Achieving goals together: dynamic EDI for Intersport

Intersport and DIG: Training partners for EDI

Electronic data exchange is now state-of-the-art in many companies. But at Intersport Austria, the technology is used in a particularly dynamic way to implement its own business logic with retailers, service partners and suppliers. And development is continuing all the time.

Electronic data exchange began at Intersport as early as the early 1980s, when sales, invoicing and payment data were exchanged with suppliers by mail using data carriers (floppy disks or magnetic tape). "At the beginning of the 2000s, we started the first training phase for electronic data exchange at Intersport," recalls Managing Director Alois Grüblinger, who was head of IT at the time. "The postal process was correspondingly sluggish, so we set the bar a lot higher for ourselves."

Start with electronic invoicing

The starting signal for a far-reaching modernization came in the summer of 2003, Grüblinger recounts: "Together with an external consultant, a call for tenders was drawn up, through which we came into contact with DIG, among others." At the time, the Linz-based provider reminded him more of a start-up: "There were only a few people behind Leopold Binder and Michael Eisler, but they had their first well-known customers and a spirit that suited our shirt-sleeved style!" The fact that DIG emerged as the winner of the tender was also due to the practical scope of services. "We realized that this would help us in practical implementation, not only to exchange data with conversion, but to gain partners and suppliers who would go down the path of electronic data exchange with us!" In the process, DIG took on the task of persuading Intersport's existing suppliers to switch to electronic invoicing and additionally attracting new partners. "This was the first document class for us to realize efficiency potential."

  • DIG as the perfect digitization partner
  • technical implementation + practical scope of services
  • Support for supplier acquisition for participation in electronic data interchange

Flexible EDI for a heterogeneous system landscape

The difference to the competition was ultimately also made by the various connection options at DIG, Grüblinger recalls: "From low-threshold data exchange via e-mail to the web portal solution to the full-fledged EDI route, every partner is offered a suitable option." This flexibility is already required by Intersport's membership structure: "Many are 100 percent sports retailers, most of them with branches. Others, on the other hand, have several lines of business and operate, for example, fashion retail or hotel business in addition to the sports business." Accordingly, most members use the central Intersport merchandise management system, while around 10 percent of sales are run through a wide variety of individual systems. "However, the goal was to connect all our retailers in our markets of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia."

Powerful data hub with further development potential

The next development step after digitizing the invoices concerned the article data. "As a service center, we wanted to make this information automatically available to our members. To do this, our merchandise management system needed to communicate with the approximately 150 suppliers on the one hand, and with the retailers' respective target systems on the other." At the same time, all documents from Intersport to the suppliers were also automated. A further expansion stage took place with the connection of Intersport's online store. "Order data handling can also become more complex, for example if a customer orders a product and it is not in stock at the central warehouse." This is because then it can be decided on the part of Intersport that delivery will be made via a member, Grüblinger explains, "We communicate who is handling the order - this results not only in the specific format required for the order, but also its contents. This is because Intersport works with its own wholesale merchandise management system." In this case, the sales are processed via a member using store shipping.

DIG as part of Intersport's service offerings

In total, the Austrian market comprises over 280 locations and over 100 dealers. The remaining 35 dealers and just under 90 locations are divided between Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. DIG not only comes into play in the sense of individually converted data formats, but is also a component of various services: "For example, we also offer the dealers systems for payroll accounting and bookkeeping, but some use their own. To enable them to import a wide variety of data on a daily basis and in an automated manner, they only need to let DIG know which formats they require." In this way, the members' systems are also integrated and, at the same time, the organizational effort of the Intersport service is outsourced. And this works perfectly in practice, Grüblinger emphasizes: "This is what the perfect team looks like: We develop the service offerings and DIG takes care of the processing!"

Close sparring partnership

"Reliable implementation of Intersport's requirements is a given," emphasizes Leopold Binder, CFO of DIG. "However, as a sparring partner, we want to understand our customers' business processes in detail." The prerequisite for this is open interaction with each other. In any case, Grüblinger is pleased about the cooperation: "We have built up a special relationship of trust here. After all, DIG is responsible for very fundamental business processes, without which our operations would not be possible!"
On this basis, new ideas can also be optimized, says Binder: "We don't just blindly implement the requirements, but always check more efficient ways for the desired process." This is how a strong team has emerged despite changing players over the years. Intersport's current IT manager, Peter Bachl, is also optimistic about upcoming projects: "We are planning to expand our eCommerce platform beyond Austria's borders. And we've also set our sights on a new tool for order processing, where we're looking forward to input from our teammates at DIG!"