Worten: digitally transforming to boost agility

Felipe Ferreira, Head of Digital Transformation at Worten, discusses the company’s digital transformation journey to becoming more agile and customer centric

Fresh out of graduating from Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto with a degree in Electrical and System Engineering, Felipe Ferreira started his career at Siemens Group as a Process Engineer for a semiconductor plant. “I left Siemens in 2001 to take an MBA,” says Ferreira. “When I finished, I started working at SONAE (the holding company that owns Worten) roughly 18 years ago. Since 2017 I have been exclusively working at Worten, first as Head of Supply Chain, and by the end of 2018 I was invited to launch the Digital Transformation area.

Describing Worten, Ferreira emphasises that the company’s vision is to be “a digital company, with physical stores and a human touch,” he says. Worten’s objective is to expand the business, creating a distinctive value proposition, which starts with consumer electronics to serve the ever-changing consumers better and more comprehensively. “By expanding our business into new territories of products and services and merging the best of the online and offline worlds, in the firm conviction that the near future will be omnichannel, rather than just digital,” he adds. “At Worten we believe that we can deliver business results around two ambitious ideas: that our brand is elastic enough to serve the consumers in more areas than just consumer electronics, sustaining their trust as we always did; and the second is that the result of the "merger" of the digital world with the physical world can be much greater than the "sum of its parts", especially if the human factor (emotional closeness, availability, personal attention, affinity) is maximised as a differentiating factor.”

Currently Worten is going through a major business transformation that will last for five years. As part of this strategy, “Worten is going to continue to grow online, invest in our marketplace and reinforce our omnichannel strategy,” explains Ferreira. “Another one of our priorities is to increase our product portfolio through the marketplace business model at Worten.pt and Worten.es, along with services that continue to grow year after year in a clear strategy of offering our customers more and more convenience. At the same time, we are transforming the company through the digital transformation program, which Baringa has helped us to design. In particular, Baringa has helped us in the discussion and conclusion of what the new principles to guide us should be and, mainly, in the identification and guidance for the implementation of the first 2 key moments, or in other words, in the moments that have the most impact on our customers,”

At the moment, Worten's strategy is to promote the digital culture, working on the organisational aspects and working methodologies of the company. “We opened our digitalism hub last June, to be a different space from everyday life, to be a pleasant space, and above all, to be a promoter of collaboration, discussion and, consequently, faster, higher quality results. We also created the slice and dice methodology, which divides a big problem into minor problems, up to the point of finding the actionable unit and we are extremely quick to act on this.” Since adopting this digital and agile approach Ferreira has seen huge benefits, “The first is that we are improving our customers' experience since the approaches and whatever leads to the solutions are focused on them. The second is that we are much quicker to act, to deliver results with decisions that are supported by data, helping us to prioritise, act and then control implementation, and finally the creation of the "safety net" for our teams, if they fail there is no problem as they learn quickly from the error and try again with greater probability of success.”

And our efforts to kick off and promote this new mindset and way of working in 2019 payed off since it is having a huge impact on the way we reacted to the Covid crisis. We had no setup time to start working remotely because we’re used to collaborative tools and we could launch several initiatives and services to adjust our offer to new market conditions in less than 3 weeks!   

In addition to driving improved agility within its operations, Worten is also looking to change its operating structure, “it is going to be an iterative process so, as we grow, we will realise what adjustments we have to make to the model so that more and more people are involved, not least because we believe it is the winning model. But we are more pragmatic than dogmatic, which means that there may be situations where this formula is not the most appropriate and there is no harm in keeping another one if that is the most effective way.” says Ferreira. Another key part of Worten’s strategy is the redesign of the system architecture and the way its IT is organised and relates to the rest of the organisation. In fact, Ferreira explains that evolution at Worten “involves a lot of technology ‘entering’ the organisation and being part of the way Worten works.” 

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We are transforming the company through the Digital Transformation Program, which Baringa has helped us to design.

Felipe Ferreira | Head of Digital Transformation, Worten

Currently within the organisation, Rui Cohen, Head of IT at Worten explains the company’s use of business intelligence, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and cloud technology. “We strongly believe that data and analytics will become one of the most important factors for future business competitiveness and success. We envision a fully integrated and unified data platform based on an open architecture that is capable of ingesting, processing and correlating large volumes of structured and unstructured data sets from multiple lines of business and operational sources both in batch and in real-time, from internal and external sources. At the core of our transformational architecture initiative seats such a platform that will help us reinforce our customer centric and omnichannel strategy and reimagine the whole store experience,” comments Cohen. “Another IT principle at the core of our transformation is to adopt a cloud first approach, meaning that wherever possible and economically reasonable we will adopt cloud and SaaS solutions to enhance speed, agility and innovation. In addition to these core principles, Worten is also trailing the use of AI, machine learning, natural language processing and IoT and we will ensure we deploy them in an ethical and trustworthy way,” concludes Cohen.

Reflecting on his time at the company so far, Ferreira has seen Worten make rapid changes in three key areas: increased product and services offerings, increased focus on customer experience and transforming its culture and systems. “Undoubtedly, I believe our people are our greatest strength because, besides having great know-how, they also have a great sense of belonging to the organisation and love to overcome the challenges they face. That has helped us to build a brand of trust that has been recognised by our customers for over 20 years, and that will be the pillar of our transformation to assure the next 20.”

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