Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Usefulness or Usability in Enterprise Social

jeff_useful_usableEnterprise social networks—internal platforms designed to foster collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing among employees—are yet another tool for improving how work gets done. But they are unlikely to replace e-mail and other forms of communication.

Besides highlighting the potential in using social technologies to reach consumers in new ways, this research by McKinsey Global Institute reveals there is twice as much potential value in “using social tools to enhance communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within and across enterprises.” Key findings include value and importance of design and—as part of that discussion—the difference between something being useable and useful. It’s one thing to make your product easy to use. But does it solve a problem? Is it indispensable? Those, of course, are different things.

Is it more important to be useful than useable? Most people will work harder to figure something out if they know what output it will generate for them. But too often companies focus on good design and usability at the expense of understanding and delivering deep customer value.

  • Using social technologies to enhance internal communication and collaboration could increase the productivity of knowledge workers with as much as 25%.
  • The annual value that could be unlocked by social technologies in four sectors lies somewhere between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion.

Most enterprises are jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to investing in social networks. Yet relatively few of their employees are actively participating. Although the low rates of active participation may seem disappointing, they are consistent with the “natural ceiling” on participation that’s found in public social networks and with other enterprise collaboration tools.

In most social networks, a small group of users contributes the lion’s share of the content, while a larger group reads but doesn’t contribute content, and a third group neither reads nor contributes.

Given the modest rates of participation, enterprises should set the right expectations for their social networks. Because most networks aren’t expensive to implement, even small improvements in communication, collaboration, or knowledge sharing will likely produce a positive return on investment.

To promote adoption, companies can provide training and communicate the benefits of participation. The tipping point in building engagement will come when enterprises are able to make social networks part of their existing workflows and business processes.

In one business case by The IBM Institute for Business Value, “The Business of Social Business: What Works and How It′s Done,” more than 1,100 executives worldwide were surveyed and in-depth interviews conducted with 26 companies that are recognized as leaders in social business.

Key findings include:

  • 46% increased their investments in social business in 2012 and 62% intend to increase their investments during the next two years
  • 67% of the companies are applying social business within their marketing and 54% within public relations function
  • Customer service and sales are two areas where social business adoption is expected to grow most rapidly his study provides evidence that there lies real economic value in social engagement
  • 32% of senior executives report that an unclear strategy for change is a roadblock for social business adoption
  • Companies that fully embrace social engagement are experiencing four times greater business impact than less-engaged companies
  • The average return on social engagement was calculated to be between 3-5%. The most engaged businesses are reporting a calculated 7.7% business impact
  • The lowest performers achieved a 1.9% estimated return.  Two-thirds of the organizations achieving the highest returns reported that their C-suites are active advocates of social engagement


So, is it more important to be useful than useable?  It is apparent that companies are seeing the usefulness of an enterprise social network.  The companies that have fumbled this initiative blame it on the technology, but is it the technology or is it user error?  As more companies roll out these initiatives, it is imperative to talk to the end users and have a road map in place for successful adoption plans.

This blog was originally posted on ViewDo labs and was republished with the author’s permission.