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March - 2009 - issue > Technology
Enterprise wide Social Networking Business Intelligence
Puneet Gupta and Hutch Carpenter
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Enterprise 2.0 continues to expand across businesses and enterprises. In a February 2009 article, consulting firm McKinsey writes that social software “could have a more far-reaching organizational impact than technologies adopted in the 1990s.”1 Market research firm Forrester projects an annual growth in Enterprise 2.0 expenditures of 43%. Clearly, the future of collaboration and information belongs to these new tools and we are seeing the beginnings of a new era of how information will be created, consumed, and discovered inside organizations and the social network effects that both guide and form as a consequence of this.
Aside from the benefits of better collaboration, wider employee participation and information discovery, the expansion of social software applications inside organizations gives rise to yet another very powerful benefit:

The ability to see for the first time how information is flowing inside an organization and how human capital is being put to use. Think about that. Previous tools for sharing and collaborating have primarily consisted of email, work productivity desktop applications and portals – very structured and rigid in their set up and interaction, and never really providing a free form medium for users to leave their impressions and opinions behind in the way that the class of Enterprise 2.0 applications are providing. The earlier tools were often deployed with the methodology of ‘one size fits all’ and tended to guide all users in a specific predefined way. Consequently, the ability for an organization to really and effectively measure and impact their human capital has never existed.
Put it another way. How easy is it for your organization to answer these questions?

* Where are employees turning to for information used in their daily activities, and what is the quality of that information?
* In information searches, is the most relevant information surfacing to the top?
* Is duplicate information being created because already created information is hard to find, and how often is this happening?
* Are users spending time researching from scratch when there already is existing research and experts in house?
* In project executions, where is the breakdown occurring?

* How are users making use of various Enterprise 2.0 applications scattered around your enterprise?

* Over time how is the spectrum of connections between content-to-content, content-to-people, and people-to-people progressing across the enterprise?

Ability to answer these questions represents a huge opportunity for companies and a distinct competitive advantage in operational excellence. By their nature, today’s social software applications enable significantly greater visibility into the way information flows, and Connectbeam’s Social Networking Business Intelligence (SNBI) platform continuously gathers and monitors social interactions and information flows to deliver a whole slue of collaboration analytics and business intelligence on this social metadata. Three factors account for this new capability: Participation on a common application: With Enterprise 2.0 applications, such as wikis, blogs, etc. all employees interact on the same application instance. Contrast this with traditional applications like Microsoft Word, where everyone has their own installed instance on their desktop. Enterprise 2.0 applications make it easy to access all user engagements with information. Social orientation: Enterprise 2.0’s foundation is its social context: open, visible contributions and interactions occur with an invitation to all or to groups to participate. Sharing is encouraged, and information dissemination is accelerated by Web 2.0 styled information workflows and user participation. Barriers to information flow are reduced, increasing throughput and making their measurement possible and more meaningful. Better signals of information engagement: Social software applications include a range of features which let users engage with information in measurable ways. Employees view, bookmark, tag, rate, comment on, edit, micro-share and search for information. Contrast that with the traditional engagement: receive an emailed document, and download it to one’s hard drive. Enterprise 2.0 offers a much richer set of data to capture on how information flows.

Capturing this valuable engagement data and making it actionable presents organizations with a clear opportunity to visualize and improve the way information is both consumed and contributed to by employees. So far, understanding and measuring employee social networks that exist in every organization, has been a challenge that organizations have had no framework to capture and grasp
Through Connectbeam’s Social Networking Business Intelligence (SNBI) product, enterprises effectively capture the implicit social networks that define information flow among employees and the social networks that form on an ad hoc basis. X-Ray into Information Flow Today, more than 85% of a typical S&P 500 company’s market value is the result of intangible assets. For many companies, the bulk of these intangible assets are its people, its human capital. It is no longer what you own that counts but what you know.

Craig Symons, Forrester Research
The information that employees create and consume is the lifeblood of companies. Corporate value is heavily dependent on what employees know and their ability to execute on and share that knowledge, and collectively grow. Thus, information creation and dissemination is a key driver of success, or failure, in the market.

With social software applications, employees leave digital fingerprints on the content they access during the course of a day. These digital fingerprints – the engagement signals - provide insight into what is influencing the daily work of employees.

Hewlett-Packard’s Social Computing Lab studied these digital fingerprints for HP’s internal social media platform, WaterCooler. They found that 55% of views for a typical author’s blog were from outside his business group. One employee noted that reading blogs outside her business group helped her “understand the bigger picture of what’s happening at HP.”3
HP researchers also identified two employees whose blogs received a disproportionate share of views, finding long tail characteristics even internally.

These findings are important, in that they point to the nature of how people find and internalize information and more importantly how organizations can then replicate them and make these traits into their best practices. Traditional levers of information dissemination, such as the mass email, are efficient distribution modes. But they’re not necessarily the way people are determining which information to act on, and which information to ignore.

Professor Rob Cross of the University of Virginia analyzes organizational social networks. He works with large organizations, surveying employees to create a view of the internal network map. In his work, he has found that “quite often mangers and executives are surprised by this kind of view as it reveals employees they did not recognize as being so central to the network or peripheral members whom they thought were more influential.”4
What analytics solutions, such as Connectbeam SNBI, provide is a significantly better sense of:

* How employees find information?
* Who is providing influential content?
* What topics are most energizing employees’ daily activities?
* Who are the present resident experts on a given topic?

Once management understands the answers to these questions, they can leverage employees’ information social networks to better manage the process of getting relevant information to employees.

For example, assume a particular employee has become a go-to resource for colleagues, based on the quality of the knowledge she shares (on wikis, blogs, etc.). This is seen by tracking the engagement of employees with her content.
Company management has decided to make a push in the same area for which she has become a go-to knowledge source.

The normal course of action would be to follow the corporate hierarchy, send out emails and hold meetings announcing the new initiative. These traditional mechanisms still apply.
But through understanding the information networks of employees, the management team can better connect content to people. In this case, they can work with the influential employee to ensure the initiative gets the proper attention and rationale in her contributions.
This improves the way employees internalize the information. Her content complements – and perhaps even leads – management’s message.
Once employees’ social networks are identified, companies can vastly improve the way information is shared and internalized by employees. Diagnose Disconnects in Execution With this analytical insight into the ways in which employees engage with and internalize information, companies suddenly have a powerful tool to diagnose disconnects in execution.
Making changes in operations, processes, products and other organizational initiatives consists of three activities:

1. Awareness
2. Planning
3. Execution

Planning and execution activities are the province of internal team processes and the collaborative tools that make up social software. But before employees can plan and execute, they need awareness of the information relevant to the initiative. Social information analytics can be used to gauge the level of awareness. By analyzing employees’ engagement with key information, companies can diagnose if underperformance is related to lack of awareness about information. If so, a remediation plan is fairly easy to put in place.

The value of social information analytics is derived from its deep insight and versatile use cases.

Which Apps Deliver the Most Value? As discussed, analyzing the engagement signals with information provides actionable new insights uniquely available through social software.

Another benefit to companies is the ability to see which of their social software applications are providing the most value and what combinations are resulting in maximum value to employees.

Value, of course, is a subjective measure. For example, activity metrics around content creation, page views and other engagement signals provide a first level filter for evaluating applications. If people aren’t using the applications, they’re not delivering value.
But smart information network analysis platform like Connectbeam’s SNBI go a level deeper. Blogs, for instance, likely will have fewer contributions and views than the company wiki. The purpose of blogs differs from wikis though, and a lower level of activity is expected. The SNBI product needs to be aware of such idiosyncrasies across different applications.

The key to the analysis of a blogging platform’s value will be seen in metrics such as:
* Level of engagement within a blogger’s department
* Breadth of readership outside a blogger’s department
* Comments per blog post
* Percentage of overall social software contributions that the blog represents for individuals, teams or business units
* Internal blog subscriptions
* Association of blogs to emerging keywords that reflect the company’s future

Thus, the value of social software depends on multiple factors beyond simple activity metrics.

In another example, assume a new social software application has been implemented, one that management has high hopes for. But after several weeks, uptake hasn’t been at the level expected. With analytics in place, one can compare the most active and popular contributors, as well as those who consume the content most frequently, and compare their usage to the new application.
These active employees are valuable sources of feedback. They can provide insight as to why or why not they have been using the application, and where either features or implementation can be improved. Through social network analytics, companies have a powerful tool for achieving their goals.

But these kinds of analyses are unavailable to organizations today. The typical implementation includes several best-of-breed applications, with limited analytics. With Connectbeam Social Network Business Intelligence, organizations no longer need to be in the dark about how information and innovation flow among employees. Gain valuable and actionable insight into your organization’s information networks to improve company performance.
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