Executive-friendly Metrics for Internal Collaboration

Ann All
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Measuring the value of external social media initiatives can be tricky, but it's far from impossible. As Deloitte Canada's Duncan Stewart writes in The Globe and Mail, it's not that tough to determine if a Twitter or Facebook campaign helped improve product sales.


But measuring the impact of internal social tools is a far more difficult task. Last summer I shared a blog post from Sebastian Schaefer, a consultant for Capgemini in Munich, Germany, who wrote about three benefits of social tools that he enjoyed at Capgemini:

  • Open communication, which he said makes it easier to share content, gives recipients more control of the content they want to consume and relieves content owners of the task of deciding who should receive it, all of which often lead to contributions from unexpected sources.
  • Emergence, or new ways of organizing content, which results in improved access to information and increased transparency.
  • Serendipity, or discovering something of value not included in a search's original scope of a search. This is an already accepted phenomenon in most workplaces, usually taking place via personal "water cooler conversations." But social software "scales the water cooler spot to a company wide meeting place," in a way that increases the likelihood of engaging with the right person at the right time, wrote Schaefer.


Those are pretty compelling benefits. Unfortunately, it's pretty tough to put them in a spreadsheet, which is something most business executives will still want to see.


In the Globe and Mail article, Stewart offers some tips for measuring the impact of internal social tools in ways executives can appreciate.


He lists four primary benefits:

  • Making organizations less hierarchical. A useful metric here, he says, is questions received by managers or executives during internal conference calls or Web meetings. If those are going up, it's a sign the organization is becoming more democratic.
  • Helping knowledge flow better across organizational silos. Organizations can see if social tools like wikis or microblogging software reduce the number of information requests, Stewart suggests.
  • Increasing the speed at which knowledge flows. Measure this, Stewart advises, by providing social tools to some, but not all, project teams. That way you can see if groups using the tools complete their projects faster than those relying on traditional communications tools like email.
  • Making employees feel more connected to the company and part of the team. Organizations can assess the impact of social tools by looking at employee retention rates, a metric many already track.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 18, 2011 1:36 PM EphraimJF EphraimJF  says:

Thanks for this interesting post Ann.

I'm a little surprised to hear that "making organizations less hierarchical" is something Executives want to hear. Duncan's article states this benefit of social media as a given, an accepted benefit that leaders want.

But aren't a lot of Executives interested in maintaining control and, therefore, maintaining a strong hierarchy?

Is this really a social media metric that Executives are ready to hear?

May 19, 2011 1:40 PM EphraimJF EphraimJF  says: in response to Ann All

Thanks for this thoughtful response Ann.

This may really get to the heart of the problem: Companies without clear organizational goals often don't think of intranets and internal collaboration as strategic. It can be hard to identify social intranet goals that support larger company goals when the latter aren't clear. In these environments, it's especially hard to sell the C-suite on enterprise social software.

The companies that have clear goals are better prepared to explore and invest in social and collaborative tools because it's easier to see the connection.

May 19, 2011 6:30 PM Ann All Ann All  says: in response to EphraimJF

Great point, Ephraim! I do think 'some' executives are beginning to see the value of a less hierarchical organization. But many more may not be at all comfortable w/ this idea. Obviously metrics (like your mileage) are going to vary, based on what organizations hope to achieve. Establishing those goals upfront is a good idea. I've made that point in some of my prior posts but neglected to do so here.


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