If you have a mature community (i.e., you didn't just launch in the last 3-4 months), do you spend the time and effort needed to correlate community participation with business key performance indicators (KPIs)?
Here's why I ask.
Jive Strategy Consultants (like me) work with our customers to build out high-level measurement plans. One of the "legs" of that plan includes trying to correlate how participation in your employee community platform contributes to overall business objectives. Of course, it's all circumstantial evidence - no smoking gun - since you can't control for all the other factors in the work/market/world environment, but you can draw some useful conclusions.
(By the way, if you're looking for a method by which to correlate your community participation (vitality stats + perceived value statements via anecdotes and surveys) with related business outcomes, see Olivier Blanchard's (@thebrandbuilder) The Basics of Social Media ROI. It's focused on externally-facing social media, but the method works for internal.)
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Let's say your hypothesis is this:
employees participate in the community by sharing, discussing, and refining ideas for improving or innovating our products, services, or key business processes,
more / better ideas will be generated,
more / better improvements/innovations to our products, services, or key business processes,
which aligns to
our organization's global initiative of "Be Innovative To Capture Marketshare"
Over time, your hypothesis might be proven true if you experience the following trends in your existing business metrics (forget about community metrics for now):
- Higher # ideas submitted to the innovation process (Innovation processes are usually well in place in most large organizations, and have been long before e20 came along)
- Better quality ideas are submitted ("quality" might be measured by how far along the innovation process the idea traverses, or how many "gates" it gets through)
But, that doesn't prove that community participation had anything to do with it. So, you re-frame the evidence statements, like this:
- Increase in # ideas submitted that were generated by the community
- More better-quality ideas come from the community compared to non-community-generated ideas
How would you track that? Well, you could do it the low-tech way, and simply ask the idea submitter if s/he participated in the community to form the idea they're submitting. If you're using Jive Ideas, this step wouldn't be necessary, of course. Instead, you could simply track how many Jive Ideas made it past the next "gate" (e.g. it gets funded for further investigation).
So, here's my question.
Let's say it's been a year since you launched, you have good adoption and participation numbers, you're getting quality success anecdotes and community member survey responses about how the community is helping to achieve business value.
Do you spend the time and effort it would take to prove your hypothesis using existing business metrics?
Here are some answers to this question that I've heard in the wild - all are true statements from Jive customers:
"No, because using the employee community is just how we do things now. It'd be like trying to prove the business value of email, or the phone."
"We just measure vitality stats and internally market success anecdotes and survey results, and that seems to be enough proof that it's providing business value."
"Yes, because, even though we've PROVEN that using the employee community has enabled us to get our software products developed and released SIX TIMES FASTER - that means we get six more releases out the door in a year than before we launched the community two years ago - our new CEO doesn't see the value in the community. I actually have to prove my value as a community manager all over again, too."
"All we needed was one fantastic success story that demonstrated how using the community saved us millions of dollars. It's value was proven with that one anecdote."
So, how about you? Will you spend the time and effort to correlate community participation to existing business metrics? If not, why not? If so, why?