Tell me if you've heard this song:


I show how #socbiz can change us, I give them studies and tales.

That seems to make them happy, but it all grows somewhat stale.

I don't know what they need now, I can't say that I'm sure,

But executives seem bent on asking for so much more.


I got the measurement blues.

Everybody knows I got the blues.

If I could give them ROI,

My blues would turn into good news.


(Don't worry. I won't quit my day job.)


It's all about benchmarking.


You can't measure whether something is making a difference or not, unless you know what the thing looked like before you tried to make that difference. And yes, so much of what #socbiz can reduce, replace, improve, or make newly possible is considered "soft dollar," but that's not even half of your measurement story.


Here's one way to figure out what you need to benchmark before implementing your #socbiz project


Once you've figured out which groups of people or business processes you want to start with, ask these questions:

1. How do you measure your group or process today? Typically, a group or process is measured in a very concrete way. For example, sales and dealers measure individual productivity (how much revenue they generate in a given time period), win rate; call centers measure the cost of a customer phone call, customer satisfaction; marketing measures number of lead conversions, brand awareness levels, web site traffic; professional services measure project delivery time and quality; operations measures customer support costs, employee on-boarding costs, M&A on-boarding costs; this list goes on.

2. What is your hypothesis about how #socbiz will positively affect those metrics? This is where you create a vision for your stakeholders. For example, using #socbiz behaviors and technologies can decrease employee on-boarding time by 25%, decrease customer support calls by 28%, and increase employee satisfaction by 30%, according to some reports. Just taking a fraction of these reported improvements might be enough to warrant further examination and investment in your project.

3. What data must you gather to benchmark your hypothesis? If you're betting that #socbiz can significantly decrease the time it takes to on-board a new or newly acquired employee in a specific job function, such as sales rep, customer service rep, or engineer, then you'll need to gather some numbers, including: average base salary within a particular job function, and the current time it takes for a new employee in that function to achieve 100% productivity. Then, you'll need to know how many of those types of employees are hired within a given month or quarter. With this kind of data, you can apply formulas to calculate the potential value of your #socbiz hypothesis. Do this for a a few more use cases or hypotheses with buzz-worthy groups or processes, and you'll have the beginnings of a data-driven business case.

4. Which senior executives care about this? Now that you've the potential value of your #socbiz project, find a senior executive who cares about your hypothesis, and even more importantly, is tasked with improving what you've identified. For example, the SVP Sales will care about on-boarding new sales reps faster, because that can potentially lead to that rep closing more deals earlier. You might want to shop for critical business initiatives in your company's annual report, if you've got one.

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