E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

How connect.BASF Helped BASF Become a Social Business

Headquarters of the BASF Group – Ludwigshafen In the recent past I have been blogging over here a couple of times already on some of the amazing piece of work that BASF (disclaimer: An IBM customer) has been doing over the course of the last year or so on becoming a Social Business and behave and act as such. Living Social is no easy task, for sure, but with a bit of perseverance, commitment, resilience, and a couple of other key important traits BASF has been demonstrating it’s now possible to achieve it. And big time! Even if you are not in the IT industry. Even if IT is not your area of expertise, “get social, do business” is very much no longer a dream for the corporate world in general, but quite the opposite, probably; pretty much an imperative no business can no longer ignore nor neglect.

The story behind connect.BASF though (BASF’s social business platform, based on IBM Connections)Β is a special one. Through plenty of dedication, communications, executive sponsorship, education, unprecedented leadership, etc. etc. they are now at the stage where becoming a social business is no longer a long term goal, but today’s reality. Take, for instance, this short video clip of a little bit of 3 minutes, where my good friend CheeChin Liew shares the story of what it’s meant for BASF to live social:

The really exciting part of this tremendous success story is not the full commitment to make a difference in this Social Business space, but to eventually have done it in such a way that presents the perfect business case, and business opportunity, for all of those companies to embrace Enterprise 2.0 techniques and technologies, even if you are not in the IT industry. I surely would want to stress this one out a bit more, since time and time again I keep hearing from various different people how lucky we are (at IBM) for being an IT company with the right social technologies. It looks like for us it’s just a given, a no-brainer, and while I certainly disagree with that sentiment (Since we do have a bunch of other challenges to fight against), it’s great stories like this one from BASF that confirm that even non IT related companies can be amazingly successful with their 2.0 deployments to help improve their effectiveness and efficienfy from their own knowledge workforce as they get to collaborate and share their knowledge amongst themselves, their customers and business partners.

And so much more! Because in that video clip that I mentioned above CheeChin gets to share how becoming a social business has meant for them to empower people to connect with one another, reaching out to share their knowledge and learn from others in the context of nurturing, cultivating and fully embracing communities to solve business problems and achieve certain business goals. He also mentions how Mergers & Acquisitions have got the perfect use case for social business in helping teams, organisations and whatever other groupings get to know each other much easier by having information and knowledge flow naturally from knowledge worker to knowledge worker.

The use case for microblogging that he gets to share as part of that story is fantastic! One of my favourites, actually. One that I can surely relate to and corroborate as perhaps one of the most impressive cases to prove the business value of social tools: helping facilitate the sharing of ideas across openly to pursue further ad-hoc, on the spot, collaboration sparked by those same ideas in the first place. Eventually, with the end result of promoting such rampant innovation inspired by a engaged, transparent and nimble set of interactions and conversations for which most knowledge workers would probably wonder why they didn’t start much sooner! And the best part? All of that inspired by my all favourite 2.0 concept: facilitated serendipity (Or informal and accidental knowledge discoveries, whatever term you would want to use). Informal / Social Learning anyone?

Finally, one last key message from CheeChin’s interview recorded and put together on that video clip is that sense of utilising social software tools for something more than just related to pure work. In their case, for something so important, inspiring and mind-blowing as social good. What makes us unique and humane, and differentiates us from the rest of species. Now, I am not going to spoil it for you much further, you will have to watch the clip to see what kind of social good connect.BASF promoted with such a huge success. Needless to say that the first word that comes to my mind is a strong sense of pride. Ok, that’s 5 words, but you know what I mean, right?

Either way, if you are still wondering whether social business can be good for your company, whether in the IT industry, or not!!, brilliant success stories like BASF’s connect.BASF can probably confirm that there is a way to become a successful social business. It’s just a matter of having the commitment to make it work across the organisation, following that hybrid approach of top-down, bottom-up that I have talked about in the past, wanting to help define and shape up the next generation of businesses for the 21st century. BASF is already there!

Well done!!

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  1. Nice story. I’d be really interested to see how they can develop from connecting socially to learning socially. They already have the network and the support. Adding in Learning should be a natural step.

    1. Hi Simon! Thanks a bunch for dropping by and for the feedback comments! Greatly appreciated! That’s just such a great question! Instead of me trying to venture an educated answer I have asked CheeChin to come by and share his thoughts on the topic and see how they are doing it… I am sure he would have a chance to share his thoughts shortly… Thanks a bunch, once again, for the kind comments and surely agree with you it’s a great story! Interested as well in finding out some more on how they are approaching Social Learning as well πŸ™‚

      1. Hello Simon, if you talk about integrating “social learning” as a way to change the way organizations trained and developed their employees, as the three basic models mentioned in http://www.astd.org/lc/2009/0209_wilkins.html, then having over 1500 communities in our network (as shown in our slides in Slideshare), we can say connect.BASF itself is covering the so-called “Community Model”. To me, adding learning based on the other two models can be our next possible steps.

        1. Hi CheeChin! Excellent! Thanks much for dropping by and for adding these insightful comments! Way to go!! Looking forward to seeing you folks soon! πŸ™‚

        2. Cheechin,
          I think, as you imply, that the Community model makes more sense than the other Embedded and Wrapped models discussed in the article, as an evolutionary step towards including organisational social learning.
          I can’t help but feel that the Community model is not correct either though. My belief is this; the Community model is not a solution, it is a stage. The challenges to organisations to deploy a Total Learning Environment with elements of authoring (self-publishing), management and social, is only partially solved by the Community model.
          The way to engage learners on all levels is to completely integrate learning into the fabric of the organisation. To do this it must be a ubiquitous function within our companies. At present, in most companies, learning is in a silo, often called Training. That is not a natural place for it to exist. This is why 80% of learning happens naturally, informally and outside of the silo, and only 20% is in the Training silo. For learning to take it’s true place in our organisations we must weave it into our everyday business life. Some would argue that it already is. I would argue that, for the bulk of us, it isn’t, and won’t be until we rethink the role of learning in our organisations. The exciting thing about Social media is that it gives us a real opportunity to get close to this Total Learning Environment; the final piece of the technology requirement, if you will. What do think of this idea?

  2. Empowering people to connect with each other independent of geo-political (or functional) borders? Ad hoc knowledge sharing resulting in spontaneous, accidental innovation?


    I share in your frustration at the mindset that all of this is simply a convenient side-product of working for a big tech firm. That’s BS. This is all the result of the business realizing the only difference between “us” and “them” is that “WE” have the resources and the organization and the power to add meaningful value to people’s lives.

    Your stuff is always so inspirational, Luis. Thank you.

    1. Hi Brian! Thanks a bunch for dropping by and for the wonderful comments! Greatly appreciated the kind feedback as well! Yes, me, too, I am starting to consider how much longer different businesses would continue to use such discussions as an “excuse” to say that social computing and social business haven’t got anything for them, since it’s just meant for the IT industry. That’s just not the case, and we have seen already hundreds of cases where that is not the case at all.

      That’s why I am so excited and proud of the whole success story behind BASF, because, time and time again, they have proved they could it and they have done it to the point where they are transforming themselves into the next generation of businesses of the 21st century, which is not too bad for a company that’s just over 146 years old!

      Talking about keeping up with the times and with innovation on to the next level! πŸ˜€

      Inspiring stories like this one are the ones we need to keep promoting to prove it *is* possible to live social while doing business! πŸ™‚ hehe

      1. @Brian & @Luis
        You guys everytime are ruining my well planned work day, everytime I sneak in for a minute and end here, wanting to join great discussions.
        An interesting aspect that you have brought up: As very literally expressed the correlation of all that “Social” stuff and IT companies does not make too much sense. So what makes sense? Is the adaption and success of Social Media / Knowledge Management the same for all? In my opinion, and this is supported in what I read at McKinsey’s quarterly and HBR, the correlation is more between innovation and Social Knowledge (lazyness is a great innovator, SM & KM is to long to write, so its SK). We saw this internally (the acceptance of SK was much bigger were business asked for more innovation) and externally (to be supported by research) with most innovative companies leverage to much more extend on SK (more by accident this include many IT companies, but also the great examples you bring up).


        1. Hi Gerald, thanks a lot for adding further up on this topic! Great contribution! I surely agree with your comments about “laziness being a great innovator”, because, I, too, feel the same way, although I can imagine how it would make plenty of people rather uncomfortable. The thing though is that if you switch it to the “Law of Least Effort”, i.e. do more with less, it starts coming along nicely or if you encourage folks to think outside the box and bring innovation forward to do smart work then you are ready to engage your knowledge workforce much more efficiently, and for the sake of innovation, too! That’s what social will do leaving out the formality of interactions we have been going through over the years with KM systems, for instance. It does sound like a much more natural method of sharing your expertise across and learn along the way, as @Simon, points out rather nicely above on how it needs to be embedded into today’s working environment and stop being that silo that no-one, even businesses, feels comfortable with!

          Small steps, perhaps, but in the right direction, in my opinion, don’t you think?

  3. Very good article and video too. It’s good to see B2B enterprise firms such as IBM and BASF taking a lead in social business deployment.

    I would just add that to fully evolve into a collaborative social business involves a significant change in culture starting from the leadership of the organization. Technology is the vehicle that will drive adoption, change and collaboration.

    Thanks again and have a great long weekend.

    1. Hi Michael! Thanks much for dropping by and for the timely contribution! Absolutely, I agree with you 100% about leadership leading the way, if I may say so, although in the recent Social Business Jam that IBM did there was a rather interesting survey where it came out how most practitioners did not consider leadership from top management essential for the deployment of Enterprise 2.0. Only 7% of them were in agreement, which seems to indicate that while rather important and paramount for it to succeed, knowledge workers seem to understand how they, too, play a critical role in making it work altogether! Taking into account that, once again, technology is just an enabler and that it’s the corporate culture and their willingness to make a difference what will eventually make it tick!

      Again, thanks a bunch for the great comments, and you, too, have a wonderful long weekend! Ours just got started over here, too! πŸ™‚

    2. Hello Michael, I do agreed that a “fully” evolved organization does involve a lot of chances in workplace culture, as well as that in leadership. BASF get started from a workshop of business units, and then a project was setup with a strong support from top managers. Right from the official launch, we can see “visible” contributions from top managers.
      OK, we have just celebrated your 1st year Birthday, last week on May 31. I can say that we are just at the early phase of such changes.

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