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A major challenge for organizations that are considering internal social media initiatives is that a business case including a financial justification is frequently required.

To be frank, I think ROI calculations for social initiatives are in most cases a waste of time, because so many of the benefits and costs are unknowable before the initiative. A leap of faith is required, after which calculations using real data can be done to help refine strategies.

However if the organization requires a financial case, then those seeing the opportunity need to do what they can to create the case.

Chapter 16 of my report Implementing Enterprise 2.0 is on Building a Business Case. One of the resources I provide in the chapter is a table to help make ROI calculations. All that is required is to put numbers against each of the value and cost items in the table below, where appropriate using a back-of-the-envelope calculation to support them. Not all of the items will be relevant, and you may find other items that are applicable, but it provides a good starting point to generating numbers that can be used in an ROI.

I hope you find it useful! If so, also have a look at the free chapters from Implementing Enterprise 2.0 on issues including risks and benefits, and how these flow into effective governance.

Return on Investment for Enterprise 2.0 and social media

COSTS Measurement issues and criteria
Technology
Software license fees Upfront and/or annual fees, including potential fee increases
Deployment Costs of resources and staff time
Maintenance External maintenance contracts or internal support
Integration costs Ingtegration with existing applications
Additional hardware required Internal hardware or external hosting
Bandwidth Costs Increase in internal and external bandwidth required, based on specific usage scenarios
Adoption
Training Classroom, online, or one-on-one training
Time to learn Time of staff taken to learn or adapt to new systems

TANGIBLE VALUE Measurement issues and criteria
Revenue
New revenue from existing clients More effective selling, cross-selling, or conversion of service calls to sales
Revenue from new clients Acquisition of clients from more effective sales efforts or increased visibility
Increased productivity
Time saved searching for information Reduction in online, phone and other search for information required to do work effectively
Increased effectiveness of access to better information Impact on revenues or costs (depending on role) due to access to resources
Lower costs – company internal communication
Fewer emails Cost of sending emails, time taken to write them, and time taken to deal with email
Fewer phone calls Cost of phone calls and time of staff on calls
Fewer meetings Cost of staff time, meeting facilities, travel time, travel expenses, other meeting resources
Less travel Cost of travel, including direct costs, cost of staff time, impact on morale
Lower costs – technology
Replacement of existing software licenses Cost of existing software and technology that can be replaced with new systems
Reallocation of IT staff IT staff that can be redeployed from existing support or maintenance activities
Lower costs – product development
Reduced time to market Cost of all product development resources, including staff time, overheads, external suppliers etc.
Cost of market research Cost of traditional market research such as focus groups and surveys
Lower costs – suppliers
Reduced communication costs Cost of communicating with suppliers
More efficient supply Cost of supplier resources including staff time saved by more effective collaboration that results in lower fees

INTANGIBLE VALUE Measurement issues and criteria
Brand capital
Increased sales Increased sales from higher reputation and visibility
Ability to hire best staff Impact on revenues and costs from having more capable staff
Increased customer loyalty Increased revenue from lower customer turnover and more word-of-mouth recommendations
Social capital
Greater collaboration More efficient working processes and improved access to resources
Cost of market research Increased productivity
Lower staff turnover Improved staff retention due to better working environment
Innovation
Create new markets Generate new opportunities through better collaboration and swifter product creation
Take market share Increase sales due to better competitive intelligence and response to it
Recruitment/retention
Lower recruiting and training costs Reduction in costs of replacing and developing staff who remain due to a better working environment

For the most current insights and trends in the living networks, follow @rossdawson on Twitter!

  • http://www.boostzone.fr Dominique Turcq

    Fully agreed that most ROI calculations in this field are a waste of time.
    As an interesting benchmark of the potential, but hard to measure, gain is the recent McKinsey MGI study estimating the productivity gains at 25 %. Even if they are wrong by say 50%, this is enough to not miss the train.:
    http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/mgi/research/technology_and_innovation/the_social_economy

    • http://www.rossdawsonblog.com Ross Dawson

      Absolutely :-)

  • Kelly

    Wow. Great stuff. Whether an ROI is useful or not, someone will always be looking for one. Better to be prepared.

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Ross Dawson is globally recognized as a leading futurist, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, strategy advisor, and bestselling author. He is Founding Chairman of AHT Group, which consists of 3 companies: consulting, publishing, and ventures firm Advanced Human Technologies, future and strategy firm Future Exploration Network, and events company The Insight Exchange.

Ross is author most recently of Getting Results From Crowds, the prescient Living Networks, which anticipated the social network revolution, the Amazon.com bestseller Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, and Implementing Enterprise 2.0. (click on the links for free chapter downloads). He is based in Sydney and San Francisco with his wife jewellery designer Victoria Buckley and two beautiful young daughters.

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