Errol Koolmeister: “H&M is now almost entirely data-driven in understanding the future demand”

September 16, 2021

Errol Koolmeister, Former Head of AI Foundation for H&M, had been working on overseeing the AI ​​projects running at the H&M group. His professional experience spans through a number of industries and markets, including the Nordics, Eastern Europe and Russia. Prior to Errol’s talk at IT Arena 2021, we managed to quickly chat with him about the peculiarities of his job and opportunities AI solutions will bring to the retail industry in the near future.

H&M group began to introduce AI solutions within the company back in 2016. What was the step-by-step process, and what objectives did the company set for itself? Five years later, are you happy with what you have achieved?

It was a straightforward approach where we initially found a good use case with high value and high feasibility. After proving the value in the first Proof of Value, we immediately got funding to do additional use cases. We broke free from existing structures and set everything up on a modern cloud infrastructure with independent product teams.

We generated a large amount of value this way and grew from a handful of people to way beyond a hundred. 

Tell us about your career journey at the company. Having previous work experience in banking, telecom what has attracted you to retail?

It was essential to make an impact, so H&M and the size made me join, not retail as an industry. I asked three questions before joining. Do you have data, budget, and management support? When they answered yes to all three, I was convinced. Retail has proven to be very dynamic and fast-paced. The fashion industry is a day-to-day business acting on trends, so utilizing AI made an impact.

What are some of the most exciting cases of AI-driven retail at H&M?

Some of the most exciting ones are around how H&M will create great customer experiences. There you as a customer will be able to see the results of the AI work directly.

How do you use AI to predict market demand?

AI currently is driving most of the forecasting in most of the markets H&M operates in. So rather than doing manual forecasting, H&M is now almost entirely data-driven in understanding the future demand.

What will be H&M’s next step in AI?

To have all core operational decisions amplified by AI in 2025. 

What are some of the most exciting trends in the AI industry you’re looking forward to introducing in your work?

The complex parts are not about algorithms and technology. I am excited about how we make AI available for everyone. We have a great opportunity right now to make this technology more accessible, which makes me excited.

Please give us a preview of your IT Arena talk.

I will talk about how you scale AI in organizations. What do you need to do to be able to deliver outstanding results? How do you utilize technology and infuse it into the organization while creating autonomous teams and having the opportunity to make an impact?

Learn more about Errol Koolmeister and his talk.