Put Down Your Pom-Poms And Embrace ROI - InformationWeek

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4/8/2011
09:21 AM
Paige Finkelman
Paige Finkelman
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Put Down Your Pom-Poms And Embrace ROI

Metrics, not cheerleading, reveal the benefits and ultimate success of Enterprise 2.0 efforts, as well as their costs and risks.

Enterprise 2.0 technologies have an amorphous benefit--it's hard to attach a metric to how well a team collaborates. For example, rising to "Wizard" status on a community site might feel like a momentous achievement, but it does nothing to measure the business value of what's been contributed and the underlying software.

For sure, it's important to cheerlead your organization's social movement early on, but when the invoice arrives and a community manager is asked the tough questions about business improvement, you'll need some hard numbers to show the ROI. Furthermore, in order to effectively use the tools, your community members need access to data on the experiences of other members. For instance, if a user discovers who in the company has worked around a similar obstacle and connects with that individual to learn how to avoid the problem, company money and employee headaches are spared. That social networking outcome needs to be quantified.

Collaboration software lets community members be heard without yelling. Active, vocal users distinguish themselves as knowledgeable in the categories they contribute to most, placing them top of mind the next time their services are required. Commenting on posts and documents cuts down on everyone's inbox size, but many of the valuable interactions and success stories in a social environment are often anecdotal.

Here's a short list of ROI measurement tools to consider when evaluating the success or failure of an Enterprise 2.0 effort:

-- Analytics and reports. Many community and social business software platforms now offer in-depth analytics and reporting tools to manage and understand traffic, giving users and management the ability to interpret the results of interactions. Sentiment analysis and social network analysis look at relationships' value, effectiveness, and quality. Drilling into the different types of community activity reports at the team, group, or member level reveals trends and patterns, linking community activity with results.

-- Interviews and focus groups. Stepping back to listen to user feedback via a series of interviews or internal focus groups can provide useful, quantitative data. If the same problem keeps showing up, it naturally carries more weight and deserves more attention. Likewise, stories that begin with "we would have never known about this solution if it weren't for Jim's comment on Suzy's blog" may highlight the need to change a business process, shift an employee to a new team, or rethink the way a group is structured.

-- Ethnography. That's just a fancy term for the process by which community managers, business analysts, or like people call attention to the problems users are facing and translate them for the platform's developers and designers, ultimately to improve the users' experience.

At the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, the Analytics & Metrics track will take a deep dive into all of the social business measurement methods out there. The track spans Wednesday and Thursday, June 22 and 23.

Enthusiasm is good, but using data to reinforce the value of social environments is better.

Paige Finkelman is a business development manager at UBM TechWeb. Her role encompasses content creation, business development, and making two great events even better: Cloud Connect and the Enterprise 2.0 conference. Paige is @peepf on Twitter.

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