Collaboration, Interviews, Knowledge Management

BASF Interview: Speeding up Knowledge Sharing in a virtual World


Frederique Thiriet-Smith
Knowledge Management Lead, BASF


Frederique Thiriet-Smith
Knowledge Management Lead, BASF

Frederique Thiriet-Smith is an experienced consultant and trainer with 30 years of international professional experience in several industries such as Banking, IT or Manufacturing and many functional areas. She is an expert in adult education and has proven leadership in process optimization and implementation of changes. In the interview Frederique talks collaboration challenges and transformation processes plus the concept of integrated communication platforms.

we.CONECT: What role does your company play in the field of enterprise business collaboration?

Frederique Thiriet-Smith: BASF is well advanced in collaboration. With the biggest information services program in BASF’s history we have introduced a new global integrated working environment, which enables our more than 100,000 employees to better work together – and with external partners. In seven steps, we introduced new modern communication and collaboration tools as well as PCs, notebooks, tablets and smartphones. With a new and modern system landscape and tools employees work more efficiently – no matter where they are located – in the office, at home or on a business trip.

These big technical changes also demanded a sophisticated change management. That is why we started an extensive initiative to support our employees in learning new ways of working. We chose an approach with multiple formats and media: a smartphone app, training videos, live online trainings, a change agent network, handbooks and some face-to-face trainings. We provided our documents in 24 languages and took care to early engage executives and offer specific workshops to target groups such as assistants and business teams.

we.CONECT: What are the main challenges you are facing in terms of enterprise business collaboration?

Frederique Thiriet-Smith: The biggest challenge is change management. New tools alone do not help you transform a company towards closer collaboration. You need to foster a cultural change and enable employees to discover the advantages of new technology and a new way of working.

we.CONECT: How are you responding to these challenges?

Frederique Thiriet-Smith: We have introduced dedicated initiatives and programs to drive forward this cultural change. For example, the initiative “Collaboration Transformation” supports BASF business units by working with Transformation Experts to identify how they can change their ways of working to benefit most from the new functionalities for their business as well as to share knowledge with colleagues and customers even better. It makes cross-team collaboration easier and promotes the development and transfer of creative new ideas. A global network of about 300 employees from various divisions, called “change agents,” provide support by making these ideas and explorer group experiences better known throughout the organization.

we.CONECT: How has your company’s approach to business collaboration changed in the past years?

Frederique Thiriet-Smith: Closer collaboration was always a goal we pursued, but it was often constrained by technical limitations. Collaboration spaces were spread apart on different platforms. With the rise of integrated communication platforms, collaboration has become much easier and we have now the chance to drive this approach less with a focus on the technical side, but with a much clearer focus on the business benefit.

we.CONECT: How do you leverage knowledge sharing within your company?

Frederique Thiriet-Smith: We have implemented tools that allow to create and manage internal social networks within organizational teams, project teams or communities of interest. These tools are accessible from different devices: laptop, tablet or smartphone to facilitate the knowledge exchange anywhere, any time. One example is our enterprise social network connect.BASF. This global platform allows all BASF employees to share knowledge, collaborate in communities and build up their network.

we.CONECT: Please briefly explain the key elements of your presentation at the Intra.NET Reloaded Boston.

Frederique Thiriet-Smith: In the ‘Icebreaker round table’ we will talk about how we can increase the speed of knowledge sharing in a virtual world. What can we do when the speed of technical changes is faster than the cultural change, or when the business need for change is bigger than the users’ readiness? The discussion should generate first ideas how to implement the appropriate organizational set-up to facilitate knowledge sharing and to motivate and encourage employees to find the time to share their knowledge.

we.CONECT: What expectations do you have towards the Enterprise Business Collaboration event?

Frederique Thiriet-Smith: I am looking forward to networking with colleagues from other companies, exchange on current challenges and approaches, and getting inspired with new ideas which we could implement at BASF.

we.CONECT: Thank you very much for your time.