional family business like Van Oord the engineers want to create beautiful things. Whereas for companies like banks it is all about figures and money, at Van Oord there is a passion for the business, and perhaps less for the figures. How does that play out in practice, how does finance earn a seat at the table?

Albert-Jan Kroezen, Director Finance & Control Van Oord: "Van Oord is a company full of technique, our engineers are focused on action. On resolving problems. But they know that the world becomes harder when you don’t easily ‘create’ money. Understanding the business, that is what it’s all about with us. Successfully completing projects, not thinking day by day. Our finance professionals, our controllers, are present at the construction sites, right where the projects take place, worldwide."

Family businesses

However, change is often difficult for a family businesses that can sometimes be a little more conservative in its approach. With the implementation of OneStream, a platform for corporate performance management, the integration of data at Van Oord goes much smoother. At this moment, the first phase is ready, the basic setup is set and works to great effect. In the follow-up phases OneStream is further extended. Eventually to a full scope CPM setup. In phased steps, with that one clear goal in mind: a better, smarter and more intelligent use of financial data.

Mathijs van der Vlis of Agium EPM: "Thanks to OneStream less time is required to analyze figures. It is clear that such transformation at a company like Van Oord should happen carefully. Their employees are loyal, their employment at the company sometimes spans 20, 30 or even 40 year. For them it is difficult when the work changes."

For an industrial company like Van Oord the product comes first. Finance wants to understand the business and uses strong data to provide the insight to analyse the key parts of their business. In an interview with Albert-Jan Kroezen stated earlier: "The traditional financial function will require finance professionals that are comfortable with data management. Finance executives must provide a clear explanation of how to use data for 'ordinary people and colleagues'. It is about understanding data and ensuring they can see the forest for the trees. Database analysis for example enables us to determine the deployment of our approximately hundred ships. When, where, why and in the most intelligent way?

Good Balance

“There is a good balance between the customer, the long term view of the family and the employees” Kroezen replies on moderator Kevin Mottard’s question how Van Oord has been persuaded to digitalize and what this has brought them. “Digital is everywhere now and is also embraced by the back office. Big steps are taken by tooling. Forecasting, modelling, scenarios. Thanks to data analysis this now happens on a high level.”
“The basics are changing constantly,” says Mathijs van der Vlis of Agium EPM. “Take the time to look at new developments. If necessary, take a step back from your daily work.” About the balance between gut feeling and data? Then I would still go for the numbers. Not for standardizing, but removing that gut feeling a bit.”

And, the moderator asks, how do you prevent finance from becoming king over the business due to all this digitization? “A little more agile would help”, answers Van der Vlis. “Gut feeling as part of your project. That prevents you from becoming a bank. At a century and a half old family business like Van Oord, the luxury of NOT having a legacy is simply lacking. But sometimes take the time to attend a community webinar. And bring in young people with analytical knowledge.”
“That gut feeling will never completely disappear here,” says Albert-Jan Kroezen. “It's about that symphony between gut feeling and data. Young people bring a different view, are trained differently. It is interesting what is happening now. Digitization as a hybrid?”


Watch the webinar


Written by Charles Sanders


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