Thinking back through the year, I’ve presented and delivered training to a very diverse range of knowledge workers in different countries and roles. When doing sessions on Enterprise Social/Collaboration, whether in community groups, Fortune 500 companies or government organizations, one of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been asked is how to quantify the benefits of the tools for an organization. 

Gartner says 90% of the Enterprise Social initiatives fail because they follow the worst practice approach of “provide and pray.” We’ve all had enough experience to know that “build it and they will come” doesn’t work with IT projects. But internal social networks often propagate virally and without planning, which makes measuring success with them a little trickier. Often social networks are not owned by IT until the levels of business use start requiring it, and indeed, IT may know nothing about the use of the new tools until it has progressed.

Defining success can be difficult, and frankly, the definition for your enterprise might be quite different from another organization. I hate to give the “it depends” answer, but it is true. It depends on what works in your corporate culture, and as the use of the tool matures in your organization, the way that you define success changes.

When first experimenting with a new tool, proving business value to speed up information and expertise sharing is critical.  Without it you don’t get the permission to continue.  Then you have to do something even harder than getting mind share—you have to capture hearts and create the emotional connection to bring people to a new experience and way of working. In addition, you have to also get that executive sponsorship to encourage, lead and motivate participation.  Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to figuring out how to get the adoption. So, measuring success then becomes a task of moving the goal, just as you score a touchdown.

Making our task more complex is the fact that at any given time, different parts of the organization will be experiencing different levels of adoption, and so rendering overall success harder to measure. The task then is to discover the combination of quantitative and qualitative factors that work and describe success to the level necessary for your organization.

A useful starting point is to look at the five categories in the table below and figure out the specifics of what is a) actually measurable, b) attainable, c) timely for your organization.moneypenny_12.25_blog_graph

*I’m defining Active Users as users with >1 interaction in last 30 days and an interaction as joining  a group, posting, liking, commenting or following.

You might also want to add a row to the table that explains what the maturity stage “feels like,” from the exciting new tool to the inevitable learning curve with some retardation to then enabling powerful new discussions and opportunities. From awkwardness to awesome—reassuring what a stage feels like helps both knowledge workers and executives to maneuver through the adoption journey both on a personal understanding level as well as the entire organization.