Managers use to say that one can’t manage what is not measurable. We can also add that businesses don’t undertake things they can’t drive. So the conclusion is that businesses don’t unertake anything if they can’t measure the result. It may be a statement of the obvioux but it’s always worth reminding it. Talking about social media, how many projects were left in the waiting room due to the lack of measurable impact. “You know…connect people, share information etc… is very nice, but it’s hard to demonstrate the impact”.
Then let me add a third adage of my own invention : there is not a thing that is harder to measure than those one dont’ want to measure.
Please remind that a social software projet has to be measured at three levels : activity, alignement of contents and business purposes and use of the contents and new “connection practices” to improve organizational performance.
I won’t write again what I wrote in the above-mentioned post, but if a social software project, whatever its nature is, does not bring any change to a few and clear business metrics, that means that either the tools are used on a wrong way or that is was implemented regardless to sense and alignement.
Let’s state it once and for all : everything can be measured. Sometimes in a simple and easily identifiable fashion, sometimes with more complex tools when it comes to back by figures intangible things. All the same, many tools exist to measure how people feel about such or such things, sometimes by conducting surveys, and it’s up to project managers to decide to use them. That’s the way to know if people find things are going better, if knowledge is more accessible, if they feel more engaged, if they find that a better access to their colleagues helps them doing things better and faster, il they think discussions makes the corporate message easier to understand…. For all the rest, direct and quantitative indicators exist.
Knowing that, we may be able to say that, depending on the project, we can measure the impact of social software through business indicators or (sometimes with…) surveys (for what is about subjective feelings…especially in the communication and HR field) and that the issue is closed. Unfortunately it’s not. Not because things are not measurable but because people don’t want to measure them.
A few examples in a jumble :
â€¢ The project impacts measurable variables that were not measured till then : sometimes, happily, new tools with new practices allow impressive breakthroughs on fields where nobody thought anything could be changed. “Why measure since we’ll never be able to change anything”. It also happens that things that used to thought negligible take an growing importance. It may take a really deep and and hard work to conceive indicators that will be more relevant in the still new, nebulous and unmastered context of the rising knowledge economy.
For instance, the attention paid to the time wasted in bottlenecks created by the sometimes irrelevant use of emails and lack of information sharing is really new. There are many cycles that are not measured well as well. Of course innovation and sales cycle are well know. But what about the team level ? Decision making cycle (even personal decision making…for each employee), local problem solving cycles etc…?
It also seems that working in a “pull” mode rather than “push” reduces the workload caused by unwanted and not immediately useful information, allow people to focus on what’s is really needed by value creation. On the other hand, while the concept of load is well known and mastered for machines, it’s botched up when it comes to individual, most of all when they are knowledge workers. That’s not because we’re talking about something that can’t be visually assessed that indiviuals have an unlimited workload capacity. And when people are assigned work that exceed their maximal workload, the whole organizaion slows down…
â€¢ There are also things people don’t want to measure. “The purpose is to have a better broadcasting of this information about a strategic issue, to explain it to our staff, so we have to mobilize people and facilitate enterprise-wide discussions to they’ll have a better understanding, be more aware”. Ok. So at least we need to conduct a survey to know if the staff is getting the stake, if they know they are well-informed, if they can find the answers to their questions in the existing system… and do it again and again to measure the impact of the project. “Uhhh….are you sure ? It will be time consuming and tedious. More, we’ve never done this before”. Knowledge acquisition can be measured, awareness can be measures, membership feeling can be measured…
â€¢ Then comes the novelty myth. Of course, new phenomenon means new indicators. But even if we’re changing the way things are done, we don’t change business goals. So there’s no reason to be afraid of using “old” indicators, : turnover, sales cycle, number of ideas, money made through implemenation of new ideas…For instance, I saw a company using a social media platform to improve the quality and the efficiency of its support team. Used metric : problem solving duration and Net Promoter Score. Well done !
What I mean here is that, even if finding the right indicator may be more or less easy, if measuring may be more or less laborious, it’s important not to mistake “refusal to measure” and “lack of measurable benefits”.
Let me end with a side comment. It seems that the possibility to measure things is key at the decision making level, is key to launch anything. But once things have started, nobody cares about anymore about that. Pity.
Whatever, one cannot, at the same time, conclude that there are not tangible benefits and refuse to implement the right set of indicators.