Anticipating dramatic changes in the mobility market – that's the main challenge for Jaco Reitsma, Digital Director at Business Lease. "The increasing popularity of electric cars, autonomous vehicles, and car sharing will lead to new products and we can expect extensive disruption," he says. Schuberg Philis contributes to the company's desired flexibility, which extends to the ways in which the two partners collaborate.
Business Lease is an international company based in Zeist, the Netherlands. It is engaged in private and commercial leasing as well as maintenance in the automotive sector. Business Lease is a subsidiary of the family owned automotive group AutoBinck, which includes brands such as PartPoint, Smart Mobility, various car dealerships and also has a participation in the car sharing site SnappCar. Its total fleet of cars in Europe is 49,000 vehicles.
The ambition of Business Lease is to be a mobility provider that can respond quickly and effectively to customers' changing wishes and requirements across Europe. Jaco Reitsma puts it this way: "While we have previously been engaged mainly in commercial contracts, we are now increasingly focusing on individuals. The smart use of data is therefore becoming more important, for example in relation to connected cars, handy apps for end users, and analyses that save fuel and prevent damage. To do all this we need much more flexible systems."
Rob Matthijssen, Customer Director at Schuberg Philis: "The IT environment was out-of-date, and the backoffice depended mostly on Excel. A modern cloud infrastructure is the 'digital backbone' to which Business Lease can easily plug in new partners and initiatives." Jaco Reitsma confirms this: "Technology was a limitation rather than an enabler. If we were to survive, the old tailor-made approaches had to give way to standard solutions in the cloud."
Business Lease chose a standard CRM and ERP package. That is now being implemented as the basis for building further systems. "Schuberg Philis is responsible for all the integration processes around this core application. These include linking the data in the ERP system and APIs with our partners, for example in relation to apps or other forms of information at the front end."
The operationally-driven partnership with Schuberg Philis is a perfect match with the lease company's agile transition. Henk van der Schuur, Customer Director at Schuberg Philis, explains: "Business Lease was very enthusiastic about our approach — agile software development with a high level of quality, accountability, and trust. The Proof of Concept phase we started last year served as a trial: the customer could determine whether the right people and partners were involved, in their intended roles. The actual transition is now being executed with a selected set of partners."
Rob Matthijssen: "Organizational and cultural change involves much more than just rolling out new technology. Customers expect us to use our knowledge and experience to make things happen more quickly. In fact, it's up to us to get things done, together with our customer. At the same time, leasing is a new field for us, which requires continuous feedback and adjustment involving all stakeholders."
Business Lease is one of the first of Schuberg Philis' customers to purchase services through agile contracting. The two parties jointly decide what will be built in a defined period, and at what price. "When we transition an existing IT environment from a customer to Schuberg Philis, we can estimate the work involved and the price reasonably well," says Giel Hermans, Partner & Supplier Manager at Schuberg Philis. "But, with Business Lease, the environment we are going to manage has not yet been built. 'Story points' serve as a unit of measure for the amount of work to be done; they allow us to build the software functionality and compare it to the business value it will deliver."
According to Jaco Reitsma, agile contracting is a natural choice: "If all your internal working methods are becoming Agile, you can make corresponding agreements with your strategic partners. The beauty of story points is that you automatically have dual accountability. If you make a commitment as a team to deliver something, that's also a commitment by the partnership." Henk van der Schuur: "By keeping in close contact with the customer, we know for sure that the software functionality delivered by the team is actually of great value to the customer."
Jaco Reitsma is happy with the interaction with Schuberg Philis. "They have their feet firmly on the ground, which inspires confidence. They are open and to the point in their communication. Generally speaking, suppliers keep their technical staff at a distance. But Schuberg Philis' technical people meet with us regularly. They understand our business challenges and can effectively translate these into technical solutions." The Digital Director observes that within Schuberg Philis, cooperation and sharing expertise is so deeply rooted that there was always someone who could fill a gap if necessary. Everyone is always well informed. “You have the entire organization behind you, with all the knowledge and skills needed to help you to maintain speed and flexibility. This means that we are ready for disruption."
"What made our model a success was that we always used fixed prices, giving us a reason to work more efficiently," says Giel Hermans. "Now we have a motivation to achieve as many story points as possible within a particular period. Once we have built what was requested, there is still a robust Schuberg Philis organization and a robust contract that manages the IT operations we have built together. This ensures that all promises made regarding security and availability are kept."
This is very much like working with your colleagues within the organization, in order to make the best use of all the available knowledge and skills. The supplier and customer are continually deciding together what will be developed in each of a series of sprints, usually covering a period of one to three weeks. The invoice is based on story points, a unit of measure that's recognized and accepted at all levels of the organization, representing a combination of working hours, software functionality, and business value. That creates enormous synergy and clarity, while avoiding vagueness and miscommunication. The end result will be that all work is expressed in story points, both for software development and for subsequent maintenance and operations. That makes this approach the ideal invoicing model for the high quality of services that Schuberg Philis is known for. "It's part of our identity. We already had an obligation in terms of delivery and results, but also a high degree of quality, security, and commitment," says Giel Hermans, who has been closely involved in establishing the agile contract. "Billing for hours worked depends too much on the individual concerned. We've defined the story points not based on hours alone – we also include other elements. For example, audits, which are needed to meet our standards for quality, compliance, and security. This avoids unnecessary discussions and unexpected extra invoices, for example when we have temporarily brought in extra manpower."