For any organization-wide initiative that requires the integration of new technologies we all know that in order to secure budgetary approval there is at the very least a requirement to estimate the return on investment (ROI). When it comes to social business solutions, aka enterprise social networks (ESN), ROI calculations can be challenging. According to Laurence Lock Lee: “The business rhetoric around ‘show me the ROI’ on collaboration is problematic. Few of us work in jobs that have a direct and measurable cost/benefit result.”

What then can IT and business leaders look to when evaluating the dollars and sense associated with technology initiatives, especially those that have the potential to significantly transform how organizations work? In this posting we will suggest several approaches that can be used to assess progress toward the so-called digital workplace. As you review them we ask that you consider the following guidance from The Community Roundtable, the leading community management organization, when referring to their ROI calculator that is described below: “[L]ike any ROI model, it is best used as a piece of strategy development and discussion, not just as an output.”


6 Stages of Digital Workplace Maturity
“To me, a successful digital workplace is one that helps us get jobs done.” So begins Mr. Lee’s May, 2017 article “The 6 Stages of Digital Workplace Maturity.” Recognizing of course that as-is this outcome is hard to measure, Lee goes on to summarize several stages in the evolution of a digital workplace and the suggested criteria/data points that can be used to evaluate progress.


StageMeasure AMeasure B
Social MediaRate of Adoption (Active users)Content created & consumed
Social NetworkingNetwork ConnectionsPublic vs Private communication
Job FulfillmentProblem solving (answered questions)Innovation (ideation)


Success Measures
Jive Software, a leading provider of ESN solutions, suggests a success model that also uses three categories. While there is clearly some alignment with Lee’s approach, Jive has already built in the analytics / reporting functions to give community managers and other stakeholders easy access to the specific measures noted below. (Further insights are of course possible via integrations with third-party CRM, BPM, BI, etc. solutions.)


StageMeasure AMeasure B
VitalityAdoption (active/participating/contributing users)Quantity of content (by type)
Perceived ValueContent (average daily views/likes/responses/revisions/creates)Questions (with responses/with helpful answers/with correct answers)
Business ImpactKPIs from operational functions (direct use of social business tools for customer service, sales/marketing, product development, etc.)


ROI Calculator
The Community Roundtable (TheCR), an essential resource for any social business-related initiative, approaches ROI from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Similar to what Mr. Lee and Jive outline in their progressive, stage-based methods, The Community Roundtable has developed a comprehensive series of research-based models and frameworks. For example, their Community Maturity Model shown below, takes a holistic view of the successful evolution of an ESN.


In addition, they have developed a ROI Calculator that focuses on two specific data points – metrics that both Jive and Lee also include – in order to evaluate success. According to their website:

“The premise of TheCR’s ROI Calculator is that almost all communities rely on dialog and the asking and answering of questions. As such, if you can determine the value of those answers, you can capture the lion’s share of community value – and calculate ROI.”


Regardless of the size or scope of your organization’s social business initiative, it is clear from these three approaches that success is not accidental. Creating an enterprise social network is an evolutionary process that involves accounting for the incremental steps forward towards the larger goal of a digital workplace, an environment where the tools that are invested in meet the needs of those getting work done.

What success measures will you use / are you using in your organization?


About the author

Stan’s first experience with instructional technology occurred in 1999 when he used SMART Boards to help employees learn how to use the Microsoft Office Suite. He then became an instructional designer and systems trainer for a variety of proprietary CRM software solutions. From there, Stan worked as a Training Manager and later as a Project Manager for an early leader in online education. As his experience with online learning grew, and as his understanding of the need to connect strategy with technology evolved, Stan began to focus on the relationship between blended learning and social business. It was these insights that attracted him to Jive and Pokeshot’s SmarterPath LMS the first time he saw it in 2012. Stan’s current role with the company not only allows him to support the sales, marketing, and product development teams, but it also allows him to work directly with customers as they implement SmarterPath. Prior to joining Pokeshot in October 2016, Stan spent several years working as a freelance consultant, successfully completing learning technology projects for such clients as Right Management, National University System and the U.S. Forest Service.

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