In this next blog in our series of simple recipes for boosting employee engagement for your enterprise social networking (ESN), let’s look at how to prepare for and measure success. While the best practices here are often thought of as applying to early rollouts, they can just as easily be adapted for use at any time in your collaboration life cycle. First, a consideration of the inevitable question, “What about ROI?” and then we’ll get into the practical suggestions.
ROI: The elephant in the spreadsheet
One of the most common requests I receive in pre-sales conversations goes along the lines of, “What is the ROI of your collaboration product?” ROI inevitably comes up, but for many prospects there’s a lot of fuzziness in determining what theirs will really be. Now, bit of a sidebar comment: tibbr has been identified by independent research as providing exceptional return on investment; to name just a few findings:
- Increased workforce productivity savings by 3X
- Cut the cost of innovation by 30%
- Doubled the number of improved business processes
- Cut time spent communicating by 25%
- Reduced the cost of new employee on-boarding and training by 20%
The fuzziness is not about that. Rather it’s to do with the prospect’s grasp of what they are already measuring and how we can formulate how injecting collaboration will accelerate things. So I prefer to first review some essential internal questions before we get into what the prospect’s experience will be, as there are variety of disparate factors involved:
- Do you know what your organization’s actual business processes are and how closely are those being measured today?
- Which of your organization’s processes are more easily/quickly adaptable to collaboration?
- Are the core use cases being implemented and nurtured directly related to those processes and revenue implications?
- Are all of the constituents of those processes part of the appropriate phase of the rollout?
- Then there are the soft but vital issues of how an organization can move the ball further forward on those process by better sharing: for example, is there an appreciation for early emerging information over expired blessed information? Does your organization already have a culture of openness and sharing? Is there organizational support for the collaborative initiative where those process are implemented? Is there middle management level buy-in?
Measure twice, cut once
For customers that have a firm grasp of their real processes and how to measure them, the examples they tell me about their successes are quite inspiring:
One tibbr customer in the energy industry knew through careful analysis that tibbr gives them the potential to save $250,000 per day by making it more likely they can solve drilling site problems faster. Few companies have that level of analysis sharp enough to gauge impact. Another customer in healthcare calculated that tibbr provided the average practice $50k a year in savings by removing the need to fax patient referrals. An airline customer obviated the cost and time of printing and delivering 10,000 newsletters each fortnight. A major consulting firm told us that using tibbr was measured as providing 12x time reduction in onboarding new employees.
For those prospects that know what they want to measure—and have a baseline—it’s just a matter of ensuring we are measuring the right variables related to the collaboration platform that correspond to the those business cases.
Calculating a formal ROI is not the only, or for some organizations the best, way to measure success. Healthy, dynamic collaboration often generates self-forming, unstructured, serendipitous benefits that are not easily charted. But sales sees faster deal closure through greater enablement of collaborating with marketing. QA cycles shorten because they gain transparency of what’s important to tier 1 customers by being part of the case studies subject. And so on.
So, with all that mind, what about the organizations that do not have as much of a firm grasp as they’d like on clear process, objectives, core use cases, and data-driven baselines? What about the organizations building collaboration for just a carve-out of employees: a proof of concept, a division, a region, etc. Or those that are working on more comprehensive process measurements, but need something to fill the gap in the meantime to gauge greater engagement success?
Instead of only relying on the absolute objective numbers of posts, logins, etc. through an analytics dashboard like that offered in tibbr to administrators, let’s consider shifting focus to subjective benefits that—if done properly—can shortcut the identification of value. For this purpose, I suggest it’s essential to survey members before they ever start using the collaboration platform. Then a couple months after they have been launched, you can re-survey them to see how using the platform has improved things. Sometimes, I recommend surveying again about 9 months to a year later, depending on the use cases, number of users, etc.
This works very well for smaller deployments and proof of concepts, where there just aren’t enough users in the trial environment to qualify a full ROI study.
Penny for your thoughts
In this approach, ask your users short, simple questions about their experiences in a few areas that are relevant to why your organization is trying collaboration. Questions here would likely be related to finding information faster, accessing experts outside more easily, getting access to fuller collective intelligence, finding out what are others are working on more transparently, and questions about how that could help them with new ideas, etc.
Here are some examples of such a survey, easily configurable in a free service like Survey Monkey, where you can set up a handful of multiple choice questions with answers ranging from (1) strongly disagree to (5) strongly agree.
1. I frequently interact with others in similar roles at other portfolio companies.
2. I have the right tools to tap into the collective intelligence of my colleagues.
3. It’s easy to discover what my functional peers in other business units are doing—and I feel invited ask follow-up questions and share my own experiences and insights.
4. I’m able to leverage shared learnings from others in my community, even if it’s around something not in a formal process or document.
5. I feel invited to ask ad hoc questions of management at any time—even if in different regions or departments if the conversation is relevant—and have informal follow-up discussions as necessary.
Again, it’s critical to baseline this survey before the users are introduced to the enterprise collaboration platform. Then, as mentioned earlier, execute the survey again at least several months after they have been fully onboarded—along with all of their related projects and colleagues. What we’re looking for in the results are trends: 10% of respondents are able to find information faster; 3x program managers are learning more from their peers than they judged to be the case last year; and so on. For many of my customers, this has been an exceedingly simple and fruitful exercise in checking the direction of your collaboration program.