The Business Case for Enterprise Social Bookmarking: $4.6 Million a Year in Cost Savings!

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves & Surroundings in the SpringA couple of weeks ago, the amazingly talented Dion Hinchcliffe put together a blog post under the title of “The 2010 Social Business Landscape” that would probably classify as one of the most insightful, resourceful and essential articles published during the course of this year that everyone in the industry should be reading. Yes, in case you may not have seen it, it is that good! Worth while your time, for sure!, specially, if you are into some amazing graphicware like this one. But, there is something missing from that article, don’t you think? Something that, in my opinion, is one of the fundamental pillars from Enterprise 2.0. Have you spotted it yourself already? Indeed, social bookmarking / tagging!

Not sure what you would think, but I strongly believe that social bookmarking and social tagging are still an important and rather critical part of a successful Enterprise 2.0 adoption strategy. I would even go one step further and state that social bookmarking / tagging are probably essential key elements behind the social computing philosophy altogether. Yet, it’s interesting to see how they both keep getting neglected time and time again, when they are just so critical. I mean, can you imagine … having your business put together and create a massive index of must-have links with annotations and tags across the board that would help you re-find content much much easier than through just the traditional taxonomies? No, neither could I.

My good friend, Harold Jarche, talked about this very same thing as well not long ago on a virtual IBM event for the community of social software evangelists that I co-lead with one other colleague and which I blogged about over at Personal Knowledge Management by Harold Jarche (BlueIQ Ambassadors). In that presentation Harold mentioned how blogging AND social bookmarking are perhaps two of the most powerful personal knowledge sharing tools available out there noawadays and encouraged everyone to make use of both to get started with their own PKM / PKS strategy, which I wholeheartedly agree with quite a bit, since I have been using both for a few years now and I, too, consider them essential to help manage, to some extent, part of your knowledge.

So does Enterprise Social Bookmarking still have a good, solid business case to take back that prominent position amongst the top-notch social software tools within the enterprise? I am not sure what you would think, but I do believe it has. And not just for now, but for a few years already, despite what some folks have been saying all along neglecting such business case for social bookmarking, specially after seeing the debacle of a good number of different offerings available out there, to the point where a bunch of them have even disappeared from the landscape altogether.

By now, I am sure you may be wondering why do I so firmly believe about such business case for social bookmarking, right? Well, my own company. IBM. Over the last few years we have been using Lotus Connections’ Dogear (Now renamed as Bookmarks), where we have been storing over 1 million public bookmarks (Over 640k of them unique!), and with over 2.7 million tags (Over 177k of them unique as well!) of annotated content that we have bumped into out there on our Intranet, as well as externally. That’s just not too bad, is it? Well, it gets better…

For a good couple of years now, inside IBM, we have also been making use of Enterprise Tagging Service, an IBM developed social bookmarking AND tagging tool, which basically allows us to bookmark, tag and annotate various different resources from within our corporate Intranet. So far so good. Like any other standard social bookmarking site. The great thing though is that the results of that bookmarking and social tagging exercise have now been injected, for a few months already, into our Intranet corporate search engine, which means that along those standard system driven search results, we also have the people driven ones with the use of ETS. But the really neat thing is that one of the main resources that also keeps feeding this bookmarking and tagging service is actually Dogear / Bookmarks!

That’s right, the standard corporate Intranet search engine, which, back in the day, didn’t have much of a good reputation, to be honest (People kept saying how you couldn’t find things anymore … does it sound familiar to you as well?), changed tremendously that perception and customer satisfaction increased by 50% while incorporating ETS AND Bookmarks into the mix of results. Thus, eventually, here we have got the best of both worlds: a fixed taxonomy established by the corporate search engine guidelines and standards, and a rather dynamic and constantly changing folksonomy where knowledge workers themselves get to successfully contribute by annotating and bookmaking successfully various different Web resources to then make them easily searchable on a wider scale.

You can imagine what happened from there onwards, right? Not only did the perception, from knowledge workers, of the corporate search engine changed dramatically, but it also managed to save IBM $4.6 million a year in cost savings and productivity gain. Yes, $4.6 million a year! My good friend, and team colleague, Rawn Shah, described it, quite nicely, under the blog post “Enterprise Tagging Service social software saves IBM $4.6 million a year“, if you would want to do some additional reading on how it actually works out. Mind you though as well that article is from 2008, so as more and more of us keep bookmarking and annotating various different links, I bet that’s a lot higher in 2010!

That’s probably why it may well be a good thing that whenever you are planning to drive the adoption of social software within your business you may be thinking about adding social bookmarking and social tagging into the mix, too, because, more than anything else, there is a great chance that you would be capable of benefiting, even more, from your already existing efforts to empower your knowledge workers to be a bit more in control of their own personal knowledge sharing social interactions.

And to show you a little bit more of how it could work out eventually, I thought I would finish off this blog post with another one of those amazingly talented and hilariously funny YouTube video clips from the series of “The Man Who Should Have Used Lotus Connections” that my good friend, and fellow IBM colleague, Jean Francois Chenier, has been putting together over the last few months. The latest episode of this unfortgettable saga is episode #9 on the topic of Social Bookmarking – The Wisdom of Swarms. It lasts for nearly 4 minutes and there is probably very little introduction that I would need to do, if you have been watching them all along. So here is the embedded version, so you can start playing it right away and let yourself be convinced on the importance and relevance, still today, of social bookmarking and social tagging within the enterprise!:

 

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The Business Case for Enterprise Social Bookmarking: $4.6 Million a Year in Cost Savings!, 4.3 out of 5 based on 3 ratings
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10 Comments »

  • William says:

    While many have “disappeared from the landscape” one is still going strong.

    The open source project Jumper 2.0 has a great enterprise bookmarking tool.

    http://www.jumpernetworks.com

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi William! Thanks a lot for the feedback comments and for dropping by! I am really glad you have mentioned Jumper 2.0, because it surely is a great success story for those who remain behind going strong and still alive and kicking with some rather healthy status!

      It surely helps portrait how important and critical it is to have some of these enterprise social bookmarking tools available out there to demonstrate that true potential for our knowledge workers to help us manage, somehow, some of our personal knowledge sharing flows!

      Thanks for that! :)

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  • James Wester says:

    I responded to the $4.6 million number over on my blog. Please let me know if I’m misreading anything. I agree that social bookmarking and blogging are great for knowledge sharing, but I don’t think the IBM case is particularly compelling due to some manipulation of the numbers.

    Link:
    http://ignorantium.com/2010/09/02/some-more-math-problems-for-social-media/

    Cheers!
    James

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hello James! Thanks a lot for the feedback comments and for putting together such a comprehensive follow-up blog post to the one that I have put together whether you have questioned the validity of those numbers put together. Very insightful and very happy to engage on the discussion as well.

      Rawn’s blog post is by no means the original resource of where the study comes from. It’s actually been blogged and talked about extensively in the past from various other resources (Go here, here, here, here, here, here and over here, amongst several other places…).

      The original resource is actually an article at CIO 100, under the heading 2008 Winner Profile – IBM, where you will see the details being shared based on that selection criteria and what the award was granted for, based on that piece of IBM Research, which is where the original piece comes from.

      I have dug out our internal resources and I have also tracked down the original resource, which comes to explain the numbers with this criteria:

      Cost savings: Using an average hourly rate per employee of US$100/hr, ETS saves IBM US$95,528 each week. Assuming 40 hours per week and 48 weeks per year, ETS brings IBM US$4.6 million in potential productivity gain alone”

      And there are some additional costs savings that were calculated as well, if you would want to find out more on them.

      Now, I am not sure whether the results have been bloated or not, as you mentioned, and I do seriously hope they haven’t, but if those results were part of the selection criteria for that CIO 100 award I doubt they are “fake”, as they didn’t get questioned for their validity over 2 years ago when they first came out. But either way, very good exercise to challenge them, so I would get a chance to dig further on the actual research and survey results shared and, hopefully, with them we have been able to add some more clarity to the data mentioned on my blog post.

      Again, thanks for the great write-up and look forward to further interactions! :)

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  • This post really resonates with me, because it discusses a challenge I’ve been figuring out how to address for the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community. I’ve wanted to create a permanent repository of blog posts, news articles, white papers, etc. so that members can go back and find specific items of interest. I could establish an SMinOrgs presence on a site like Delicious or DIGG, but that’s one more account our members would have to create – and since most of them are rookies, that’s unlikely to happen. Before reading this post, I had settled on leveraging the SMinOrgs S.M.A.R.T. Blog to summarize items posted in the LI group, and to use the tagging feature to help make specific articles easy to find.

    In our case, cost savings isn’t the issue, but adding value and increasing ease of use and access to info certainly are important drivers. It’s an experiment, but it’s one worth trying.

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  • Jack Vinson says:

    I’m a bit with James on this one. How is saving time little bits of time here and there equivalent to real bottom line impact? It’s the old ROI problem over and over again, isn’t it?

    The thing is, unless people are fired (unlikely) or they complete more work – or bring it in faster – I am not sure this $4.6 MM actually ends up on the bottom line for IBM’s stockholders.

    I do note that there was a cost avoidance of over $2 MM, which is a nice thing to mention.

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    • Steve Perry says:

      The ROI debate seems to be missing the big picture. ROI can be a numbers game, how big is your capital outlay for a project? What is the required rate of return?

      Jumper 2.0 has grown so rapidly because it meets a need. One of the greatest challenges facing people who use large information spaces is to remember and retrieve items that they have previously found and thought to be interesting.

      The fact that Jumper 2.0 is a completely free tool to use and very easy to install minimizes the ROI debate we would otherwise face. It has allowed our tool to grow from the bottom-up, driven by user need, not management decision and direction (or lack their of).

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  • […] E Ⅼ S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez » The Business Case for … – (tags: business_case enterprise2.0 web2.0 benefit money socialmedia ) […]

  • Hi Luis,

    I already contacted you regarding this weblog post via Twitter. But as 140 characters are a bit limited I thought – as project coordinator of the Focuss.Info Initiative (www.focuss.info) – it could also be good to elaborate more on it.

    This Initiative aims to improve knowledge sharing and access to information, a fundamental human right that strengthens democracy, by promoting the latest information sharing and collaboration technologies in the field of global development aid.

    Focuss encourages peers to start using social bookmarking. The main reason why peers should start with social bookmarking is not that they should do it for the benefit of Focuss. Focuss encourages peers to start with social bookmarking as a way to work more efficient for themselves, because if peers are social bookmarking, they can then always access their favorite websites, as long as they have a computer connected to the Internet.

    Focuss also encourages social bookmarking because this information sharing and collaboration tool makes it possible to work more effectively in the domain of global development cooperation because personal knowledge can be fed into collective knowledge base. And Focuss is becoming such a collective knowledge base, because by indexing the social bookmark accounts of peers, it is making the hand-picked resources accessible, and therefore enhance the exchange of information and knowledge. This is the reason why the Focuss Initiative passes on structural knowledge regarding social bookmarking to its peers.

    You can read more about it by visiting the following links (this is a presentation I gave for the KM section of IFLA):

    Part 1: Why should we roll-out global KM Initiatives
    http://www.focuss.info/richard-lalleman/2010/8/15/why-should-we-roll-out-global-km-initiatives.html

    Part 2: How should we roll-out global KM initiatives?
    http://www.focuss.info/richard-lalleman/2010/8/17/how-should-we-roll-out-global-km-initiatives.html

    Part 3: A case study of a global sharing Initiative
    http://www.focuss.info/richard-lalleman/2010/8/19/ifla-2010-a-case-study-of-a-global-knowledge-sharing-initiat.html

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  • John Tropea says:

    This is a very important topic.

    @jackvinson has a point.

    In this case the time saved in search is not going to be aggregated and then used as a basis to change some people from full-time to part-time…this indeed would be a cost saving that would change the bottomline.

    Are people going to be given tasks in quicker intervals, as it’s now assumed they can do more within the same time…perhaps a tagging system, along with many other aspects can aggregate to have this effect.

    I do agree that a good find in the tag system may help me to generate a particular task quicker as the article I found has done alot of the groundwork. But how “frequent” is this going to happen to scale into visible changes to the bottomline ie. more revenue in the same time.

    If you took away the phone, email or even microblogging, we would work much slower, which would effect the bottom line…but if we took away tags, I don’t think it would have the same impact.

    I agree it’s all good stuff, tags are great, but I don’t think measuring only describes its value so far…there’s something about measuring this type of thing that I can’t visualise or feel…

    What I have said above is saving time based on the quality of what you find (KM re-use), rather than the “12” second thing.

    I might save 346 seconds this week (via tag searching) but then spend 20 minutes having a chat to someone on the way to the photocopier about their weekend. Each day is different in how time is spent.

    Even if the 20 minute chat was about work and as a result was going to help me execute my task quicker; this isn’t going to be an ROI thing…it happens too randomly.
    But we could amplify this serendipity and opportunities for conversations using online social networks. Then perhaps we are no longer having accidental random collisions, but having them so frequently that we are indeed getting more work done in the same time. Multiply this by all employees and perhaps it will show in the bottom-line.

    I have a summary here
    http://johntropea.tumblr.com/post/1252802694/roi-on-social-computing-is-silly

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