The social computing business case

Posted: March 9, 2010 in Enterprise 2.0
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Last week I took part in a great Enterprise 2.0 conference in Copenhagen and it gave me a brilliant opportunity to talk to dozens of Enterprise 2.0 practitioners from industry and organizations – and, of course, the ‘gurus’ :)

A very common challenge among practitioners is the executive sponsorship – (ahem) or lack thereof. Even in companies which I would consider really having a finger on the pulse and being social media leaders, practitioners report lack of C-level sponsorship, lack of interest and, not least, lack of money. These are the same decision-makers who regularly fund ERP projects with seven or eight figure budgets. My conclusion, at this stage, is that top executives are still largely ignorant about Enterprise 2.0 terminologies and, at best, they are only vaguely familiar with terms like Enterprise 2.0, corporate social media, social computing, microblogging and wikis. At worst, they consider them a waste of time and believe we’re talking about Facebook.

But just like any other sound business decision, a decision to deploy corporate social media needs to be based on a sound business case. This is the merciless truth about corporate sponsorships and bags of cash to follow.


Let’s look at some of the drivers. According to social media guru Suw Charman-Anderson, 38% of all employees get more than 100 emails a day, 13% more than 250 emails and 20% spend more than 4 hours a day sifting through emails. We check our emails on average every 5 minutes and it takes us 64 seconds to get our train of thought back on track after we deal with email. This means we spend 48 days a year figuring out what we were just doing. Email is quickly becoming the number one productivity obstacle. An organizational dinosaur. 1-0. Go figure out how much productivity potential lies in driving communication and collaboration from email to social media in your organization.

A recent study by the INSEAD and Wharton business schools provided overwhelming evidence that virtual brainstorming, or distributed idea generation as it’s also known as (e.g. wikis), outperforms actual face-to-face brainstorming. Let’s think about that one. “This has significant managerial implications: if the interactive build-up [of team brainstorming] is not leading to better ideas, an organization might be better off relying on asynchronous idea generation by individuals using, for example, web-based idea management systems.” So if your organization is focused on innovation, this is the way to go. 2-0 and it’s not even half time.

Bottom line, companies are beginning to reap major benefits in terms of higher revenues (through shared external networks), faster time to market (through more effective collaboration and innovation), lower employee turnover (through better talent attraction and retention) and higher productivity (through less duplication of efforts). The list goes on.

In the words of one of my Twitter followers:

“It’s certainly interesting to see what social computing can do for our existing organizations, but it’s even more interesting to see what organizations we can build with social computing”.

Let’s build your business case!

  1. Hark! Have you connected the ROI dots of social media/networking/learning to deliver the unicorn known as Return on Performance (ROP)???

    I think I may have to blog about this as well now. Nice post Ole.

  2. Nice post Ole and thanks for mentioning LumoFlow.

    Greetings from Plugg in Brussels!


  3. olekassow says:

    @Dan. Return on Performance! That’s a nice one. It sounds like it’s just up my street of motivation and performance leadership. Along the lines of Dan Pink
    Whenever you connect more of the dots, please let me know – and I’ll reciprocate :)

    @Bart. Good luck at Plugg (!)

  4. […] PDRTJS_settings_409814_post_11846 = { "id" : "409814", "unique_id" : "wp-post-11846", "title" : "Highly+recommended%3A+Ole+Kassow%27s+The+social+computing+business+case+", "item_id" : "_post_11846", "permalink" : "" } Found at (tnx Mark Fidelman) The social computing business case « ole kassow, inc.. […]

  5. Con Georgiou says:

    Great post Ole,

    Having spend 3 years at a cutting edge unified communications company who was working on the concept of Unified Productivity (early stage Ent 2.0 with state based interruption management) I was tasked with building awareness to the limitations of old school tools as email. In fact after some research I discovered and therefore presented to over 100 steering committee’s here in Sydney, Australia on the performance and psychological implications of such tools when combined with interruptions by phones, people, IM etc.
    More often than not after the presentation I would be approached by eager senior executives who sought a solution to their bunt out state.You see old Ent 1.0 leads to many dysfunctional behaviors such as ADD and Constant Partial Attention without satisfaction. The worse kind, the constant habitual checking of emails, concerns over outstanding actions and the barrage of interruptions is very unsatisfying at the end of the day. Its not about being busy its about doing satisfying empowered work. Ent 2.0 reduces clutter by getting me the best data, knowledge and wisdom as filtered through a reputation management engine and helps therefore helps me create more satisfying work by reducing rework.
    Not that the challenge goes away with Ent 2.0 but that social computing can be more in line with the brain’s organic operating system, or Wetware as I like to call it. I highly recommend Prof. David Meyer’s work on the effects of distraction. He claims that the brain cannot process more than two things on the same plane at the same time. Think about that for a second. The biggest killer is that 40% of the time we don’t go back to what we were doing before the interruption. So we don’t just need a better way to work for business we need a better way to work for our mental health.

    I have some suggestions on peak performance at work at Hope this is valuable.


  6. olekassow says:

    @Congo Thanks for some excellent points. I couldn’t agree more with you.

    “Inboxication”, what a great word. It has just entered my list of most poignant expressions. Just imagine that just 15 years ago most people didn’t have email and everybody wanted it. Today we all have it (or we have several) and it’s become one of the biggest obsessions and productivity inhibitors known to mankind.

    According to Suw Charman-Anderson today’s email behaviour closely resembles the kind of behaviour observed in rats in a Skinner Box (Google Skinner and operant conditioning). As soon as we can’t see a clear connection between action and reward, we develop an obsession with checking our inbox. The resemblance is this: As soon as a rat can’t see a clear connection between pressing a lever to get food and actually getting the food reward, it shifts its focus from the food itself and develops an obsession with pressing the lever.

    Likewise, if I can’t see a clear connection between checking my inbox and getting the dopamine rush of that great email I am waiting for (which, by the way, may just be a reply to some email *I* sent to someone else), I develop the same kind of obsession with checking my inbox (I’m inboxicated) and I do it all the time.

    There’s probably no getting away from email 100%, but there is a ton of ways to reduce email obsession very significantly. E2.0 will pave some of the way, as long as we make sure the Skinner Box principle doesn’t follow us to Yammer, Twitter or the company wiki.

  7. JB says:

    We talk a lot with our customers (mostly Global 2000) about ‘competition for attention’ … and ‘return on attention’. Rich media; micro interactivity around communities of interest and practice; and mobile are big big topics next 12/18 months. Thanks for the post!

  8. olekassow says:

    Hi JB
    I agree, it’s always useful to talk about “return on…” when addressing C-level executives. The challenge is often how you measure that return – is it measurable and does the person in question believe in it?
    When talking ‘return on attention’ how do you measure it and what’s the response? I’d be very keen to hear your experiences, as I suspect it could be another solid argument for our collective business case.

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