#TipTuesday – Set Goals and Track Progress

|   Nov 17, 2015

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.

tip11

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 what the goals are and how well they 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 match up with the reasons for implementing the 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.

For example, are you planning on using the ESN to replace other 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 collaborate around projects or documents, 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 increase employee engagement, 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 (called Buzz) is a great place to get questions answered quickly, and we 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 statistic that it happens X amount in the ESN, but with nothing to compare it to other than anecdotal stories.

In the end, I’m not big on tracking ROI with an ESN because I think it’s a required form of communication in 2015, 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 a couple years ago: “Quit Holding Social Media to a Different Standard,” and here’s a great article from Carrie Young on the subject, too: “Social ROI = Return On Insanity.” In the words of our CEO, “I don’t know what all the numbers will look like [in terms of cost or ROI for enterprise social], 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.”

On the pro side of calculating ROI, TIBCO Software commissioned Forrester to do a study of the total economic impact of using their tibbr ESN software. I’ve never been asked to produce an ESN ROI. Still, we used the Forrester study (adjusted for our company’s salaries and ESN usage) in calculating an ROI for our ESN and I don’t mind telling you that our ROI for 2015 is nearly 7,400%! Not too shabby, and certainly a nice number to have in your hip pocket when some uninformed person assumes the ESN is all about idle, meaningless, non-business chatter and that there is no business value in having the ESN. But even if we didn’t calculate the ROI based on the Forrester model, it would not lessen the need for an ESN inside the company based simply on the ways people expect to communicate today.

In addition to the ROI mentioned above, we track growth and usage, the percent of the company using the platform, questions answered, 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 we send to thousands. We report how many other apps and places it’s integrated into (over 400 now). We track year-over-year trends in many of the above. We have goals related to some (but not all) of the above.

In addition to regular metrics, we also research and publish case studies of effective business use of Buzz where the ESN was pivotal in solving real business problems. The case studies are researched and written up by a fantastic communicator in our Public Affairs area and posted as articles on our intranet home page and on the Buzz home page, sharing specific business successes and sparking ideas in others for how they can use Buzz to solve business problems.

So there are many metrics you can and should track, but the ones that make sense for you and your company are based on your purpose for the ESN. How was the idea sold to leadership originally? Can you track based on that promise? Have you discovered new uses not originally envisioned that are bearing fruit? Once enterprise social networking is no longer the new kid on the block we won’t be asking the cost justification kinds of questions, though, just as we don’t now for email, telephones and meetings. We’ll just accept it as an expected form of communication and go on about our business of using it to communicate and work as effectively and efficiently as possible.

With a 44,000-user, growing ESN, we certainly have some regular metrics we track as mentioned above. We do not, however, consider it necessary that our team or the two of us who are community managers for the ESN set or track accomplishment of goals across other business areas and their use of the 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 us just because we’re the community managers. We assume those areas are more than capable of determining appropriate ESN use without our assistance, and they can track its results if they wish. (Of course, we always consult when requested with areas wanting assistance in determining effective ESN use.) We devote our time tracking results mainly to matters of interest to us.

Side note: One simple thing we’ve done on our ESN for several years is use the hashtag #buzzsuccess. We encourage anyone to add the tag to a thread whenever some ESN-related success happens, regardless of how large or small the success. Successes may range from answering a simple question to improving some aspect of quarterly statements sent to millions of customers. Participants have adopted that practice faithfully to the point of #buzzsuccess being consistently one of the top hashtags used. We frequently search for uses of the hashtag and highlight one in our 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 your business and that reflect your company’s core values. Track and openly report on progress (we post all metrics tracked 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, but definitely do it and make the results public to all ESN users and others who need to know.

Tip #11 is Set goals and track progress.

[This post has been modified from the original version first published at jeffrossblog.com.]

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