Culture Trumps ROI

Talk about signs of the times!  Lately, there’s been a rapidly growing number of posts declaring the need to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) in social software, but lamenting our inability to do so.  Just today, I read three posts on the topic and noted that a fellow IBMer has launched an internal virtual event to brainstorm the issue and potential solutions.

My take on ROI of social software is pretty much along the lines of Jon Mell’s and Gia Lyons’ — don’t bother!  Trying to demonstrate business value created by the deployment and use of collaboration tools, regardless of what label we use to describe them, is a misguided effort.  Too much of the evidence is anecdotal and difficult, if not impossible, to translate into credible and compelling currency amounts.

I spent too much time around the Millennium trying to devise clever ways to show ROI on investments in software that supported knowledge management.  I learned that it is fruitless to try to sell collaboration technology to an organization that does not want to collaborate — or is not ready to do so.  Those types of organizations are very likely to demand a detailed business case demonstrating ROI on social software, or any other collaboration technology.  It’s one of the ways they can maintain status quo and kill grassroots efforts to improve collaboration.

So let’s not spend countless manhours trying to develop metrics that will help us demonstrate ROI in social software.  Better to spend the time, energy, and money qualifying and quantifying potential customers’ willingness and readiness to collaborate.  Knowledge audits, Social Network Analysis, and other consulting services are what we should be selling to organizations that don’t understand the instrinsic value that collaboration software can produce.  No business case will sell social software to a firm that doesn’t already value collaboration in its culture.

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10 responses to “Culture Trumps ROI

  1. Oh girlfriend, preach it. I heart this part: “Those types of organizations are very likely to demand a detailed business case demonstrating ROI on social software, or any other collaboration technology. It’s one of the ways they can maintain status quo and kill grassroots efforts to improve collaboration.”

    The effort it takes to prove the value of KM or social software is more than it takes to prove the value of a specific vendor’s solution. And I know you know that I know which companies I’m talking about.

  2. Awesome post – I think there is a distinction between using ROI / business case to *sell* collaboration, and using it as a justification for a project to be *approved*.

    We used to sell Portal on the basis of productivity / collaboration but the business case was always around reducing number of calls to helpdesk for reset passwords once it got to the bean counter department.

  3. Nice to see someone else thinking along the same lines as me. If the company intrinsically understands the value of being connected and of human connections then they won’t need an ROI. As soon as they mention ROI I figure they’re not quite ready.

  4. While a full ROI analysis might have so many assumptions in it that it is worthless, it is dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    We need more measurement rather than less. We need to be tracking the progress of all of our initiatives against the goals that we have set for the organization. Those that are helping us to our goals should be fed and those that are not should be left behind.

    BI is going to grow significantly in the next 5 years. Decision by gut/culture will decrease.

  5. Pingback: Social software ROI | Jon Mell - Web 2.0 ideas and strategy

  6. Pingback: Why We Struggle With Social Software ROI « Together, We Can!

  7. Pingback: Culture Trumps ROI « Peter Parkes

  8. Pingback: Topics about Culture » Culture Trumps ROI ” Together, We Can!

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