Just some final thoughts around wiki ROI and to pull together some conversations that have been happening off-blog.
Luis was kind enough to get in touch and shed some light on some of my assumptions. Yes, he is internally facing but evidently does have some contact with customers – but mainly uses IM, Facebook or Twitter to communicate rather than email! I personally find it interesting that Facebook starts to become a one-to-one business communication channel as opposed to something like LinkedIn!
Ross Mayfield from SocialText was kind enough to link and point out that he sees a 30% reduction in email volume (as opposed to my guestimate of 25%) amongst his customers when they adopt wikis instead of email.
Andrea over at Rewarding Dialogue commented that in order to fully understand the net value of Luis’s exercise we need to understand how much time Luis is spending on alternative communication tools. I addressed this to a degree in my follow-on post on Wiki cost savings vs revenue growth and hope to talk further with Luis to get more details on this (watch this space!) but would like to add some thoughts here:
- Even if a large amount of time is spent on alternative forms of communication – Web 2.0 activity such as wiki edits and blog posts tend to be driven by the author’s schedule. Email has a tendency to be driven by the sender’s schedule (how many times have you seen someone answer a Blackberry email in a meeting, or worse, at dinner!) So moving the ‘ownership’ of the activity to the sender will have an increase in productivity anyway
- I mentioned that I found Luis’s initial email volume (30-45 per day) somewhat low. Luis points out to me that this is because he has been an advocate of social computing over email for over 8 years! So he was already reaping the benefits of this working pattern compared to the rest of us who may get hundreds of emails per day, and this experiment has been taking it to an extreme.
Luis also pointed me to a post on the Wikinomics blog which uses this picture courtesy of Chris Rasmussen at US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to sum up the efficiency argument in a devastatingly effective way.
However, there is another area of ROI which I think we will always struggle to quantify. How do you factor in those moments of serendipity, where three people via their posts to a wiki realise there is a new way of doing things, a new product, a new channel, a new business partner which could fundamentally change the future of an organisation? You can put KPIs in to measure these things (such as % of revenue from new products, % of projects initiated by ideas from outside the organisation, % of products sold direct vs referrals) but making the ROI case for initial investment is difficult because these tools do not guarantee success or new innovative ideas, rather they increase the chances of it happening.
The way I believe the ROI case should be made is on low, modest claims amongst a small focused group of people. Wikis are extremely cheap to deploy, especially on a trial basis. You need to identify this group carefully and get the behaviour/culture right (that’s where people like me come in!) So wikis can be deployed on the ‘reduce email’ argument, but where they will really prove their worth is those moments where people come together and ideas form in a way that would not have been possible previously.
So the efficiency/cost saving ROI argument might be what gets wikis (and Web 2.0/Social Media) in the door on a pilot. What will make them scale within an Enterprise, however, will be the success stories about how they fostered innovation and revenue growth.