Socialtext’s Ross Mayfield blogged today about the ROI of Social Networking for TransUnion. In spite of the title, the real news in the post is not the amount of ROI, which, in the case of TransUnion’s Socialtext deployment, has only been estimated, not proven. Rather, the most powerful messages are echoes of two ideas that were expressed in my last post on this blog.
First, organizations are wary of employees using public social software to discuss business. Companies are deploying enterprise social software to keep confidential information behind the firewall. In Mayfield’s post, TransUnion CTO John Parkinson said he saw the need “to defend against too much of this [employee social networking] going on in public.” Mayfield further underscores Parkinson’s mindset by writing,
“Since the company deals in credit reports, it wasn’t keen on employees gathering to talk shop on the public Web. So the IT team set up Socialtext inside the company firewall.”
Clearly, corporations view the use of public social software as a risk to the confidentiality of their business information. I think we will see many more examples of this risk avoidance behavior in the future, and it may end up being the most compelling business case for deploying enterprise social software in the near term.
The second bit in Mayfield’s blog that echoes my previous post is the other reason TransUnion bought and deployed Socialtext software. According to Mayfield, TransUnion’s ROI estimate is based on cost savings of avoided additional software purchases. Fine, but what were those purchases (and the Socialtext investment as well) intended to do? Provide new tools to help employees work around existing ones that didn’t allow them to perform productively!
“TransUnion knew it was time to provide an internal social networking tool when people started asking for permission to set up an employee group inside Facebook.”
Why did these employees want a Facebook group? I do not know for sure, but I am confident that it was because Facebook would allow them to achieve a business objective that they could not meet using existing TransUnion applications and systems. Bravo to Socialtext for providing a solution that will likely meet those employees’ needs in a more secure fashion.
This TransUnion example affirms what I stated in my previous post. The real value employees gain by using enterprise social software is shown in their ability to get work done when other corporate systems fail them.