Social business adoption in the workplace

Summary:What does becoming a social business actually entail? A practitioner in the trenches shares his top strategies and techniques for driving engagement with social tools.

reasons for measuring the outcomes of your social business


  1. Feedback - You may have carefully researched and planned your use cases but no plan is perfect. Effective feedback mechanisms will allow you to adapt your use cases to the reality on the ground.
  2. Proving Value and ROI - Any investment in time and cash needs to prove its worth. By aligning your use cases with business goals and defining success criteria, you will have made a good start in this direction, but you will still need to work out the details of how to gather and represent this information.
  3. Inspiring Others - In part, you can think of your initiative as an internal marketing exercise. By sharing positive outcomes and success stories, especially those that would not have been possible without social technology, you can inspire others to adopt your approach.
  4. Increasing User Adoption - Social business is all about the people who use the tools and perform the work. User experience may not be perfect at first, but if users can see that you are listening to and acting upon their needs, they will be far happier to cooperate and follow you over any bumps in the road.

What to measure?

It is by no means straightforward to measure social business value convincingly. Different stakeholders are looking for different things, so it is good to measure outcomes on multiple levels to build a rich and compelling picture that can be tailored for different audiences.

In my experience, it is good to measure five different aspects:

  1. Value Created - This aspect shows how your use cases are contributing to the business' KPIs and bottom line. Your efforts will be greatly assisted if you can benchmark current performance and show a before and after comparison. For instance, if you can show faster outcomes, less expenditure, fewer reworks and higher customer satisfaction resulting from your use cases you are in a good position to calculate an attractive ROI.
  2. Community Vitality - If people are not getting involved in your use cases then clearly something is amiss. Usage statistics are important for demonstrating community vitality, but it should be remembered that they cannot demonstrate business value by themselves. For example, contrasting the number of new content items per week, with the number of views and comments will show how well your content pipeline is sustaining engagement. The further challenge will be to show how these interactions are contributing to business outcomes.
  3. New Ways of Working - Social business entails new tools and more open and collaborative ways of working. These measurements track movements away from old ways of working. For example, reductions in email usage and distance travelled for meetings in favor of new practices, such as open, shared conversations and long distance meetings online.
  4. User Satisfaction - Users are the customers of your initiative, so it is important to measure how satisfied they are with your services. Simple measurements like the Net Promoter Score (NPS) provide you with an unambiguous number that quantifies the value your initiative provides to your most important audience, your users. Low scores allow you to follow up and take remedial action, while high ones show where the initiative is excelling.
  5. Success Stories - Sometimes nothing is more persuasive than a story. As social technologies are used in your organization, there are bound to be many positive outcomes, large and small, planned and unplanned - do not let these fade away. If you chronicle success stories as they occur, you can draw on suitable examples whenever called to justify or defend the initiative. Success stories provide impressive backup to otherwise dry facts and figures.

Having measured outcomes in these five areas, you can present a compelling case to any given stakeholder. For instance, C-level executives might be primarily concerned with value metrics and KPIs, whereas project managers might be more influenced by the success stories of their peers. In all cases, a mix of measurements will produce a more convincing picture.

Playing the long game

Realizing social business within the enterprise will require a significant shift in the way companies think, work and organize themselves. For the majority, this change will be slow to arrive, but by understanding your ecosystem, defining high-value use cases, and measuring for success, social business stands a good chance of taking root in your organization. Setbacks and frustrations are guaranteed, but by continually renewing your approach, progress can and will be made.


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Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Enterprise Software


Dion Hinchcliffe is an expert in information technology, business strategy, and next-generation enterprises. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the digital business transformation firm Adjuvi. A veteran of enterprise IT, Dion has been working for two decades with leading-edge methods to bridge the widening gap between business and... Full Bio

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