Let’s be clear, I’m talking about value, not about ROI (although the one is a part of the other) and about “social objects” in the large sense of the word : everything that can exist on a social platform, when using social software. It may be a content, an information specially generated, an information shared from elsewhere, a mark given to any contribution, the contribution to a collaborative work…but also the time taken to do so, the attention mobilized while the person may have had something else to do at this time etc…
Behind the everlasting discussions about ROI stands, before all, the question of the value. Does what is done have value, and what value ? In which ways an information and the time needed to publish it can have any value ? You’ll notice that it turns the ROI question not into something about tools and contents but into something wider made of tools, contents, resources and …the context in which the information is used.
That is a point that is often forgotten : it’s the context that determines values, it’s its limiting factor, more than the intrinsic value of the information itself. An insignificant information may be very valuable at a given moment for a given person even though thousands people will have nothing to do with it. On the other hand, a capital information have no value if nobody uses it. It takes us back to a reflection I’ve had a long time ago about strategy maps : intangibles have no intrinsic value but their value depends on how it’s used.
Talking about an enterprise context, let’s make it clear that “value” means the ability to turn information into money.
So the point, not that trivial, is to know when value has to be measured.
Of of the limits to many reflections about ROI is that they focus on information production. Of course they take into account infrastructure costs, human costs (time), and then…nothing. Dead end. A part but not negligible explaination may be that in a thought model that is more based on costs measurement than on revenue, and that measures production factors locally instead of considering things as part of systems, it’s nearly impossible to identify any value that is not directly tied to what was used to produce it. Even if the value is obvious. Me must also keep in mind that if the production cost is unique (information is only produced once), it’s value is potentially infinite since an illimited number of people can use it an illimited amount of times..
Imagine that, to award the Olympics 100m gold medail, judges use a photo taken…on the starting line.
If we assume that the value of any social object or behavior depends on its use, we have take it into consideration into our thinking process. This puts us in a very uncomfortable situation since it’s far from being the way we’ve been trained to think so far. It implies to track how, when, and what information is used for. And, if can track value in an industrial context, that’s something we still don’t get in a knowledge context.
If there are no certainties, starting with approximation is better than refusing to face reality. So I’m forced to remind you ofÂ the awful table I published some days ago.
â€¢ Information produced in order to make things happen through the “wisdom of crowd” will surely produce some value one day, but there’s nothing predictable.
â€¢ We can evaluate the value of information that makes possible to overcome the limits of formal processes by measuring the time lost to find the right people, to fix things, to solve problems.
â€¢ We can evaluate the value of the information used in formal process by analyzing the impact of its greater availability and fluidity, most of all on operational cycles (sales cyles, innovation cycle…in short the pace of service/product delivery to clients or to the business). It also impacts bottlenecks which cause organization thrombosis.
Organizational Network Analysis is also helpful to provide organizations with the tools to trace and identify value within networks.
Anyway, the question of the use of information into production processes is more central than ever.
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