Beyond Kumbaya: More on ROI for customer service communities

My recent post against Kumbaya-dominated Enterprise 2.0 cheer leading caused several folks whom I respect to respond critically. Here's a summary of their thoughts.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

My recent post against Kumbaya-dominated Enterprise 2.0 cheer leading caused several folks whom I respect to respond critically. Here's a summary of their thoughts.

ZDNet colleague, Oliver Marks, says that generalizing about customer service communities may be a force fit when talking about Enterprise 2.0 as a whole. In a post titled, Enterprise 2.0 ROI Metrics: One Size Doesn't Fit All, Oliver remarks:

While customer service communities are an important business process subset - interaction with customers - it is just one facet of the individual complex business infrastructure every company has, each of which are as unique as a snowflake.

Many people this year seem to looking for Enterprise 2.0 frameworks and ways to measure results, but the reality is that like shopping for clothes, one size doesn’t fit all.

While Oliver is someone whose judgment and insight I greatly respect, I think his comments miss the target in this case. Sure, in some respects every business process and all companies are different. However, getting Enterprise 2.0 off the ground efficiently requires finding common methods that will work across processes and companies.

Complain as you like about traditional enterprise software failures, most companies rely on packaged software because it's cheaper and easier than reinventing the wheel. Oliver does not suggest such an extreme position, but he's heading too far in that direction for my taste.

Susan Scrupski, whom I have called an Enterprise 2.0 superstar, expressed different concerns than Oliver. She Twittered that a Forrester report I lauded is overly focused on vendors:

[F]orrester interviewed vendors, not customers, to generate their ROI model for communities. Then charges $2K for the analysis.

Jeff Dachis, a seasoned entrepreneur and founder of Razorfish, once a high-flying dot com consulting firm, echoed Susan's remark in another Twitter comment:

I think [Susan] put it best: "Forrester interviewed vendors, not customers, to generate their ROI model for communities."

I responded to Jeff on Twitter (here and here):

Excellent point, but now there's a framework to organize/analyze customer interviews. In essence: it remains theory today.

Actually, I think framework part is solid (but will have refinements). The ROI part can't be accurate w/o cust research.

Jeff agreed with this last point.

I asked Natalie Petouhoff, author of the Forrester report, to comment on charges her data is one-sided:

If you look closely, you'll find that argument is not correct.

By scanning down the web page for the report you can see the list of end-user companies (both B2C and B2B), we studied. These include: AlterPoint, Carphone Warehouse, DIRECTV, Fair Isaac, Helpstream, Infusionsoft, Intel, iRobot, Lenovo, Linksys, Logitech, NetApp, OSIsoft, Palm, Pitney Bowes, Sage Software, SanDisk, Seagate Technologies, Sprint, Symantec, Verizon, and others.

We studied each company, looking for the trends in the benefits, costs, risks, and so on. We used these trends, and actual client data, to test our hypothesis and create an ROI model based on Forrester's TEI (Total Economic Impact) analysis framework. We also spoke to vendors and other experts to determine the costs of solutions and understand the trends they had observed.

By carefully examining input from both customers and vendors, we developed an ROI model that works in the real world; it's not theoretical; the spreadsheet that accompanies it also allows companies to input their own data. The model puts a stake in the ground and is meant to start the conversation among companies, thought leaders, etc.... It can also be customized to reflect a businesses' specific situation and data.

Susan Scrupski also had issues with Forrester's price for the report, leaving this comment on Oliver's post:

What's really impressive about this report is... Forrester can still charge $1,999 for a 25-page report.

I gave Natalie the opportunity to respond:

Like all Forrester research, this report is available without additional cost to clients.

I've tweeted (and many have re-tweeted) this webinar link and this slideshare presentation link so anyone can hear the report webinar and download the slides. I wanted to make sure that everyone could learn, share and grow from seeing/hearing this material. These links offer free, detailed content that explains the paid report.

In the spirit of social media, I am sharing content and a framework to help us all begin a generative and creative process of thought leadership around building a business case. The CFO's and CXO's I've spoken with seek this in every initiative including Enterprise 2.0. No one can afford the software disasters of the past.

For your convenience, here is Natalie's presentation:

My take. Enterprise 2.0 intersects people, business processes, and technologies in new ways. Change leads to disruption, which is exciting and confusing all at the same time.

Kumbaya feelings, no matter how enthusiastic, are insufficient to build a successful business case. Enterprise 2.0 adoption will grow to mainstream levels only when realistic, data-driven ROI frameworks are broadly established and used.

[Photo of an out of focus future by Michael Krigsman. The photo suggests present clarity that does not necessarily reflect ability to see accurately into the future. Thus, predictive measurement is important.]

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