CEMEX execs boost collaboration with IBM's Lotus Connections

Building supply firm also plans to upgrade to Lotus Connections Version 3.0, which IBM unveiled Monday

When the world's largest building supplies company decided to get employees from around the world working together on some major projects, its biggest problem was finding a way to help workers collaborate on the effort.

Sergio Escobedo, the innovation director at Nuevo Leon, Mexico-based CEMEX, was faced with overcoming geographical, language and time zone barriers to get 2,000 of its top executives working together. So solve the problem, Escobedo turned to IBM and it's Lotus Connections social collaboration software.

"How could we make sure people got connected and had a way to create new ideas and share best practices and really work together toward business goals?" asked Escobedo. "We decided to move in this direction. It's a very efficient way to communicate. It's about changing behaviors and the practices of people who need to collaborate."

CEMEX reports annual sales of between $16 billion and $18 billion a year and employs more than 40,000 people in about 50 countries. To overcome the distance between key employees, the company last year decided to pull some of their executives together into six different groups, each focusing on issues like sustainability, new product development and alternative fuel use.

Escobedo brought in Lotus Connections 2.5 last January for the 2,000 top executives, and has since added some 18,000 more employees onto the collaboration platform, providing them all with a new, easier way to communicate.

Meanwhile, IBM on Monday is releasing an update to Lotus Connections -- Version 3.

Heidi Ambler, IBM's program director for social software, told Computerworld that Version 3 adds social analytics tools that can be used to notify users of employees that can help them on projects, as well as the ability to drop apps, like wikis and profiles, into larger applications like Lotus Notes.

The updated Lotus Connections, for instance, lets Notes e-mail users quickly find the sender's profile and start an instant chat.

"We're starting to see a shift in companies trying to be more social," said Ambler. "They're putting the demand on vendors to have a full collaboration social platform. They want to be able to pick and choose pieces that can snap in place. Like maybe they want a files application or wikis, blogs and profiles. Six months later, they may want to add more applications and have them just fit in together."

Escobedo said CEMEX has started testing Lotus Connections 3.0 and plans to use it.

"There are a couple of things that are coming to the table with Connections 3.0," he added. "One is the social analytics being added. It helps anyone within the company make one-to-one connections with other company members and it makes [group] leaders realize who is not connected and should have a one-to-one channel."

IBM also is expanding its mobile platform, enabling iPad, iPhone, Android and Nokia S60 devices to access communities, forums, blogs and wikis on the go.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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