E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Just Do The Right Thing by Rachel Happe

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas DunesIf you have been reading this blog long enough, by now, you are more or less familiar with my opinion around the subject of Social Computing and trying to figure out its Return on Investment (a.k.a ROI) from a business perspective. All along, just like we did with Knowledge Management from the very beginning, I have the feeling, growing stronger and stronger by the day, we are basically wasting our time and valuable resources on trying to crack what may not be no longer necessary, nor needed. To me putting together Social Software next to the traditional ROI concept is pretty much an oxymoron. Something we try to really make it work, yet, we keep failing over and over again.

Well, I am glad I am not the only one thinking along those lines. On another short blog post I thought I would go ahead and point you to another superb, and wonderfully written, blog post ("Just do the right thing") shared by my good friend Rachel Happe (Over at The Social Organization – Another highly recommendable blog you should be subscribed to, in case you haven’t done so already!) where she gets to share little, precious gems like this one:

"Many business decisions do not need calculated proof to know that they are right"

Or this other one:

"[…] Just do the right thing. Stop the analysis, stop the wondering if you are right, stop the endless hand wringing, and more than anything stop the fear that you don’t have ‘proof’ that something works. Just do the right thing"

Or her brilliant wrap up of the blog post:

"And no, I am not entirely against tracking metrics – I just think we’ve used them as a cruch for so long that we have forgotten how to think for ourselves and use our judgement to solve problems"

Amen to that, Rachel! I doubt I would have been able to put it all in much better words than those you shared in such a sharp blog post! Oh, folks, I won’t spoil the little story Rachel shared over at her blog post as well, but if you head over to "Just do the right thing", find out how some times the big, large enterprise world could learn a thing or two from the small, just round the corner, community business! Fantastic!

Oh, and if you want to go through another thought-provoking, mind-blowing, wonderfully crafted piece by Rachel check out "Radical transparency: Where the rubber hits the road". I will comment on it much more in depth at a later time, but I am sure it won’t leave you indifferent…

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  1. Luis –

    Thanks so much for the post – It is good to find that you too are interested in controlling the obsession around ROI for communications. I like to say that it is really hard to ascribe the incremental value of a great conversation vs. just an OK conversation. And…the value may not be realized until much later.

    Here’s to human judgment!

    1. Hi Rachel! Many thanks for the follow up feedback! You have just hit the nail in the head, indeed! Reason why I am not very much in favour of figuring out the ROI of social computing is pretty much the very same one I had from for the ROI of Knowledge Management.

      If we have been struggling all along how to effectively measure Knowledge, imagine the challenge now with social media on trying to effectively measure the value of a connection or a relationship, when it is incredibly subjective, if anything else.

      That’s why I have always felt we are wasting our time, resources and energy on striking something we won’t, when we could just be focusing on “just doing the right thing!

      Take care and speak to you soon!

  2. Hi Luis,

    Despite I think ROI is key for businesses, I think most of them don’t take it by the right end.

    They try to measure the ROI of tools because they’ve been used to assess what I call “process tools” that’s to say that tools where producing things and people where only there to feed tools with datas.

    Social software doen’t produce anything. People do. Social platforms are only there to support people’s activities. So, in my opinion, we don’t have to measure social media’s ROI but improvements in people performance. I’d rather say in overall performance.

    As I wrote here (http://www.duperrin.com/english/2008/05/28/reaching-strategic-goals-intangible-assets-matter-the-strategy-maps-approach-to-enterprise-20/) all social /soft / intangible things only create value when combined with a business process so instead of measuring tool’s ROI, businesses should focus on measuring the impact on their processes’ performance.

    This should also make companies understand that the solution to their business issues is not social sofwtare alone but social software + consistant processes and business practices.

    1. Hi Bertrand, what a great feedback! Thanks much for following up and for sharing your thoughts over here on this blog post! I think you are spot on! Specially with the comment “Social software doesn’t produce anything. People do!” I think you have hit the nail in the head by what it would be like providing the ROI of social software and for any other knowledge sharing and collaboration tool, i.e. measure how much more productive it makes knowledge workers and forget about measuring the tools for the sake of the tools!

      In a way, that’s what I have noticed myself when I decided to stop using email at work and all of a sudden, and over the course of time, I found out how I managed to reduce up to 85% of my incoming emails by just using social software, so that instead of spending between 2 to 3 hours in a closed system with lack of transparency, involvement, responsibility and ownership, I now spend 10 to 15 minutes a day, if, at all, and leave the rest of the time to get the job done out there with my teams and communities making use of social software tools. Talking about measuring productivity, right? Yes, indeed!

      By the way, really enjoyed your blog post and will be mentioning it at a later time in a follow up blog entry… Thanks again for dropping by and for the lovely input! Appreciated!

  3. ROI as it is construed and / or understood by most people in management is not overly useful in the social computing context, because of peoples’ variability. Bertrand is on the right path, above. That said, we do need to understand the costs (both direct and opportunity) going into any initiative … but a key point (and here is where we start getting in to intangibility) is that social computing more closely mirrors or tracks how people actually consume information and construct, socially, useful knowledge … and cognitive and communications styles range all over the map, are not standardised, can’t be quantified, and so on. I’d suggest exploring ROII (Return on Investment in Interaction) with respect to both internal work and responsivenss to customers / markets.

    To summarize … each use of social computing is different .. some may be small, project focused and lead to certain types of changes in how work is done and measurable outcomes and eventually some are all-encompassing, changing the very nature of knowledge work. ROI begs holding a number of variables constant … if we can identify what kinds of factors to attend to in the case of ROII, it may be that it’s very similar to building the whole business case, not just the ROI part.

    Yes, there is some oxymoronishness to all this 😉

    1. Hi Jon! Thanks ever so much for so such thought-provoking contribution to the overall discussion. I must confess that I saw where you were heading my friend and I think you were dead on on how difficult it is to strike for a good representative ROI for Social Software. And you basically also gave the reason for it: “Each use of social computing is different”. Yes, indeed, it is!

      Which is why it surely is a massive challenge for something so static and standardising as ROI to hit the right track. I suspect it would never do, and probably the main for it all is because of the various different types of contexts in place when working and applying social software to a specific business environment. That’s why to me I don’t see we will be getting anything out of the ROI discussion any time soon.

      If you remember, same thing has happened all along with a topic you know plenty about: Knowledge Management… Talking about oxymorons, eh? 😉 heh

      Thanks again for the feedback comments!

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