Ok, so I’ve been thinking about this, but not sure what the current state of play is. Someone was stating that talking about ROI of the social network was important but hard to do now, and essentially wondered if there was new thinking in this area. So let me ask the question.
So I’m calling out L&D because they’re only measuring efficiency when they should be measuring impact. You look at measures used to evaluate the industry, and they’re things like cost/time/seat. Which is potentially a useful measure, but only after you’ve decided that having a bum in the seat is having a positive impact on the organization. If you’re not doing something measurable – decreasing time to close sales or increasing the number of problems resolved accurately on the first call – it doesn’t matter how efficient you are!
With social media, I believe it’s the same thing. If we put in social media and facilitate discussion in engineering, we’d expect a different impact than in manufacturing. In engineering we might get less time to design a requested feature, and in manufacturing we might increase usable yield. It really doesn’t matter if you’re seeing more use of the system, more messages or connections or what have you, if you’re not seeing an impact. Of course, if you can correlate them, all the better.
Sure, we also might affect indirect metrics – retention, workplace satisfaction, or customer satisfaction – with tangible value, but our real focus should be on direct metrics. If creating a more effective culture for sharing, and sharing is supposed to lead to better outcomes, it sure would be nice to demonstrate those benefits. I guess my experience with instructional design – if you design it according to the formula, it is good – leads me to some skepticism that we can just trust the outcome.
So, is this obvious, or are we still wrestling with this? Other opinions?