BASF eyes returns on IT investments

Stefan Beck, Asia-Pacific IT director for chemical company BASF, talks about four major projects keeping his team busy over the next 12 months.
Written by Isabelle Chan, Contributor
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Stefan Beck, Asia-Pacific IT director for BASF, is busy implementing a global standard operating and software environment across the region

Q. What are BASF Asia-Pacific's IT priorities over the next 12 months?
Beck: Our major priorities for the next year lie in two areas. The first is operational efficiency and excellence, and the other is business enablement and service orientation.

Operational excellence in our regional IT/IS services is our main functional objective to support our employees and business units in the Asia-Pacific region. Operational excellence, of which operational efficiency is an integral prerequisite, ensures uninterrupted business operations and enables workers to focus on their core business tasks. It requires IT/IS to manage a standardized environment with centralized support in such a way that fulfills all the business requirements in a timely manner and with sufficient flexibility.

Only on the basis of operational excellence is it then possible to provide business enablement and service orientation. This includes a proper mapping of business objectives to systems and processes, provision of an integrated collaboration space with business intelligence, and a corresponding training and support program for the users to utilize the systems and services efficiently.

If the service offering portfolio of IT/IS is defined through business-oriented service elements, which can be combined into different service packages, then the right balance between flexibility and standardization can be achieved.

What are some of the key IT projects that are being trialed or implemented?
The following four IT projects are our key activities in the next 12 months:

The first project is to finalize the IT integration of BASF's major acquisitions of Engelhard and Degussa Construction Chemicals last year into our regional infrastructure, as well as roll out our regional SAP system--both of which have absolute priority. The direction for the integration was, from the very beginning, to avoid any business interruptions, and it is only through the full integration of the acquisitions that we will achieve the benefit realization and returns on investment.

"This 'Global PC Standardization' project for Asia Pacific means that within nine months, over 7,000 notebooks and desktops will be replaced with the latest state-of-the-art technologies and a global standard operating and software environment."

BASF is also currently upgrading its entire PC fleet. This "Global PC Standardization" project for Asia-Pacific means that within nine months, over 7,000 notebooks and desktops will be replaced with the latest state-of-the-art technologies and a global standard operating and software environment. This includes a review and significant streamlining of our business applications, as well as maintenance and support processes.

Third is the consolidation and rationalization of our regional server and network landscape, which will further help us to centralize services and increase operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Finally, we're also looking at further developing and optimizing our ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems through additional business services and functions, as well as through functional consolidation. This covers the entire order-to-cash process, including integration of customers and suppliers through e-commerce, and also transactional processes in our regional BASF Shared Service Centre.

What will be BASF Asia Pacific's biggest challenge and how do you plan to overcome it?
Besides the "normal" challenges of operating and developing a complex and dynamic system and technology landscape for a multinational, diversified enterprise as BASF, two issues are major challenges which require significant attention.

The first is maintaining a balance between operational efficiency and service flexibility. Only by maintaining a constant dialog with the customers--the business units--as well as a constant review of the cost-benefit ratio of IT/IS services and solutions, is it possible to maintain this balance.

The second is talent development and knowledge retention. In today's increasingly competitive market, with regard to ICT talents, it is vital to develop talents within the entire organization, offer interesting career paths within functional and cross-functional roles, and ensure the retention of knowledge and expertise. A variety of career and talent development measures, an open and constructive working environment, as well as the opportunity to experience different areas and work locations in our global organization, will help to achieve this.

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