12 Feb

Measuring Business Value

By in Tips & Guides on February 12, 2013

At  YamJam’12, our conference in San Francisco last October, there was much discussion around the best way to measure business value of an Enterprise Social Network. While there are many variables to consider, the best approach can be tricky to determine. Each company should look to a combination of financial and non-financial measures that link back to the company’s mission, vision, strategy and business priorities.

In order to begin digging into the value of your network, you must first examine the content and context of conversations and activity happening. For example, a high volume of conversation on a network is great on the surface; however, without knowing the context behind these conversations, it is difficult to quantify their value. Even knowing the context of conversations, you must still understand the business outcomes these conversations bring to the organization. Business value comes from capturing and understanding these outcomes.

When to start measuring

It is never too early to begin measuring small wins early on in your network. To get a good reading, it is important to have a large enough group of active and engaged users. While you do not need everyone from the organisation to participate, you do need enough people on the network to contribute enough content and form enough connections, before you can begin to realise value. For some organisations, starting with a smaller group that has a clearly defined business goal/purpose can also be an effective approach.

Building a network that can deliver measurable business value is a process of continuous iteration that begins with a defined business purpose or use case: “are we trying to increase collaboration, employee engagement, etc?” Beginning with a specific focus and goal allows for opportunities to celebrate success to inspire others. As the network matures, where you focus your effort will change.

Now you have people communicating on the network; what’s next? Let’s take a look at quantitative and qualitative measurements.

Measuring Business Value – Quantitative

The Yammer analytics dashboard provides a number of statistics on network activity that can aid in measuring the value of your network. Quantitative statistics — such as  the number of network members, number of posts, number of likes and number of groups — are great for illustrating the growth of your network and network activity.  For instance, an upward trend in the number of posts indicates that employees are finding benefits from engaging on the network, and are continuing to come back to the network.

Quantitative statistics are quick and easy to obtain from Yammer, and provide a great high-level overview of the network health and growth. However, if you only chose to look to statistics, you may be missing out on some important data. Without understanding Qualitative outcomes, numbers alone do not provide a comprehensive view of business value of your Yammer network. For example, would you rather have 1,000 people on your network talking about what they had for breakfast, or 25 people on your network improving sales revenue by sharing strategies for closing big deals? Just looking at the numbers, the 1000 people talking looks more appealing, however as we analyze the content of the conversations, we see 25 people delivering more value back to the organization. Lewis Jacoby from Suncorp explained that through the use of Yammer, his team reduced internal team email by over 50%, and at the same time the team improved their communicating and were more engaged with what other members of the team were doing.

Measuring Business Value – Qualitative

Capturing Qualitative outcomes from conversations and quantifying their value to the business should be the focus of analysis in mature networks. This is significantly more complex than running a simple report; it takes effort to identify, capture and articulate how a conversation moves the business forward.

Identifying and articulating successes should be done at regular intervals, in order to show momentum and inspire your colleagues to begin using Yammer in their respective areas. Kai Riemer from The University of Sydney shared with our customer community: “rather than measuring (which suggests quantitative data collection), storytelling in my view is a much more powerful way to demonstrate usefulness, benefit and ROI. Often, one success case can outweigh the cost for an ESN for a year.”

So what techniques to measuring business value can you apply in your Yammer networks?

Techniques to Identify Business Value

It will be easier to quantify business value if there is a clear vision of how Yammer is going to support the organization’s mission, values and strategy. We always advise customers to form a vision for your Yammer network as a first step before launching the network.

Network maturity is key to understating which measure or combination of measures is most appropriate. In nascent networks, where the goal is getting people on the network and talking, quantitative measures may be more appropriate. However, as the network matures, and capturing business value becomes more important, qualitative measures will be more appropriate.

Ultimately a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures will probably be most appropriate, but it is important to understand the differences between these measures and the information about your network that they reveal.

Quantitative measurements

You may want to consider defining how Yammer will support the success of the organization and focus on the metrics that are already being used to measure performance: sales revenue, customer satisfaction, market share, travel expenses, employee retention, etc.

A great way to measure the impact of Yammer from the get-go, is to perform a before and after survey. Potentially this can also be linked to annual employee engagement surveys, and may reveal interesting insights into employee engagement and their engagement on Yammer.

Another frequently used technique to create a topic in Yammer e.g. “YamWin” to tag conversations where the outcomes from the conversation have delivered business value, making them easier to find and tabulate. Nicky Hayward-Wright from GS1 Australia shared with the customer community: “We encourage members to add the topic #yamwin to any content that they think is useful. I then collate these wins into a note (page) every few weeks. Rather than stating specifically the conversation or page etc, I write the win as a short paragraph in story format. The focus for me at the moment is demonstrating business value as well as highlighting positive cultural change – so there is also a mix.”

To sum up, figure out what success looks like and how you will measure against this success. Use performance measures that that your business already understands, and look at how Yammer impacts these, rather than creating new metrics specifically for your network. Remember to use quantitative metrics and qualitative outcomes, to get a fuller picture.

Want to learn more about measuring the value of your enterprise social network? Join us on February 28th for our  Driving Business Value with Enterprise Social webinar. Attend this information packed webinar to learn from Altimeter analyst, Charlene Li, about how enterprise social is creating value for companies. And hear how Tyco, the world’s largest fire protection and security company, is using Yammer to drive greater value by transforming the way they work. Sign up for free here!

2 Responses to Measuring Business Value

  1. Beth Gleba says:

    Hi James. I really like your approach.
    Do you think it could be possible to use the Yammer “User Engaged %” in the analytics dashboard to help diagnosis which phase a network is in? If so, what do you think is the range for each phase would be ?

  2. James Evans says:

    Hi Beth,
    Thank thank you for the feedback, it is very much appreciated. My thinking is that although “User Engaged %” is a useful metric, is not the only indicator of network maturity. To have a holistic view of network maturity you also need to take into account the qualitative discussions along side the organisations vision for their Yammer network / measures for success and the culture of the organisation.

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