January 2015 marks the completion of the organisational integration of CBI and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), which is part of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague. From then on, business operations will be handled by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, and CBI’s staff will be transferred from Foreign Affairs to Economic Affairs.
The integration has been complex. Since early 2012, when CBI moved from Rotterdam to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency’s offices in The Hague there have been obvious economies of scale and opportunities for synergies, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Jan Arent Lameris, independent project manager of the integration team, explains: “The Netherlands Enterprise Agency is itself the product of a recent merger of two government agencies. This took longer than foreseen, which is why the integration with CBI had to be postponed several times.”
The David and Goliath nature of the integration – CBI has 60 employees compared to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency’s 2,600 – has caused apprehension on both sides. Many CBI employees find it hard to accept that from 2015 CBI will no longer exist as a government agency. The good news, however, is that its brand identity is safe, its budget will not be cut and all permanent staff will be upgraded to civil servant status.
For new CBI Managing Director, Max Timmerman, the objective of the integration is crystal clear. “It will help us to do a better job for our customers in developing countries, both for exporters and support organisations. We want to step up to the next level.” Harnessing the complementary strengths of CBI and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, he says, should enable both to provide better-quality services.
CBI’s 43-year experience of expanding trade through aid, its Export Coaching Programmes and its 200 external experts will strengthen the backbone of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, which boasts an extensive support network in the Dutch business community. “Since we moved to The Hague, we have reached out to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency,” says Timmerman. “They needed time to get used to our presence and to see the benefits of synergy with the Netherlands’ only export development programme for developing countries.”
Neither Timmerman nor Lameris had expected the integration to be so complex and protracted and they both realise that the complete process will take several more years. They have nothing but praise for the hard work of CBI staff and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency colleagues. “We’ve all been working to ensure that exporters will reap the benefits of the integration,” concludes Lameris.> Read the full article