Joining the collaboration revolution

The business community is now facing intense challenges and great opportunities with the development of virtual collaboration on a worldwide scale.  What we are now going through is a transformation of practices, a series of changes in the way we are used to doing things and carrying out business through the World Wide Web and virtual social networks. Changes are taking place in the way we interact with both our customers and among our employees, while new generations are joining the workforce that are used to working with new technology. CEMEX must stay ahead of the trends to ensure continuing success, and constantly innovate to do so.

Every day, people around the world are discovering new ways of interacting, getting information, and being entertained in the Internet. We now have more than 30 million online newspaper readers, 250 million unique monthly visitors to You Tube, My Space and Facebook combined, and more than 18 million articles available through Wikipedia in more than 250 languages. We have also witnessed how others are leveraging these tools to increase their revenue or raise funds, such as Dell and the Obama campaign. Dell is currently launching a Twitter channel to sell out-of-season and refurbished inventory, while Barack Obama pioneered the use of virtual social networks to raise funds for his campaign, which resulted in US$55 million gathered without attending a single fundraising event.

We are also seeing structural changes in certain industries that are leveraging these tools not only to engage with their customers in new ways, but also to foster collaboration among their employees. Best Buy uses these tools to share knowledge and best practices on all kinds of topics, such as dealing with customer complaints and improving sales, among 20,000 employees. The Huffington Post is a New York based liberal newspaper that publishes 100% of its content in digital form and has more than 22 million visitors per month. Facebook started out as the online directory for Harvard students, and is now a global network of more than 300 million users, with more functionalities than simple data gathering. IBM facilitates brainstorming and capturing new ideas among more than 150,000 people in 14 countries which has so far yielded more than 46,000 ideas. They all have one thing in common, they are moving away from the traditional isolated work, towards increased collaboration and contact among employees and customers, all thanks to the power of the World Wide Web and virtual collaboration.

The employment landscape is also changing around the world and it is reflected in the demographics at CEMEX. Currently, 33% of our employees are between 27 and 34 years old, which means that Generation Y will soon be joining our ranks. This new demographic group is used to working with new technologies, where the lines between work and socialization are blurred, and collaboration takes place 24 hours a day.

It is our firm belief that the future will belong to those who collaborate effectively and leverage technology to do so. We cannot ignore the trends that point towards this direction: Globalized markets with distributed functions and supply chains with an increasingly high level of complexity, and the disappearance of physical, cultural, and organizational barriers across all countries and industries. We must continuously innovate and do so quickly, our success depends on it. A unified collaboration platform will enable our organization to innovate in terms of processes and interaction across all business units and countries and lead us to increased value creation and success.

Transforming the way we work

Throughout the years, CEMEX has had a long-standing reputation for being efficient and has accomplished a series of solid innovative projects that have also marked the way we are perceived by our peers. It is a part of our culture to continue driving excellence both in efficiency and innovation in all our operations across the globe.

This push for efficiency should be driven through innovation, fostering the participation of the whole company. To achieve better results we must leverage all the talent available in our organization, and channel our employee’s passion towards a transformation effort. A transformation that will change the way we work together, to enhance collaboration.

This will result not only in a company-wide spread and adoption of best practices, or improvements, but also in more robust and dynamic collaboration practices that will be catapulted by the networks themselves, who have successfully used them to perform their work. In the long run, this will enhance our competitive edge and reinforce the company’s reputation for innovation. It will further enable us to capture the best talent available and create more value for all our stakeholders.