Measuring the ROI of Social Business

September 9th, 2014Social Business

Value from Social Business

The business benefits from Enterprise Social Networks are widely acknowledged and published in the industry. Take for example, a study conducted by Forrester Consulting on Total Economic Impact of an Enterprise Social Platform. The findings from this study suggest a three-fold increase in productivity, 30% reduction in cost of innovation, $2.4M cost savings through faster on-boarding, doubling of improved business processes, and 25% reduction in time spent on company-wide information.

Outcomes are fine, but who is tracking ROI?

Despite several analysts and customers claiming significant benefits from social technologies and the universal expectation that social software is beneficial for enterprise collaboration, not everyone is measuring the benefits as seen from the studies below:

What stops organizations from measuring ROI?

The following challenges may be preventing a large number of organizations from capturing social business ROI:

Lack of social maturity: Organizations, who may have just started on the social business journey, are experimenting with different technologies to find the right solution for their needs and are in the process of developing a social business roadmap may not want to spend time measuring outcomes at such an early stage. Initial focus would be more on selecting the right tool for their business needs.

Overheads of capturing value may not justify the effort: Reduction in query resolution time or reduction in time spend searching for subject matter experts, though they might be some of the most significant use-cases of social collaboration, are difficult to capture and track from an operational perspective. Moreover, such occurrences may be few and far between to be able to generate any metrics.

Translating benefits into monetary value: Part of the problem also arises from the challenge of allocating dollar values to business benefits. Increase in number of connections across functions, geographies and business units, or increase in number of ideas submitted, though they can be quantified, are hard to assign a dollar value. For example, while replying to customer proposals, key information at a critical time can help teams to build a compelling proposal and thus increase chances of winning a deal. But how does an organization assign a monetary value to the benefit that social computing provided for this win?

In light of these challenges, sometimes, organizations may need to come up with alternatives to measuring ROI.

So what are the alternatives to productivity and cost metrics

As an alternative to measuring productivity and cost metrics alone, organizations can use any one or a combination of the following approaches:

Approach 1: Use of adoption metrics

Tracking the number of visits to newsfeeds and communities by members can be a very useful addition to quantitative ROI. An organization may have thousands of communities, spheres or spaces on their social platform. The activity level and how many users are visiting the various communities can be much easier to track than increase in productivity or reduction in cost. A large number of organizations including Unisys track adoption metrics such as number of user profiles, memberships at community level, number of blogs written and so forth.

Some of the adoption metrics being used widely in the industry right now are: Number of profiles, profile searches/week, Number of public and private communities, total number of blogs, wikis and registered users for each.

Approach 2: Use qualitative metrics (anecdotal approach) to tell the full ROI story

For some organizations, even adoption measurement can pose a challenge and deter them from going down the ROI path. But even in such cases, there is a viable solution: use qualitative examples as well.

The 2014 MIT Sloan review suggests that there is a growing trend of organizations reporting anecdotal benefits. Within Unisys, one such instance was when “MySite” (a SharePoint feature that serves as a point of contact for other users in your organization to find information about you and your skills and interests) helped the sales team reduce the turnaround time to respond to a customer proposal.

In this instance, when a client inquired about the best security policies and tools to meet their needs, the Unisys sales team used “MySite” to ask for help and quickly learned that one of Unisys’ solutions could address the customer’s requirement. The sales team soon had what it needed to create a proposal, and during a client meeting showed how we could make the customer’s business more flexible and secure. The effort ultimately resulted in an engagement for Unisys. This example clearly showcases the power of social collaboration tools.

There can be many similar one-off instances to showcase benefits from enterprise social networks. For example:

  • A process improvement idea suggested internally leading to reduction in turnaround time
  • Significant reduction in time to develop a new product or application through better collaboration across the delivery team
  • Use of crowdsourcing internally to solve an important business problem
  • Improved number of leads from a marketing campaign through better collaboration between corporate and field teams


With the approaches above, organizations can arrive at a truly holistic picture of ROI that is both quantitative and qualitative, and which measures employee adoption and interaction over time; thus addressing the social ROI conundrum.

Whatever the approach maybe, it’s imperative for organizations to have a plan to track metrics and measure ROI before embarking on their social business journey. The complexity of metrics can be based on the level of resources required and the costs involved. Doing so will enable organizations to measure and manage their social networks effectively.

Tags-   Enterprise social network ROI Social business


Sumeet Kumar Panda

Sumeet is a Solutions and Portfolio Manager at Unisys Global Services India. In his current role, Sumeet is responsible for roadmap development, user/competitor research, pricing and pre-sales support.