Blog Customer Stories Online retailer bol tackles growing compliance needs with GitLab
Published on: June 12, 2024
5 min read

Online retailer bol tackles growing compliance needs with GitLab

Learn how GitLab helps the major international company adhere to regulations while increasing development efficiency.

bol - cover

Bol, which uses GitLab Ultimate, is one of the largest online retailers in the Netherlands and Belgium. The company offers a product range of 38 million items alongside 50,000 sales partners who sell their goods on its marketplace. Bol relies on innovative technology to increase development efficiency, adhere to compliance regulations, and maintain trust across its extensive customer base.

Bol equips its teams with the GitLab DevSecOps platform, enabling its developers to quickly and securely ship projects, while saving the team thousands of manual hours on compliance checks.

“GitLab is helping us stay flexible and competitive as we grow, and as the requirements that our software and our developers need to comply with grow,” says Guus Houtzager, engineering manager on bol’s Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment team. “That's the biggest challenge that we had and we tackled it with GitLab.”

However, as bol's revenue grew, so did the compliance rules and regulations it had to adhere to. The company needs to continually adapt its software to meet strict, and often updated regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), International Organization for Standardization (ISO) requirements, and the EU Artificial Intelligence Act.

After adopting GitLab Community in 2016 and GitLab Premium several years later, bol upgraded to GitLab Ultimate in 2024 to meet the growing compliance load and help its teams tackle projects faster and more efficiently.

Guus Houtzager of bol - quote box

Saving thousands of developer hours per month

GitLab enables bol’s DevSecOps teams to set up policies that automate compliance configurations and checks. This helps them achieve consistency and scalability in their compliance efforts, and reduce the risk of human error. With compliance guardrails in place, its team of 850 developers can focus more of their energy on creating innovative, secure software.

“We bought GitLab Ultimate so we can have compulsory compliance pipelines that ensures our teams are working within compliance regulations from the start,” says Houtzager.

By allowing developers to focus on coding without the burden of compliance regulations, the bol development team dramatically increased its efficiency.

“This has saved our developers several thousands of hours in total per month,” says Houtzager.

In addition to time savings, the team is now confident it can handle any compliance roadblocks that come its way.

“We know that GitLab is going to help us with compliance and software security,” says Houtzager. “Even if we get new regulations, we have a toolkit, through GitLab, that enables us to follow and comply with any new regulations. We don't know exactly what will happen, but we know we are in a position to handle whatever comes our way.”

Shifting left to protect customers and its business

As a large player in the European retail world, trust is a key pillar of bol’s business model. The company handles a large quantity of personal data, such as addresses and order details. While regulatory fines are a concern, so is maintaining trust with its customer base. That only emphasizes the importance of security.

“Most of the people in the Netherlands and Belgium have bought something from us in the past and people trust us,” says Houtzager. “They trust that we handle their payment details properly. We don't sell your Personal Identifiable Information PII data, and they trust us to keep it safe and secure.”

To protect customer data and its business, bol shifted security left, enabling developers to find errors and vulnerabilities earlier in the development process. However, shifting left without the right tools in place could lead to developers spending countless hours trying to correct any problems they find.

“If you shift left without also providing teams the tools, support, and processes to make sure that they can do this work in an efficient manner, teams get bogged down in either procedures or manual work,” says Houtzager.

With GitLab Ultimate, bol is able to set up the layout and permission model to meet the company’s security requirements, giving developers the freedom to quickly build and ship projects while protecting customer and business data. The DevSecOps platform has the added benefit of tracking the changes and fixes that developers make and noting them in compliance records.

Looking ahead to AI

Moving forward, bol plans to use more GitLab Ultimate features, like cloud integration, and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, along with even more security features.

From building secure software faster to improving the developer experience, bol looks forward to one day using AI-powered GitLab Duo to help them scale their software development.

“The situation must be right for us to be able to use it and then we will definitely take a look at how it can help us,” says Houtzager. “We, like everybody else, are looking at where AI can help us to improve situations across the entire software development life cycle. So if someone is building code, how can it help them? If someone is working on other aspects of the process, how can it help them?”

Read more customer stories on the GitLab customers page.

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