I suspect this 11th tip in my 12-part series on building a successful enterprise social network (ESN) is talked about more often than it is actually done – at least in a meaningful way. Tip #11 is:
Set goals and track progress.
That sounds simple enough, but determining which goals to set may not be as easy as it sounds. Tracking the accomplishment of the goals may not be easy, either, depending on how well the goals were written in the first place. There aren’t a few suggested goals that I or anyone else can tell you that will necessarily be appropriate for your business and its use of an ESN. Companies may well have different purposes behind their ESN implementations, so the results they track need to coincide with the reasons for implementing their ESN in the first place.
Some goals will likely center around the easy metrics of growth and adoption, but that doesn’t necessarily prove business value. It suggests value, but it doesn’t prove it. Other metrics may require a lot more work to document – sometimes more work than those involved determine is worthwhile, especially if similar metrics are not already tracked for non-ESN forms of communication.
In another organization I belong to, a question was recently posted about establishing the business case for an ESN and which baseline metrics might be used to measure against 6, 12, or 18 months down the road after implementation. Here is my response to that question (slightly edited):
I would ask why is the ESN is being put into place to start with? What are the goals? If those are defined, then that’s what needs to be measured. They won’t all necessarily be easy to measure, though.
For example, are you planning on using it to replace other one-way communication channels, to reduce the number of help desk tickets, to provide a place for random questions to be answered, to allow for leader/employee direct communication, to reduce time spent in formal training classes, to speed up the onboarding of new employees, to reduce email, to reduce face-to-face meetings, to reduce travel costs, to change the way approval processes or product development planning or ideation happens, or to provide new capabilities not currently being met any other way?
If you want to track those and compare the ESN results with previous methods and numbers, then that means you have to track those items in the current, non-ESN environment so you know whether or not you’ve really improved anything. We all know, for example, at our company that our ESN is a great place to get questions answered quickly, and I track that metric weekly, but nobody ever tracked how long it takes to answer questions via email or phone tag or face-to-face, so what I’m left with is a claim that it happens X amount in the ESN, but with nothing to compare it to other than anecdotes.
In the end, I’m not big on tracking ROI with an ESN because I think it’s a required form of communication in 2014, and as such it needs to exist and be used just as we expect email or phone calls or face-to-face meetings to happen, and nobody ever tracks the ROI or has to justify the existence of those means of communication. Here’s a blog post I wrote on the subject about a year ago: “Quit Holding Social Media to a Different Standard,” and here’s a recent article from Carrie Young on the subject, too: “Social ROI = Return On Insanity.” On the pro side of calculating ROI, TIBCO Software recently commissioned Forrester to do a study of the total economic impact of using their tibbr ESN software. I don’t know a public link to that, but I have the PDF.
At our company, I track growth and usage, the percent of the company using the platform, the percent of users who are active (meaning they’ve posted in the past 30 days), and the “sense of community” perceived by members according to a monthly survey I send to thousands. I have goals related to some (but not all) of the above. Later this year I’ll document uses of the platform mapped to our five corporate values. I report how many other apps and places it’s integrated into. I don’t, however, do anything to track ROI. In the words of our CEO, “I don’t know what all the numbers will look like [in terms of cost or ROI], but I know having 50,000 people on the same page moving in the same direction is pretty important to me” and “Sometimes you do things just because they’re the right thing to do.”
I know that doesn’t give you the kind of efficiency tracking suggestions you asked about, but I think once enterprise social networking is no longer the new kid on the block we won’t be asking those kinds of questions anyway. We’ll just accept it as the expected form of communication it is and go on about our business of using it to communicate and work as effectively and efficiently as possible. Meanwhile, I would say pick any metrics important to the business that can be reliably tracked and that are related to the stated purpose for having the ESN, and use those.
In my role as community manager for a 36,000-user, growing ESN, I certainly have some regular metrics I track as mentioned above. I do not, however, consider it necessary that I set or track accomplishment of goals across the business related to our ESN. Different departments and business areas will have their own reasons for using the ESN. Those reasons do not originate with or have to go through me just because I’m the community manager. I assume those areas are more than capable of determining appropriate ESN use without my assistance, and they can track its results if they wish. (Of course, I always consult when requested with areas wanting assistance in determining effective ESN use.) I’ll track other results of interest to me.
One simple thing we’ve done on our ESN for several years is use the hashtag #buzzsuccess (our ESN is called Buzz). We encourage anyone to add the tag to a thread whenever some ESN-related success happens, regardless of how large or small the success. Participants have adopted that practice faithfully to the point of #buzzsuccess being consistently one of the top hashtags used. I frequently search for uses and highlight one in my weekly broadcasts, keeping the fact in front of people that successes happen regularly.
I encourage you to set specific goals that are related to the objectives of the business and that reflect the company’s core values. I encourage you to track and openly report on progress (I post all metrics I track to the ESN for all to see). However, don’t feel like the metrics you track must match those you hear about from other companies. Do what is important and meaningful for your business.
Tip #11 is Set goals and track progress.
See the following posts for previous tips in this series:
- Intro and Tip #1 – Hire a full-time community manager from the start.
- Tip #2 – Commit to it.
- Tip #3 – Get executive buy-in and participation.
- Tip #4 – Have rules, but don’t overdo it.
- Tip #5 – Pick a good platform, but don’t focus on the technology.
- Tip #6 – Avoid Big Launch Syndrome.
- Tip #7 – Encourage business and non-business content.
- Tip #8 – Integrate your ESN where people do their work.
- Tip#9 – Make it easy to access.
- Tip #10 – Train, train, train.