Although many businesses agree that enterprise social networking platforms improve knowledge sharing and collaboration, many do not properly track benefits of social to overall business impact and value.

As with any business technology deployment, it is important to know how to measure social’s effectiveness and success. Businesses often find it difficult to measure enterprise social software benefits, as they tend to be seen in anecdotes as opposed to hard metrics; however, they will be easier to track if organizations focus on and track the right benefits.

Businesses tend to map the success of their enterprise social network to its impact on knowledge sharing and collaboration, but that only tells part of the story and fails to capture that the more impactful business value of enterprise social occurs when it creates a social fabric integrated into each business process.

Plan Before Implementation

Recent research by Gartner found that a vague notion of how technology can "make us more collaborative" is not a concrete foundation on which to build a collaboration (or knowledge management or social) initiative. Collaboration, knowledge management and social initiative leaders need a new approach for defining the value of collaboration, which starts with the business imperative for change and includes both measurable and anecdotal examples of value.

In other words, maximizing ROI and business impact of collaboration initiatives, including enterprise social, requires an up-front approach by company leadership that captures the necessary roles and processes.

According to a recent Gartner report, armed with information on critical roles and important processes executed by people in those roles, the collaboration leader can now explore how social technologies can improve the work being done that will have the greatest impact on enterprise performance. By approaching social collaboration from this leadership perspective, executives are also able to identify the specific roles and processes that can benefit from unique features available when implementing enterprise social.

Establish Goals

After determining the specific roles and processes to which overall business value and impact will be mapped, the next step is to identify the goals and appropriate approach to improving those roles and processes.

For example, if a business goal is to improve employee onboarding and retention, identify the associated onboarding processes or systems your business typically engages in and determine how the social approach will improve these processes. One approach could be to set up a new employee onboarding social site with specific tasks and tags or auto-follow relationship to create a ready-made training and connection tool.

Integrate, Don't Isolate Social Tools

Also, in order for enterprise social to provide maximum business value, it is important that it also takes a social fabric approach versus a siloed social approach. Through a social fabric approach, businesses are able to integrate social features into their everyday business processes instead of having to work in a separate, siloed social environment.

Furthermore, when tracking the success of social software within the enterprise it is important to focus on the following benefits related to specific roles and processes:

  • First, map to a high-level goal. Because social software improves communication and increases knowledge sharing, many businesses try to measure to goals at the engagement level. Instead, map to a higher-level goal and determine how you will measure against that goal.
  • Second, identify current barriers to communication and determine how the social approach removes these barriers. Common barriers can be anything from knowledge being trapped in email to a lack of knowledge sharing and access to experts across the organization.
  • Lastly, track the end result of the relationship as opposed to specific conversations. By tracking the end result of relationships over time, businesses can correlate to gaps being filled and better identify the relationships’ business impact.

Enterprise social not only improves everyday processes, but has an accelerated effect on company culture by transforming internal communication through increased knowledge sharing and collaboration, which can have a direct impact on innovation. The transformative effect that social has is apparent when companies maximize ROI and map business value to specific roles, processes and use cases.

Title image courtesy of rangizzz (Shutterstock).

Editor's Note: To read other perspectives on the business impact of the Social Enterprise: