When talking about ‘Social Computing’ within the Enterprise, there are two schools of thought as to it’s return on investment:
- Everything has a quantifiable financial value
- ‘Social Computing’s' value is not quantifiable, but you should do it anyway.
To my mind, the reality is somewhere in between these to points of view. Sometimes a financial ROI is clear, but often it’s a very arduous task trying to assign a monetary value to the return a project can deliver, but in these times of ever increasing competition and austerity measures, everything needs to deliver measurable business value of some kind.
It is certainly a well researched fact that the use of ‘Social Computing’ inside your organization delivers business value and can help to increase your bottom line. For organisations that are predominantly ’knowledge based’ these benefits can be very substantial and are absolutely quantifiable, although not always down to ‘pounds and pence’.
At the recent SharePoint Best Practices Conference a brief but interesting tete-a-tete about ‘social ROI’ occurred between myself and Symon Garfield CTO of ICS Solutions. An excerpt of that conversation in all it’s 140 character glory is below:
Basically Symon, although a huge advocate for social media, was not convinced by my statement that SharePoint’s ‘Social Computing’ features could ever deliver a measurable ROI. The reality was that we were both ‘right’, and discussing at the next coffee break we agreed that what we were both describing, albeit in different ways, was in fact an ‘organisational outcome’ and therefore (I think I convinced him) it was measurable.
To my mind everything in life, love and technology has a ’cause’ and an ‘effect’ – Social Computing in SharePoint is no exception.
A recent Gallup study found that firms with engaged workforces have 2.6 times the earnings per share growth rate compared to their industry counterparts. The Gallup study also identified the danger of failing to engage employees: $300 Billion in wasted productivity.
But these benefits (articulated financially) are derived from specific business outcomes (effects) attributed to ‘social computing’ and not the technology or the project itself.
There’s more to running a successful business than simply achieving an ROI. There are plenty of goals, ideally ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals‘, that are just as critical to business and still have a direct impact on the bottom line.
Measuring social media is possible IF you know your business goals
When you know the outcomes, measuring the impact of ’Social Computing’ features is relatively easy. Some people reading this may think that what we are talking about isn’t measurement, but monitoring… Fair point, monitoring is measurement, but only if you benchmark your outcomes first, this is the key point, trying to measure the intangible without a baseline is a futile activity! If you don’t know how your performance compares against your past performance, then you have no way of knowing that your SharePoint ‘Social Computing’ project has succeeded.
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein
“Hard things to measure are the ones you probably should be measuring!” – Andrew Woodward
The business value (ROI) of internal social media networks depends on how effectively the social media tools help drive:
- Enhanced employee engagement
- Streamlined operations
- Better, faster innovation
These 3 areas are key outcomes of ‘Social Computing’ and hence the by-products of implementing SharePoint Social features that deliver business outcomes that are directly measurable in monetary terms.
Enhanced employee engagement has been proven through numerous studies to deliver the following measurable outcomes (base-lined then measured ongoing after implementation):
- Increase customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Higher sales
- Lower staff turnover
- Significant savings in recruitment and employee on-boarding costs.
Increasing employee engagement makes hard, bottom line business sense.
Using ‘Social Computing’ to streamline business operations will certainly help to cut operational costs and improved and faster innovation provide significant long-term benefit in a knowledge economy.
A third article of relevance gives a great summary of the intangible but measurable outcomes that ‘Social Computing’ can deliver to an organisation. They have come up with the K.I.S.S. method. Not the traditional “keep it simple, stupid” (although that still applies), but with respect to ‘Social Computing’, KISS stands for the following:
- K is for Knowledge management – Enabling your organisation to facilitate, capture and grow it’s knowledge
- I is for Intelligence – Externally this is usually focussed at customers and competitors, but in an internal scenario, ‘Social Computing’ can help an organisation gain intelligence on organisation effectiveness, process issues, employee problems, innovation etc
- S stands for Sale – As was alluded to earlier in this post, ‘Social Computing’ features facilitate numerous positive outcomes that directly increase the quality of ‘sales’, from pipline management, pre-sales to the actual deals themselves.
- S stands for Support – Employee engagement is critical in an organisations growth, ‘Social Computing’ helps create a community that can engage and support your employees, increasing effectiveness and retention and positively impacting your bottom line.
So in our SharePoint and Office365 world, what structured approach can we use in order to measure the intangible, but positive business benefits of ‘Social Computing’ delivered through SharePoint?
We recommend applying the 21shift model to your SharePoint ‘Social Computing’ projects, in summary the model works by shifting the focus to organisational outcomes and business value, we work with you in a collaborative and facilitative manner to achieve a shared understanding and vision and help you deliver your SharePoint project utilising our experience, methodologies, products and tools.
The model is based upon six stages of strategic engagement:
In the case of a SharePoint ‘Social Computing’ project this method will facilitate you to:
- Identify business goals (Identity and Vision Phases)
Such as ‘enhanced employee engagement’
- Facilitate the creation of measurable business outcomes (Outcomes Phase)
Such as increase customer satisfaction, higher sales, lower staff turnover.We make sure we avoid using platitudes by providing actual numbers here such as ‘increase customer satisfaction from 50% to 70% within 6 months and 80% within 12months’ and this leads nicely into the next point, you have to baseline to be effective..
- Measure and record the baseline for the measurable business outcomes (Outcomes Phase)
Use measures such as customer surveys, sales figures, staff attrition rates
- Align SharePoint’s social features to the business outcomes and vision (Solution & Delivery Phases)
Create and deliver a solution using only the SharePoint social features (MySites, Activity Feeds, Blogs etc) that will deliver the stated business outcomes
- Assess the ROI, realising the business outcomes and continuous improvement (Realisation Phase)
Use measures such as customer surveys, new sales figures, new staff attrition rates and assess how the business value has been realised and what needs to be delivered next in order to maintain continuous improvements to the organisations effectiveness
However you approach your SharePoint or Office 365 ‘Social Computing’ Project it’s worth bearing in mind the following three rules that we at 21apps follow as an integral part of the 21shift model:
Rule #1 – Don’t focus on technical features
Rule #2 – Create base-lined measurable business outcomes
Rule #3 – Measure the realised value and look to continuously improve
Your organisations Executive Board is going to want to see some kind of ROI and measurable business outcomes in your SharePoint ‘Social Computing’ business case, don’t disappoint them!