“Our enthusiasm inspires our colleagues.”
Blue Banana has taken off. FreshFuel went live in late 2019, following the automation of all communication with shipping agents. In the meantime, Aartsen is also working on developing a digital portal for shipping agents and aims to conclude te use of paper files. These are all intensive projects and they involve close cooperation with specialists from various disciplines. We discussed the developments with key users Arnold van Dalen (logistics), Jasper van der Sandt (commerce) and application manager Mathijs Buzeijn in the Aartsen office living room.
Key users play an important role in developing applications. So what exactly is a key user?
Mathijs explains: ‘A key user serves as a sounding board for the project team, at the department where the project is going to be implemented. You gather information at departmental level, which the system developers can use to make progress with. Every opinion, comment and detail is relevant.’
Arnold: ‘As a key user, you map various processes. In most cases, you work with people on the work floor to get useful information for the developers. Therefore, to a large extent you are relying on the commitment of your direct colleagues.’
Jasper adds: ‘There is a key user at every department, who is provided with information from various working groups involved with the project. Additionally, all key users meet on a regular basis to make sure that everyone is up to date on the project’s latest status. ‘Key users remain of significant importance once the project has gone live’, Mathijs explains.
‘They are generally the ones who are able to answer most questions posed by the work floor. The questions that key users are unable to resolve, end up with me. which they can generally answer. The questions they can’t resolve end up in my lap.’
By definition, key users are close to their department’s staff. Not only do they need their input, they also try to actively involve them in the project by providing them with information on current developments.
‘Unfortunately, we don’t get feedback, ideas or comments from everyone. That is unfortunate, because in this phase we have the ability to listen to everyone’s input and could use good contributions. Once we have finished implementation, it will be too late to do so. Thankfully, I’m getting quite a lot of responses. People tend to contribute more once things start to take shape because I can show them what we are doing and explain where it is all heading. This provides an ideal opportunity to review the latest developments with your colleagues.
Jasper continues: ‘We test every new application extensively before it goes live. We introduce our colleagues to the new features and make sure they receive sufficient training from their own key user.’
Mathijs: ‘We had commercial staff do extensive trial runs with the new system before the FreshFuel launch. Seeing that they got better at it every passing week made us confident that we were ready for implementation.
Impact on the company’s future
Jasper: ‘The project went through a long start-up phase. All the key users had to figure out what was expected of them. Combining that role with your normal duties can be challenging.’
Arnold agrees and shares some benefits of being a key user: ‘Obviously, it is a pleasure to be the first to know about the upcoming changes. Moreover, supporting the development process and involving your colleagues is also a fun challenge. Key users are actively involved in shaping Aartsen’s future.
‘It’s nice to have an impact on the company’s future’, Jasper explains. ‘We try to innovate and prepare for the future. It’s interesting to critically assess the company and the steps we are taking.
Mathijs: ‘The transparency of the process is very fascinating. You learn a lot about how the company works.’
Doing things our own way
Arnold: ‘I helped implement similar changes at another organisation, but that was a standard software package. Standard packages aren’t an option here at Aartsen. You end up in a situation where the package determines what you can and cannot do. This approach allows us to determine the system’s functionalities. We do things our own way here.’
Employees have a lot of built-in expectations about Blue Banana. Won’t they be hard to live up to?
Jasper: ‘I have no doubt our expectations will be met. There are so many possibilities.’
Mathijs: ‘We are keeping all the familiar functionalities, but we are expanding and simplifying them wherever possible.
Arnold: ‘The old system simply couldn’t keep up with our company’s growth. The new system opens up a world of new possibilities.’
Jasper: ‘We determine when people are ready for the changes. To keep things manageable, we will be rolling out the new system in multiple phases. Step by step, we are heading in the right direction. Our colleagues are able to experience this as well. Our colleagues can see for themselves that we’re getting there, step by step. In other words, I think their expectations will be met.’
Mathijs: ‘Our enthusiasm inspires our colleagues. Involving people in the process helps to calibrate their expectations. It’s mainly a matter of communication.’
All existing automation is being replaced by a new system as part of an ambitious long-term project called ‘Blue Banana’. Aartsen is developing this ERP system in-house. With the four subprojects FreshFuel (from purchasing to commission settlement), FreshTrade (sales and logistics), FreshAccount (financial administration) and FreshRelation (CRM), Aartsen is working towards a nonstopfresh future.