Rijk Zwaan: specialist in vegetables, genetics and knowledge

Communications expert Steven van Paassen: “Rijk Zwaan has grown rapidly over the past decades, and we operate around the globe. The subsidiaries have always worked fairly independently and mainly focused on marketing and sales. The contact between subsidiaries and the head office was not very intensive. We used to deliver primarily to horticulturists, but nowadays we maintain contacts with the entire chain, from traders to large supermarkets. This implicates that our customers are becoming increasingly international, which also changed the relationship between and with our international subsidiaries: there is a growing need for contact and knowledge-sharing regarding customers.”

IBM portfolio

In 2010, the first intranet was set up within Rijk Zwaan. Steven: “This first intranet, InSeeds, was focused primarily on the transmission of information, particularly from HR and Communications. Now we need more interactivity.” Arjan Boekestijn, who holds the IT responsibility for the intranet project: “Rijk Zwaan is a true IBM-house, therefore we have started looking into the IBM portfolio for the new intranet. Only then we could really take full advantage of the integration possibilities. Soon we had found Connections as a collaboration platform.”

After a thorough analysis Rijk Zwaan decided to choose a combination of IBM Connections, Websphere Portal and Web Content Manager for their InSeeds 2.0. In the summer of 2013, an RFP resulted in the selection of e-office as partner. Arjan: “Apart from the human ‘click’, which remains a very important aspect, the breadth of e-office and their experience with Connections adoption processes were the decisive factors. Of course, knowledge of the IBM software portfolio – Connections, Portal, WCM and Domino – is important, but e-office also has a professional maintenance and support organization. Add to this the knowledge of enterprise apps and you have a picture suiting our specific needs.”

On July 1st, 2014, the new intranet was launched in a nice, fresh corporate identity. Steven: “Last year we have introduced a new corporate identity and it is nice that the intranet has also been aligned now. We immediately received many positive reactions. With respect to functionality, InSeeds has not been changed substantially yet. The addition of Connections is the most important functional change.”

International challenges
In order to make the intranet as accessible as possible for all employees worldwide, InSeeds has 5 versions. In addition to the Dutch version, the large subsidiaries have their own language version (German, French, Spanish); the smaller subsidiaries make use of the international version, which is in English. Arjan: “Apart from the language versions, we have the situation that not everyone has a workplace with computer and that our employees vary greatly in education levels.  We tried to solve the first issue with consoles in the canteens, through which employees can consult InSeeds. For example for practical issues, like reading news and searching information in the HR manual.” Steven continues: “And don’t be fooled by the cultural differences between countries. To give a simple example: In the Netherlands, the employees’ birthdays are stated on the homepage. This would be inconceivable in France: birthdays are private and do not belong on a company’s intranet.” Maintenance of the various InSeeds sites is therefore done by the subsidiaries themselves, and they have been intensively involved in the development.

Fundamental changes
Arjan: “At Rijk Zwaan, we do not take any unnecessary risks. In the decision making process and preliminary phase of projects we spend a lot of time creating consensus. Once a decision has been made, or a project has been realized, we can accelerate at full speed with little discussion within the organization. In the large countries social business teams have been set up and trained, and now we are going to train the other countries in the use of IBM Connections in a controlled manner, followed by the deployment of the application. We really want to educate everyone first, before they will start working with Connections. In fact, the training is more than a fundamental training: we focus primarily on why, what and how.” Steven adds: “Currently, about 200 people have access and we want to grow steadily. At the end of 2015, everyone using a computer should be available on Connections. We do the implementation in phases, because we realize that this is not so much the introduction of a tool, but a fundamental change in the way of working within Rijk Zwaan.”

Although the organization has a natural focus on collaboration, employees are used to and attached to their e-mail and network drives. Arjan: “The Explorer-plugin in Connections, for example, is very important for the adoption, because this corresponds to the existing working methods. And we are looking forward to the promising integration features IBM offers in IBM Verse: we expect these will considerably increase the ease of use.” By means of the communities within IBM Connections, Rijk Zwaan expects to be able to support the functional cooperation across borders, cultures and languages. The IT department is expected to play a steering role, also in the further implementation of Connections. Arjan: “We create templates for activities, such as meetings. For the adoption, we gladly let ourselves be inspired by e-office.”

External websites
Apart from the InSeeds2.0 project, e-office and Rijk Zwaan have executed a number of additional IT projects. All Rijk Zwaan’s country-websites have been migrated to new versions of Websphere Portal and WCM, and the consumer website Salanova has been built. Furthermore, the first business app was launched.

Arjan is positive about the cooperation with e-office. “On a personal level, we are well-attuned to each other and that is an excellent starting point for cooperation. Of course we also experienced some setbacks, such as the fact that migrating applications to a new version is not always as simple as IBM had promised us. Both e-office and Rijk Zwaan had to put a lot of effort to this. But it is the result that counts, and that is solid as a rock!