Magazine

Cause for Celebration: 10 years of HORNBACH and Unic

HORNBACH and Unic have a very special relationship: without HORNBACH, Unic would not have a presence in Karlsruhe and without Unic, the HORNBACH online shop would probably not be as popular as it is. The two companies are now celebrating ten years of equal partnership. Gerd Heinssen, who has been Unic’s contact at HORNBACH for many years, tells us in an interview why the two first started working together and what makes Unic such a reliable partner.

Interview mit Gerd Heinssen von HORNBACH

Mr. Heinssen, what role did you play in the project?

Gerd Heinssen: I have been involved in the development of e-commerce at Hornbach since 2009 and also played an active role in getting the collaboration with Unic off the ground. I was in charge of various areas such as quality assurance and testing, release planning and partner management, to name a few.

There are many different agencies on the market. As one of the leading companies in the DIY and gardening industry, you had your pick. What made you go for Unic?

Gerd Heinssen: When the e-commerce project was launched, HORNBACH started by evaluating a suitable Product Information Management (PIM) system. At this stage, we were already being supported by Unic and were aware that Unic had the resources and expertise to manage an implementation project. We then worked together to draw up a suitable shortlist and chose Hybris. Unic was also involved in the subsequent evaluation of a suitable online shop solution and was primarily in charge of backend issues.

Thanks to its impressive comprehensive package of employee skillsets, corporate culture and commercial services, Unic was soon involved in more than just the PIM implementation and became our partner in developing the online shop.

You’ve already touched on a few points that made the collaboration with Unic so distinctive. Were there any other points that stood out for you?

Gerd Heinssen: From the outset, the team at Unic showed us that they were interested in a long-term partnership. Their passion for e-commerce projects was evident immediately. Unic even went so far as to open an office in Karlsruhe to be close to us, its client, enabling close collaboration and clearly signaling its interest in a long-term partnership. Even at that stage, we were impressed by Unic’s synergies across locations.

Until the site in Karlsruhe was opened, we were supported by experts from different branches, which also worked very well. The aim was always to get the best employees for the issues at hand integrated into the project. Thanks to the open and honest culture at Unic, issues were addressed constructively, with both partners as equals and a focus on solutions. Whenever problems arose, staff from both HORNBACH and Unic were not afraid to speak their mind, which is key to the success of a long-term collaboration.

They also continually shared expertise throughout the project, ensuring they worked together as effectively as possible. From the outset, it was clear that HORNBACH would develop its own resources in order to be able to operate the online shop on its own. Unic also shared its knowledge in this area and coached our people – helping us to help ourselves.

Unic always has the client’s perspective in mind.

What expertise did and does Unic bring to the online shop?

Gerd Heinssen: Unic offers a very broad portfolio from which HORNBACH has been able to derive considerable benefit. Unic was originally in charge of evaluating the PIM software solution and designing and implementing the online shop. It subsequently took on the Hybris backend development and shop frontend development as well. Unic was also our first port of call for tasks including checking server set-ups, optimizing configurations and fixing bugs. We’ve also been able to turn to Unic whenever we’ve had any issues with infrastructure or the operation of the online shop solution.

How were innovative ideas and functions identified?

Gerd Heinssen: At HORNBACH, we particularly focus on the features that provide our customers with added value. By exchanging ideas with Unic, we have always tried to find the best possible solution for technical implementation. Independent of business operations, Unic has always given us insight into its portfolio. By listening to these experiences and broadening our horizons, our collaboration was strengthened, particularly as Unic frequently encouraged and pushed innovative ideas that tend to get sidelined in daily business.

Every project has its obstacles. How did you overcome these?

Gerd Heinssen: We did face one or two challenges in the early days, which were most likely due to the waterfall approach we took to projects at the time, with infrequent and extensive go-live timelines. It was during the critical stages of the project that Unic’s corporate culture stood out: open and respectful communication, constructive dialogue and never losing sight of the client’s needs. The two parties sat down together, looked at the problems and came to decisions for which they both assumed responsibility. Finding solutions together was key.

Last but not least, describe Unic as a service provider in 3 words.

Gerd Heinssen: Cooperatively, competent, reliable.

We are very grateful to Mr. Heinssen for taking the time for this interview and to HORNBACH for ten years of trust and collaboration.

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