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Tucon 2013: Is It Possible To Calculate The ROI Of Enterprise Social Networking?

Speaking at Tucon 2013, Forrester & KPMG discuss ways around calculating the ROI of Enterprise Social Networking, and why instead you should focus on use cases.

"We're accountants, we like numbers." At KMPG, the bottom line is usually the most important. So what happens when they try to justify the value of something as intangible as the value of social collaboration to a bunch of accountants?

Speaking at Tucon 2013, Rob Koplowitz, Vice President, Principal Analyst at Forrester research was joined by Alex Chapel, Global Internal Social Collaboration Lead for KPMG to talk about the business value of Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) and how best to get people to understand what it can bring to a company.

Forrester has done some interesting research on the subject; according to Koplowitz's research, it's actually Baby Boomers, not Gen Y, that are driving demand for social collaboration. On an organizational level,  41% of the companies he talked to had implemented or were expanding their ESN system, 12% were planning on doing so in the next year, and another 12% in more than a year. However you cut it, ESN is hot news right now. But how to define where it adds value, pinpointing hard figures is still the hardest part of the puzzle.

Koplowitz found that although there were examples of benefits across the board, the areas that most benefitted from ESN were sales, followed by marketing and then training. Manufacturing saw the least benefit, but even then there were examples of how the use of ESN saw a Pharma company get a product to market months quicker. Spoofing Field Of Dreams, Koplowitz explained "They won't just come if you build it." You have you to instead start small and make them ask how they would have done it without social collaboration.

That the Q&A afterwards still featured people asking how they can best get some hard bottom line numbers on ESN should tell you one thing: that they're basically impossible to get. To help explain what to do instead, Koplowitz was joined by KPMG's Alex Chapel. Based in London, he's leading the KPMG's rollout of Tibco's social collaboration software, Tibbr (internally branded ‘The Hub'), globally. It allows teams to follow and talk to each other, share documents, and integrate various communication software (e.g. Skype and Lotus Notes) into one platform.

Chapel explained KMPG ends up ‘inventing the wheel many times over' because there was often so little communication between the different strands of KPMG from country to country. And so instead of ROI, Chapel said we should focus on Return On Engagement. "We spent too much time looking at the metrics. We're accountants, we like numbers." He emphasised the value of explaining use cases that have shown the value of social collaboration. The constant question you have to ask is, "How would you have done this without Tibbr?", then we need to share those Tibbr success stories with as many people within the company as possible.

But with so many unstructured conversations, even defining what would have been lost without an ESN system ‘isn't so clear cut.' He used an example where KPMG won a big deal after a series of internal discussions between sales and consulting teams using The Hub meant a proposal was sent out quickly and had all the right people working on it at the right time. However, Chapel admitted that it's hard to say for sure how the deal would have turned out without such a platform in place.

Likewise, any discussion with ESN users over the conference was positive, though all the stories had this same feel of "it helped, but we can't really prove it." But without solid numbers, how else can you keep accountants happy?

 

Dan Swinhoe is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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