Archive for September, 2011

ROI & Business Case for Enterprise Collaboration

September 5, 2011 1 comment


Consumer-oriented social media platforms are transforming the way that people communicate and accelerating the spread of information at the speed of light. These include social networks, wikis, blogs, discussion forums, activity feeds, streaming media, and micro-blogs. These technologies have the potential to transform the way employees can collaborate, communicate and interact within an organization effectively and efficiently. This is called “Enterprise Collaboration”.

The one constant for all organizations today is change. You need to adapt to the change in the environment. You need to reorganize and respond to change as a team. The organizations that emerge as leaders in this economy are those who have discovered the power of people to decide faster, respond to change faster, implement change faster and collaborate faster.

Business Need & Value

The collaboration landscape is no longer about isolated groups of people that work together to complete a specific job. Today, enterprise collaboration extends more broadly across the organization, encouraging partnerships across teams that might not have previously worked together. What’s the reason behind this shift? It stems from social technologies in the workforce, converting organizations from a “need to know” environment to a “need to share” culture that promotes an open collaboration approach where sharing is the norm and information control is at the discretion of the individual.

Drive & Foster Innovation

As organizations move toward greater levels of sharing as part of embracing the changing workforce and the wide availability of enterprise collaboration platforms designed for business, the drive for innovation within the organization starts to naturally occur. Enterprise Collaboration will play a vital role in fostering innovation. Why? Because the most successful innovation programs are:

Visible: People are more likely to participate in innovation initiatives that are well publicized and transparent and social collaboration tools will allow people to ask questions, share ideas, and discover what people outside of one business area are doing.

Respectful: Social Collaboration tools support real-time and ongoing dialogue that is conversational and representative of different points of view.

Inclusive: Social Collaboration tools help break down organizational silos and cultural barriers.

Enterprise Collaboration tools promote open collaboration that encourages the sharing of ideas which might not have been possible without them. This approach can set the innovation pipeline process in motion. With existing enterprise communication methods such as email, ftp, file servers – the information is not structured, it is very hard to organize and find information quickly. We need more of an organized way to communicate and collaborate across the organization.

This post analyzes the benefits, value, risks and return on investment of having an Enterprise Collaboration platform in the organization.

ROI of Enterprise Collaboration

Current Market Situation: Enterprise Collaboration is represented by 2 terms in the Gartner’s Hype Cycle – Social Analytics and Activity Streams. These are currently in the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” phase and are 2 to 5 years to mainstream adoption. In this phase, a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures. This provides valuable information for implementers – develop a compelling strategy, business case, implementation plan and adoption strategy for successfully implementing an Enterprise Collaboration platform.

Source: Gartner, July 2011 – Hype Cycle on Emerging Technologies

Following are the top factors that determine the ROI of the Enterprise Collaboration platform.

Business Benefits & Value

Enterprise Collaboration enables efficient interaction among people, applications, processes, content and data in real-time in a central information platform. This provides many business benefits and value such as

  • Increase interactive collaboration across the organization.
  • Discover colleagues and follow people, topics and tags.
  • Unlock the vast information generated by employees, processes and applications daily via activity streams and feeds. This provides a social layer to data, latest updates and real-time collaboration.
  • Share quick updates in a targeted way.
  • Help employees to find relevant information and expertise more easily and quickly.
  • Break down silos and cultural barriers.
  • Share ideas and solutions and harness innovation and creativity.
  • Improve communication, collaboration & interaction between management & employees

Business Process Improvements & Outcomes

Enterprise Collaboration will lead to many business process improvements. The ROI for enterprise collaboration platform should be measured more on business process outcomes and engagement rather than just monetary benefits. Following are some of the top business functions/processes that can be integrated with the Enterprise Collaboration platform and achieve “True” business outcomes, improvements and engagement.

  • Social Intranet – A one stop hub for corporate information such as vision, strategy, news, events, updates, shared services and employee directory.  ROI: Provides employees with a social layer to find info quickly and easily, discover expertise, collaborate on corporate information, improve organization wide communication & interaction.
  • Strategy Alignment & Execution – Create, manage, align, execute, publish and communicate strategy across all business units. ROI: Provides efficient alignment of strategy, increases awareness of strategic goals and objectives, improves interaction among management & employees, taps the collective intelligence to foster innovation and creativity to meet the strategic goals and objectives.
  • Project Management – Create and manage projects. ROI: Drives improved communication and collaboration on projects, drives towards organized communication on projects, eliminates email as the main medium for project communication, provides single source of truth on projects to all employees,  provides a direct “Line of Sight” from strategy to projects to individual teams/members, increases awareness of all projects at any given point of time, improves employee satisfaction and motivation, taps collective intelligence to solve project challenges and problems.
  • Knowledge Base – Capture tacit knowledge of systems, data and processes (institutional knowledge). ROI: Facilitates an easy way to capture knowledge, creates and maintains an up to date and real-time knowledge base repository, allows employees to find information quickly and easily, helps customer service reps to resolve customer issues and problems, bridges the gap of content and people.
  • Document Management – Share documents (all types) within the Enterprise Collaboration platform by integrating with Document Management platforms. ROI: Provides employees with an easy and an efficient way to manage and share documents easily and quickly, create in one place and distribute/publish from multiple platforms, search documents by subject, topic or tags, eliminate email as the main communication medium to share documents, get and share document updates via activity streams and feeds, bridges the gap of content and people.
  • Innovation Center – Tap the collective intelligence (crowd sourcing) to share ideas and provide solutions to solve business problems and challenges. ROI: Provides employees the ability to ask questions, share ideas and solutions, address business problems and challenges collectively, ability to conceptualize ideas to solutions collectively, discover expertise and skills across the organization to work on innovative projects.
  • Business Applications Integration – Provide employees “in the flow” capability within the Enterprise Collaboration platform to get work done across many business applications such as approving expenses and vacation requests, reviewing project status reports, querying customer profile from the CRM system, view sales leads and collaborate with the team, view BI reports and collaborate on analytics, follow and get updates on important topics/subjects from systems. ROI: Get the work done from one platform instead of many platforms, improves productivity for employees.
  • Single Sign-on Integration & Security – Provide employees with a seamless way to login and access the Enterprise Collaboration platform and business applications easily and securely from any device, location and any time. This eliminates the need for employees to remember multiple logins/passwords for the growing list of SaaS applications. ROI: Improves security and identity management of all applications, eliminates help desk request on forgot/change passwords.
  • Unified Communications – Provide employees with an interactive and an unified communication layer (email, audio/video conferencing, desktop sharing, IM etc) to collaborate and communicate more efficiently. Bridges the gap among process, data, content and people. ROI: Provides employees with a quick and simple way to communicate and collaborate across boundaries in an interactive way on any topic, project, document, discussion item, problem and idea. Bridges the gap of social, data and people.

Risks & Challenges

Implementing an Enterprise Collaboration platform is not without any risks and challenges. The top risks and challenges are vendor viability and platform adoption. Addressing these challenges and risks are very important to the success of the Enterprise Collaboration platform on a long-term.

Vendor Viability – Vendor viability is very critical in this fast growing enterprise collaboration market space. Following are some sample questions that you need to do know about the vendor.

  • Who is the management? What is their experience?
  • Is it funded by a VC firm? Who is it?
  • What are their financials? How many customers do they have?
  • What is their organization structure? How many employees? Where are they located?
  • How many employees are there in the product development & support team?
  • What is their product road-map and strategy?
  • How are they managing their product strategy? Competition, Market, Positioning, Customer requirements? How is this communicated and how often?
  • How do they accommodate customer requirements into their product strategy? Is there a customer advisory council?
  • What is included and excluded in the pricing? Will you charge for new product features?
  • Are they open to contract negotiations that meet the company legal needs & requirements?
  • What is the minimum contract period? Are there any discounts for long-term contract? Is there an option to exit during the contract and what are the terms & conditions, penalties?
  • How is the platform supported and maintained?
  • What SLAs are available – reliability, availability, performance, issues, requests etc? Penalties?
  • What types of credits are available if SLAs are not met?
  • Are the terms & conditions of the contract tied to the SLAs?
  • Is the exit strategy tied to the SLAs?
  • Is there a regular meeting (monthly/quarterly) to review the SLAs, issues, requests?
  • Who will be part of the SLAs meetings?
  • How are the issues escalated if the SLAs are not complied? Who can we escalate to in the management team?

Platform Adoption – Employees will adopt and use the platform more if they can “do” & “get” the work done more efficiently and effectively.  They will not find the enterprise collaboration platform useful “If”,

  • It is just one more place to find information
  • Not required to get any work done
  • Requires one more login/password
  • Not all the employees are on the platform
  • Cannot discover people/skills due to lack of profile completeness
  • Cannot find important information
  • Has more “white noise” rather than useful information
  • Lack of participation
  • Not used for organization wide communication & updates
  • Lack of communication on the purpose of the platform.

Develop a compelling strategy and business case based on the above information to get management buy-in for the implementation of an Enterprise Collaboration platform


  • What’s the vision? Where do we want to go? Why do we want to go there?
  • How does it align with the organization’s strategy, goals, objectives & values?

Business Case

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Key Objectives? In terms of Innovation, Idea generation, Collaboration, Communication, Excellence, Learning & Support, Competitive advantage etc
  • How does it align to the strategy?
  • What are the key drivers?
  • Why now? How does having an enterprise collaboration platform help being a “True” & “Efficient” Social Enterprise and compliment traditional/offline collaboration methods?
  • How is this different from Knowledge management tools?
  • Who will benefit? Key stakeholders? Internal (employees), External (customers, partners, vendors)?
  • What are the benefits & “VALUE” in business terms? Productivity, Satisfaction, Process Improvement etc
  • How will engagement and morale improve?
  • What challenges, issues or pain points does this address? If not addressed, what’s the impact?
  • How does it impact other business processes?
  • Key sponsors (Management buy-in is very important on a continuous basis)
  • Investment required? Cost, time and effort?
  • ROI? How about ROE (Return on Engagement)? In this case, ROE should emphasize more on business outcomes, engagement rather than monetary benefits.
  • Identify the key metrics – adoption, use, impact, value etc
  • Last but not the least – What are the risks?

To become a true Social Enterprise, organizations need to

  • Understand Social Media and make use of Social Networks such as Facebook & Twitter to interact with customers and partners.
  • Implement an Enterprise Collaboration platform for employees to collaborate & communicate.
  • Create  Social Networks for Customers/Partners to understand their requirements better.
  • Develop and integrate Social Networks & Enterprise Collaboration platform with Enterprise Applications.
  • Listen and monitor activities, conversations to drive Business Strategy, Decisions & Development.

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