Linking social software to business results

Deloitte put out a report titled “Social software for business performance | The missing link in social software:  Measurable business performance improvements” (which you can find here).    The authors rightly point out that while social software has the potential to address “pain points” in the organization, “significantly enhance business performance in the short term”, and have a transformational impact in the long-term, initial implementations are failing to deliver meaningful results, justifying skepticism from the C-suite.

In most cases, the metrics of choice have been those centered on adoption and utilization, such as the percentage of workforce using a tool, the number of ideas generated, or vague statements such as the ability to “connect and collaborate better”.    While there is merit to these metrics, they do not directly impact organization success.  Deloitte recommends action metrics that impact business performance, which requires social software to be embedded and integrated into the daily workflow of users, and not metrics reflective of the advertising-centric web world, where revenue is generated by the capture and selling of attention.

Deloitte identifies five unique capabilities of social software:

  1. Identifying expertise
  2. Facilitate cross-boundary communication & conversation
  3. Preserve institutional memory
  4. Harness distributed knowledge
  5. Discover emerging opportunities

Deloitte advocates understanding the motivations of users at different tiers and aligning the metrics to how the tool can support organizational performance.  Individual employees may favor efficiency, while managers emphasize operational performance, and where executives focus on financial impact.  Addressing organizational “pain points” and applying social software to solving the pain creates a virtuous cycle between adoption and action, with a (theoretical) measurable increase in performance.

The report goes on to describe an adoption process and provides a methodology for decision making regarding task-tool fit.  There is also a matrix matching social software tools with capabilities. The social software approach is as follows:

  • Identify an opportunity
  • Define a solution
  • Define desired capabilities
  • Define organizational requirements
  • Identify Vendor
  • Determine implementation strategy
  • Implement

My own personal interest in the adoption of social software is the potential for transformative impact.  The authors posit that social software maturity passes through three phases.  First is using social software for completion of a transaction or task.  This is followed by the use of social software for the establishment and usage of a user’s reputation and through the building and maintenance of relationships.  Those relationships lastly increase the likelihood of future interactions where “sustainable performance improvements” and learning can take place as informal teams emerge to work on specific tasks, challeneges, or interests.  This last phase if the final frontier of social software: the promise of knowledge creation, pattern recognition, and collaborative innovation.


DeCoulode, M.; Hagel, J.; Kulasooriya, D.; Marks, A.; Miller, M.; Seely Brown, J. (2011).  Social software for business performance | The missing link in social software:  Measurable business performance improvements.  Deloitte Development LLC.


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