Digital Transformation

Creating A Business Case for Social

Live Blogging at the IBM Web Experience Conference: Mary Bird Nance does a great job working with a variety of companies to define vision and create a justification for the use of portal and social technologies.  She’s a pro at working with clients to understand their needs and where they should go. Anyway, she and Palma Bickford spoke on creating a business case for a social business.

Social Business are more engaged, agile, transparent, and innovative. They listen better. They interact with people better. They maximize talent.  Getting to be a social business takes a number of fundamentals that include:

  1. It’s not just about the numbers but they are important
    1. return and valuation
    2. payback
    3. break even analysis
    4. risk assessment
  2. Qualitiative is also important
    1. strategic fit.  It may be table stakes. You have to do it.
    2. business process logic
    3. it’s part of critical success factors
    4. Other intangibles like governance

Quick Fact:56% of business intend to adopt social business tools in the next year

Starting Point

Always be thinking about user satisfaction, cost savings, revenue optimization, and operational efficiency.   Some like revenue and cost are pure quantitative and easier to measure. Others like user satisfaction tend towards a more qualitative measure that can be counted as an indirect benefit.  You should focus time on each of these aspects.

Anecdote: Was at a large research university.  They had a shadow IT organization.  The business case walked through the cost savings to shadow IT to pull the rogue implementations and consolidate the social tools.


Think about

  • increase up and cross sell effectiveness
  • improve customer loyalty and retention
  • reduce sales expense
  • lower cost of sales and service delivery
  • lower HR administration cost
  • reduce content management

Take these possibilities and ask, “what if”.  What if I could increase my order size by 5%.  Then use a stat from Forrester or McKenzie that note the increased conversion and deal size from those that use tablets.  Get those stats.  Mary Bird collects these types of statistics for use.

This focuses on the shorter term.


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Now think of things like

  • reduce time spent looking for info on experts
  • reduce in time to train employees
  • increase employee productivity
  • facilitates cross functional collaboration

This focuses on the mid-term


  • Improve cross LOB collaboration
  • Quicker integration of acquired companies
  • etc.

This is a strategic view.  It’s a longer term view

How other organizations do it

Delivering a solution requires building consensus.

  • Identify the collaboration hotspots
  • Facilitate a discussion and collect feedback.  Get information on business objectives, challenges, opportunities and information workflows
  • Align business goals and challenges with social business capabilities
  • Identify the benefits that are expected as a result of the social initiative
  • Create the high level view of the value provided.

Now think of those who have complex collaboration needs. It might include sales, marketing, HR, product innovation, and customer server.  Talk to them all.

So how to identify these people?  Find people with high value of the following

  1. large numbers of project managed per project
  2. large percentage of people who interact inside and outside the company
  3. Significant days spent on business trips
  4. Large information intensity. Spending a large amount of time per day on
    1. expert location
    2. sharing or sending information more than once
    3. searching for information for own projects
    4. Providing updates on project or activities in meetings
  5. Lots of time spent communicating
    1. emails
    2. phone
    3. file sharing
    4. web conferencing
  6. The technical acumen of the department or organization

How to do a good interview

The ability to make the right social business investments depends on teh ability to understand and improve information behavior in individuals workflow and to translate that into meaningful impacts.    Your role as an interviewer should focus on the key business objectives, challenges, and impacts to work patterns.

Quote: focus on who is being measured by what.  If you know that then you know what’s important to the people being interviewed.

General questions to ask

  • What measurable objectives are you trying to achieve
  • What key cost metrics for the functional area depend on time.  (average days to hire for example)
  • what cost reductions metrics are you charged with?

Bringing it All Together

After  you gather all this information, you can pull it all together in something like this:

Organize your benefits by these areas


Case Study

Palma Bickford walked through a case study.  It was a bit hard to capture it all but here’s a high level view:

  1. Identify three to five key business objectives
  2. For each objective, define the requirements, challenges, and collaboration opportunities
  3. Map those opportunities to a bubble chart that shows the value and ease of implementation
  4. Then you get to the benefit tree shown above.

An example of defined requirements for business objectives



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