Thursday, January 8, 2009

Measuring the benefit of your enterprise interaction platform

Globalisation is changing the way we workThe effects of globalisation are being felt throughout the enterprise space. We are increasingly confronted by the need to accelerate decision making; we are required to coordinate activities across diverse groups of internal teams and external partners and suppliers, we need to be able to interact quickly, flexibly, and effectively with all these people irrespective of geographical location and time-zone, and we need to be able to share knowledge and collaborate using a variety of rich-media and communications tools.

The role of IT in the enterprise is to support interactionTo support the transformation to this new way of working, enterprises are accelerating investments in deployment of knowledge sharing and collaboration tools and are increasing their focuss on business change management and rollout activities needed to accelerate interactions between employees using the tools. But how do we measure success of these initiatives?

Measuring successThe enterprise will no doubt eventually realise economic benefits from rolling out knowledge sharing and collaboration tools, although it is unlikely that any balance sheet or P&L improvements will be noticeable until after a tipping-point is reached and a critical mass of interactions happen using the tools. A large organisation might not see any improvement to the bottom-line for as much as 24 months.

The tipping point can be reached more quickly if the enterprise has the capability to initiate and deliver business change management needed to train champions across their business, provide employee incentives such as reward and recognition schemes for using the tools, and embedding use of tool functionality within the business as usual processes. But how does the enterprise measure and assess the progress with these roll-out activities?

Using Business Intelligence to build change momentumBusiness Intelligence (BI) and reporting are essential components of the business change management initiative needed to support rollout of knowledge sharing and collaboration tools. BI reports provide vital information about how employees are interacting across the enterprise using the tools. The reports are an essential tool in the measurement and assessment of the impact of the business change management activities in the short to medium term i.e. before the economic benefits become visible on the bottom-line.

BI reports provide information about the frequency of interactions, and whether the interactions are increasing or decreasing over time. They can provide an aggregated view of interactions according to the business groupings that are important for each enterprise (e.g. organisational unit, geographical region, or functional area). In other words, if the reports show that interactions are increasing in a business area, then it’s highly-likely that the business change management efforts are having a positive impact in that area and a meaningful transformation is under way. By linking to other information such as the amount, type, and location of the resources used during an interaction, the BI reports can also give an indication of the quality, or value, of an interaction, which in-turn provides an indication of the maturity of the enterprise in its adoption of knowledge sharing and collaboration tools. Reports can be produced in the form of league tables where the business areas are ranked according to the relative number or quality of interactions. The reports can be circulated to provide actionable insights for business area managers, or published more widely to provide all employees with general visibility of progress. And finally, all of this can be automated.

Not all interactions are the same! Some interactions can have a higher value and so be more desirable than others. For example, ‘Sharing’ is a particularly important type of interaction. Sharing is a high-value interaction because it indicates the organisations maturity in using knowledge sharing tools to communicate information and collaborate across borders. Sharing is an important measure of re-use and how well a company is operating globally as one team. ‘Document-sharing’ interactions occur when an information consumer (an employee looking for information) downloads a document that was pubished to the enterprise knowledge store by a different employee who produced or authored the document from another part of the organisation. Document sharing is a highly desirable and valuable interaction in any business with geographically dispersed teams.

Why is this important for the enterprise?
Economic benefits flow from the rollout of knowledge sharing and collaboration tools. The realisation of benefits can be accelerated by executing an effective business change management programme to support the rollout. The process of business change is in turn easier to manage with a clear view of how users interact using the tools.

Why is this important for the interaction platform service provider?
The revenue of the interaction platform service provider, and other networked IT service providers, is directly proportional to the volume and value of interactions that occur using the tools hosted by those service providers. If the business change can be more effectively managed then the revenue flows are accelerated for the service providers.

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