Lego digitalization: The biggest investment in history

Illustration: Lego

The largest investment in the company’s history. This is how Lego itself describes the digital transformation they have been going through for the past year and a half. The company keeps to itself how big the investment is, but the transformation involves all parts of the business—from customer experience over playing experience and partner experience to the digital workplace, in which employees must feel they are working in, explains Chief Digital and Technology Officer Atul Bhardwaj, who was hired a year and a half ago to lead the transformation.

“Behaviour and habits have changed markedly and everything has been digitalized. For us, this means that we need to figure out how to bring the physical and digital universe together for customers, partners, and colleagues,” he says.

Earlier this month, Lego and Epic Games, which is behind the popular Fortnite game, among other things, announced a collaboration in which Lego is investing a billion dollars.

“Many children are present in the metaverse today, and we need an answer to that. The Epic Games platform already has 650 million users, so it’s a great place for us to be,” Atul Bhardwaj says.

The product itself is still in development, but among other things, all the XR technologies are in play.

“We’ve been working on the mix between the physical and digital worlds for 25 years with, for example, Mindstorm, Luke Skywalker, and Super Mario, but now we’re turning it up a notch.”

Technology and brand will ensure recruitment

Although the investment in the collaboration with Epic Games is in itself large, it is the second part of the digitalization that makes up the largest part of the investment.

Everyone is shopping digitally today and it takes a lot of data to personalize the experience. So the playing experience is one thing, the shopping experience another, and the partner experience, where Lego dealers must be able to order digitally through a portal, is a third element that must be supported digitally, Atul Bhardwaj explains.

“And finally, there are our colleagues who must also have a good digital experience, where we ensure they can work from home, make sure they get the information they need when they are at work, etc.”

Atul Bhardwaj’s department currently employs approx. 1000 employees in Billund, Shanghai, London, and Copenhagen. The office in Copenhagen officially opened on 21 April, but 109 digital experts are already hard at work.

The digital department will grow to a total of 1800 employees over the next few years, and it is a huge recruitment task in a market where everyone is fighting for the same specialists.

Atul Bhardwaj is convinced that Lego’s strong, international brand and purpose combined with an opportunity to work with the latest technology will ensure that the company will be able to recruit the employees that the digital transformation requires.

“If you want to build some amazing technical solutions, well, then this is the best place to work with modern technology like agile, cloud, and API. In all areas—customers, stores, partners, products—there are so many problems to solve. And digital specialists love solving problems,” he says.

Physical business requires physical offices

Although these are digital talents who are used to being nomads and can work from anywhere, the group sticks to the physical offices. “Because we are a physical company with a physical production and physical stores,” as the director of digitalization says.

“We have a ‘best of both worlds’ policy, which means that people can work from home, but they must also work in the office to strengthen cooperation. I think it’s super important that we have a place to work together and a place where we can experience our playful culture,” Atul Bhardwaj says.

In the newest office that has just opened, with the redevelopment of the two (soon to be three) storey classic Copenhagen office on Strøget, a lot has been done to signal ‘Lego’ through posts covered with thousands of small Lego plants, a room for gaming, boxes with Lego bricks in every corner, and colours and illustrations from the brand’s universe.

By the end of 2022, the office will have 200 employees, and by 2023 the staff will increase to 400. They will help implement the strategy under the leadership of Atul Bhardwaj, who has managed this kind of tasks before.

Lego’s new office in Copenhagen is centrally located on Strøget. Illustration: Lego

He has previously completed two digital transformations—with different aims. One was in the English retail chain Tesco, and it included a restructuring. The other was in the German electronics chain MediaMarkt, and its goal was to improve the books.

“This transformation is strategic, and it is a very different lens to see things through. So it’s my job to make sure that what we create here delivers and is rooted in our overall strategy. My role is to connect the digital with the physical business.”

His task has also been to bring new technologies and practices to the table in the almost 100-year-old company that started as a small carpentry and joinery business in Billund.

“It’s new for us to work agile and with self-directed teams, so there are many new concepts at play. These are concepts that all modern technology companies have, so the changes are important. And my role is to make sure the changes are implemented so our teams can do great things,” he says.