What trends have marked 2020 and how will they evolve next year? How has Hubo responded to these new trends and how do they think they will emerge as a winner from the crisis? We discussed this with Stefan Draulans, ICT Manager at Hubo.
What do you think were the main trends in 2020?
Stefan Draulans: “As a result of the corona crisis, we saw a completely new way of working at all companies. Of course, everyone has been talking about digital transformation for years, but in 2020 we were forced to take a sudden leap in this evolution. This means the role of IT has advanced years in companies, mainly because the resistance to digital transformation projects disappeared. With IT, you don’t just have a purely technical component to work on, but also processes and ways of working that need to be adapted. So people have to step out of their comfort zone to some extent and that is not always easy. Because in 2020 companies had no choice but to adapt their working methods, this mental resistance was swept away. It also seems to work well in general, so we have made a lasting leap to a new plateau of digitalisation.”
How has your company responded to this?
“Hubo was particularly affected by the first lockdown in the spring of 2020. We had to close our stores, so we had to rely completely on our online shop as the sole sales channel. Fortunately, we had been working on developing our e-commerce activities for several years already and we had also ensured they were scalable. We saw online sales quadruple in that period, but this unexpected growth also revealed weaknesses. For example, home delivery partners could not always keep up. So we had to switch quickly.”
"At Hubo we have a real ‘can do’ attitude and that was definitely an asset at the time. We are a company with a flat structure and this makes it easier for us to adapt and try out new things. For example, we developed a new Click & Delivery service to avoid problems at the distributors: our own employees drove around in vans to deliver products from the Hubo stores. We developed this service in a week and we will continue to offer it to customers who are happy to pay a little extra for it."
What do you see emerging as the main trends in 2021?
“2021 will probably be a transitional year in which the corona crisis will hopefully gradually fade away. I expect the digital leap we made in 2020 to have a lasting impact. For example, working from home has become established in most companies and it will not disappear altogether after the pandemic ends. Then companies will again be able to focus more on the strategic level. Many companies will undoubtedly review their processes and IT infrastructure to see whether they are sufficiently flexible and scalable to cope with future developments or obstacles. In addition, there is increasing attention paid to IT security. This is a must, because the more employees work in different locations, the greater the importance of security. We are also seeing more and more activity from hackers and phishing emails, so this is certainly something companies need to take into account.”
What is your company doing to ensure it will be ahead of the curve when the corona crisis is over?
“I am convinced that at Hubo it is our corporate culture that makes all the difference: we are a flexible company with an entrepreneurial mindset in our DNA. As a result, IT at Hubo has always been regarded as something that supports growth and not as a cost item. Typically, I don’t report to the financial department but to the CEO, so the business. We believe that you can stand out in the market with technology. This was also evident during the corona crisis, when companies became massively dependent on technology. Internally, too, the way of working at Hubo will continue to change, including working from home and therefore the necessary tools to do this properly. We will move even more software to the cloud to improve accessibility for employees in every location.”