With apologies to Meghan Trainor, it’s not "All About That Bass" when it comes to enterprise social. It’s all about that case — the business case, that is.

In July 2012, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) published a report called, "The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies." MGI’s estimates suggest that by fully implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals, by 20 to 25 percent. Furthermore, it estimates that these industries could potentially contribute anywhere from $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value by improving productivity across the value chain. That’s a pretty decent case!

All this potential business value does not happen by magic. To get the benefit of social technologies, organizations need to transform their culture and processes to create an environment of openness and trust. More importantly, organizations must establish a clear relationship between the use of social technologies and the business challenges of the organization. In other words, no matter how you look at it, it’s all about the [business] case.

From Case to Action: Work Backwards

A key approach for demonstrating business value from enterprise social is focusing your initiative on the critical moments of engagement in your organization’s work. Finding the critical moments of engagement is a bit like planning the route to your vacation destination. First, you have to know where you are going. Then you can figure out the best way to get there. 

When it comes to getting adoption of social technologies, you want to first understand the business scenarios where social technologies can add value. Then you can plan strategies to achieve that value, or “get there.”

One of the common traps that organizations fall into when deploying social collaboration tools is to think we "just collaborate." We don't. We collaborate in the context of a business activity, process or task. We engage with other people to get something done. So if we want to demonstrate business value from social, we need to find and enhance those critical moments of engagement.

Look at the scenarios in your organization where people collaborate today. Where are those interactions or processes especially challenging? The goal is to look for opportunities to make collaboration better, faster and easier. These are the critical moments of engagement that we are looking for. The idea is to change the discussion focus from what the technology is and what it does, to how you are going to solve a specific business problem.

Melanie Hohertz from Cargill gave an excellent presentation at Microsoft Ignite 2015 where she shared several examples of critical moments of engagement. One shows up at about 33 minutes, where she tells the story of a group leader of a retail team that visits agricultural stores across the country. This innovative leader had members of her team download the Yammer mobile app and then use their mobile phones to take and share photos of fresh retail displays in the stores that they visited. Within six months, the team had more than 2200 image views with a 70 percent response rate to posts. They were able to share best practices and replicate good ideas with almost instantaneous impact. “All the team’s expertise, always available,” is how Melanie described the outcomes.

By focusing your approach and metrics plan on critical moments of engagement, you can use existing business metrics to clarify what you are trying to do and what success will look like.

Develop a Balanced Approach

Measurement programs for social technologies require a balanced approach. The programs should include system and business process measures — both quantitative and qualitative. Not all of the useful system measures will be available or easily accessible “out of the box” from your tools. To ensure you have many of these useful system measures, you can take advantage of third-party products to facilitate surfacing key metrics. In their Ignite 2015 presentation called Gain Organizational Insights with Yammer Data Mining and Analytics, Steve Nguyen from Microsoft and Tammy Young Heck from EY shared information about Microsoft-provided and third-party tools for Yammer metrics and real world examples of useful metrics that anyone responsible for an enterprise social initiative should watch.

Come Back to the Case

When social technologies are relevant to the critical moments of engagement in our work, these technologies become tools to get work done better, faster and easier. This provides a critical motivating factor to get users to engage. Measurement can inform investment decisions, but it also does much more. Measurement can contribute to improved user experiences and allows organizations to be more responsive to change in dynamic environments. If you get this right, you will see that when it comes to social measurement, it’s all about the case.

Title imageCreative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by  WayTru