Better sales planning helps Lucas Bols drive growth

24 January 2020 4 min. read

Driven by an ambition to accelerate its growth, Dutch distillery Lucas Bols embarked on a sales transformation. The introduction of better tooling combined with smarter ways of working has given the beverage brand more insights and a healthier capacity to capitalise on opportunities. 

Founded in 1575, Lucas Bols claims to be the oldest distillery brand in the world. Fast forward 444 years and today the Netherlands-headquartered Lucas Bols is a public company generating revenues of over €80 million, producing and selling its alcoholic beverages such as liqueurs, genevers, gin and vodka to more than 20 brands in 110 countries. 

With such an international span and variety of clients, predictability in demand and sales is key for its operations, said Eric de Vries, Finance Director Brands & Markets at Lucas Bols. “We need a good forecast. The more detailed our planning is, the more predictable we can operate.”

In a bid to advance its sales operations, a few years ago Lucas Bols migrated from Oracle Essbase to Oracle Planning & Budgeting Cloud (PBC), Oracle’s solution for planning, budgeting and forecasting. Implemented with the support of financial consulting firm Finext, this move significantly improved forecasting, both in terms of speed and in quality.

Better sales planning helps Lucas Bols drive growth

Previously, the calculation of forecasting scenarios could take a day or two, but with Oracle PBC they are completed within an hour. Further, instead of discussing the actual calculations [many manual calculations were previously needed], focus is now given to the most relevant details, which enhances quality of decision-making, explained De Vries. 

On top of better forecasting, the company also wanted to be able to gain deeper insights into growth by geography and product line. De Vries: “So which brands, and which markets are thriving?” These insights today form the fundament of growth plans for brands such as Bols and Galliano. 

“You need to be able to see where you think the growth will come from, and how you are going to make it happen.” Then, using metrics on commercials, actual performance is monitored versus the planning. “The data shows whether or not something is successful.”

Welcome outside-in

Oracle PBC allows detailed sales planning to be combined with external data, enabling Lucas Bols to inject trends and other relevant developments into its forecasting. With this new process in place, the firm can for instance better understand the impacts of Brexit, a currency devaluation or the introduction of new alcoholic excise duties. 

Building this aggregation process was however no easy task. Lucas Bols works with some 100 different distributors, and they each deliver their data in a different format. Leveraging conversion rules, Oracle PBC supports the conversion of all data into one standard, and then populates a single sales plan. 

“Lucas Bols was one of the first organisations in the Netherlands to work with Oracle PBC for sales planning.”

To stay ahead of the curve, Lucas Bols is currently implementing Oracle Financial Consolidation & Close (FCC). De Vries: “It’s dangerous for companies to get their data from a lot of different systems. I believe you should go for one system so that you have one source in which you record as much as possible. That way, you don’t waste time linking up all the different elements.” 

The project, advised on by Finext consultant Timo van Leeuwen, comes shortly after the delivery of a more complete back-up system. As Oracle’s standard back-up solution stores only one day of data, Lucas Bols installed Swap Automate. This solution was developed by Swap Support, a sister organisation of Finext that specialises in cloud-based support. 

“It was a no-brainer for us, as we found this out the hard way,” said De Vries. “Once we had to work with a manual backup that was already a few weeks old. It’s important that you can rectify things right away, so we installed Swap Automate as soon as we heard it was out there.”