Measuring a system is more relevant than Enterprise 2.0 tools ROI

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Before, everything was simple. When people were asking “what’s the ROI”, the answer was “today you are processing this kind of operations with 100 people working with a calculator and a clipboard, it takes one week and the risk of making errors is obvious. With our solution, it takes only one person to enter the datas and calculations are operated in less than a second”. Unanswerable, even if promesses were seldom kept.

Today, in the context of social tools, even if a consensus exists on the principle, finding the formula that turns what a tool can bring into a mathematical model is far from being obvious. The issue is easy to understand : we’re not talking about tool that do a defined set of tasks but about tools that make people more efficient when their job requires them to act out of a model of defined and repeatable actions in a defined human scope.

In brief we can define the ROI of an application that does defined and foreseeable things, not of those who make people more efficient in undefined and unprectable situations. We have to make our thinking model evolve from a “doer application” to an “enabler application”.

Before going further, watch this video. The ROI of the machine and the individual performance are easily calculable. And ask yourself if you day to job still looks like this.

Once done, we have to think about measuring what matters.

Because we’re used to it, we follow a logic according to which everything has to be evaluated individuallu : each people, each machine, each tool. Thinking model inherited from the times when it was logical, coherent to do so, as the video showed us. Be we have to keep in mind that it supposes that no elenement interacts with any other, which is not today’s reality. That’s not easy to admit, makes us unfomrtable with all the things we learned at school and during our carreer, but we have to thing accordingly what we measure. As a matter of fact, many elements that interact together, most of times in an unpredictable way, don’t have to be measured by additionning each of them but are a system that as to be considered as is.

Software being a part of the system, it’s both vain and deceiptive to try to evaluate its ROI out of the system. More, and I’ve writen many times about this here, it’s been proved that social tools don’t deliver the same results depending on the context of their use, the management model in use etc…

To make it short, if we admit that a system is made of people, informations, operating modes and tools, none of these elements can be measured of evaluated alone, what has to be measured is the performance of the system.

Must your system produce ideas, innovation ? Measure the number of ideas, their relevance, the incubation cycle. And the value created by their implementation.

Must your system produce sales performance ? Measure the increase in sales, client retention, cross and upselling.

And so on.

Keep in mind that evaluation and calculation can’t apply anymore to such person, such operating mode, such tool taken alone. It’s about the ROI of a system that involves all these components. Consider it as a black box if you want, and take into account the inputs (global costs) and the outcomes. Don’t try to measure what’s happening inside because it will be impossible or will bring erroneous results, because of the reasons mentioned above.

Knowing we’re stepping into the era of the reconfigurable organization, service oriented, it’s key to adopt the thinking models that fit the reality we are trying to measure.

A last point. When you’ll try to optimize your system, don’t make a mistake and consider things one by one, player by player. By improving one you may destroy the balance of the whole system : in such an approach, improving the system means you get rid of the existing constraints, not adding new ones. Remove barriers to efficiency instead of adding new rules.

The ROI of enterprise 2.0 tools is not relevant. The ROI of the systems that use them is. Don’t consider tools regardless to the context of their use. Mesure a system instead of the application that supports it.

évaluation, Entreprise 2.0, mesure, roi, social-software, soo, systèmes, systèmique