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The right mix for a corporate social network
21 Oct, 2013 12:20 pm
At Cemex, one of the largest building materials companies in the world, we built an internal social networking platform to transform how we share knowledge and work together. Some 24,000 employees can now efficiently collaborate, replacing unproductive processes.
Initially, Shift (see picture below) was aimed at innovation teams, with 600 to 900 members worldwide replacing extensive travel and face-to-face meetings with a global platform, on which they can share knowledge and proceed on projects.
The platform is now used for business ideas and strategies, knowledge sharing, and organising and executing projects. We use the system for many different parts of our business, right from basic communications teams to sophisticated technical knowledge sharing.
Other teams involved include logistics, and health and safety teams, where exchanging ideas and best practice has been transformed. In terms of design teams, product packaging staff were self organising, using the platform, to develop the perfect packaging for different building material products.
In the UK, our operations team share what was accomplished, and what were the challenges, at the end of each week, enabling interaction and discussion. It is far more dynamic and interactive than e-mail. In Mexico, our president writes a monthly blog, and it is much easier to interact with using this system.
Judging the benefits
There have been many other tangible benefits to using Shift. Our company is now a leader in alternative fuel usage compared to our competitors, as we reduce our travel. Our goal is for 29 per cent of our fuel usage to be from alternative sources, and as we strive towards this we have also already saved $130 million (£81 million) in fuel costs.
When it comes to ready mix concrete, we have transformed production. Previously, we were creating several different global brands, producing them locally to where they were sold. But we have seen a high demand for global, sophisticated products, and in a short time using collaboration and project management we have been able to create three global brands. This has had a major effect on production cost.
Rolling out the system
To some degree, there are design similarities between Shift and public social networks, such as a live history of recent activity within the system. But there are also substantial differences required to make the system directly serve our needs. What we have done is made sure the system is easy to use, so that training is not needed.
At the rollout, we were careful to bring about a clear communication campaign for all the different staff in our company, showing them how the system works. While we showed all the functionality, we talked entirely in business language - an important decision. This is because it is not the technology itself that matters, but the effect it has on daily operations. Really, it is a shift in our culture and way of working.
Every year we have a cycle of developments, and we are on the third version of Shift. Next, we will add in more formal project management and related graphs. We also plan to integrate the system into our enterprise resource planning software, so that managers can go into the activity stream, and directly approve workflows. In the future, we are also considering extending Shift to interact with our partners, and even to invite partners and customers to visit our business, electronically, on the site. By making this system so easy and accessible, we are able to transform how we collaborate.