ROI and value of enterprise social collaboration Enabling our teams to work together better – to collaborate and engage – might be the competitive differentiator of the 21st century.  The days of the production-line worker, the inbox/outbox process and any other repetitive task for humans to perform – are vanishing quickly.  With automation, apps and robotics replacing humans at an unprecedented rate, our ability to collaborate to innovate, inspire, inform and to discover new insights might be one of the last ways to differentiate human labor from an automated workforce.  And this collaboration needs to be both inside and outside of our organizations – with customers, co-workers, prospects and partners.

Organizations serious about their future, and the future success of their employees, are making serious investments into enterprise social collaboration.

But there is a problem.  Most organizations have only a vague notion of how they are doing with social collaboration – let alone a vision and measurable goals for how they will make improvements. 

Organizations serious about their future, and the future success of their employees, are making serious investments into enterprise social collaboration.

Enterprise Social Collaboration – By the Numbers

Collaboration gap metric from Center for Creative LeadershipThe Center for Creative Leadership tells us that 86% of leaders have defined collaboration across boundaries as critical to the success of their organization; but only 7% of those same leaders feel that their team is good at this critical skill.  That’s a 79% gap between a critical need, and the ability to execute (click here for more). 

A recent IBM study of more than 1,700 CEO’s from around the globe found much the same, with collaboration becoming “the number 1 trait CEOs are seeking in their employees, with 75% of CEOs calling it critical,” (article). 

And in this research, Gallup points out that, “when organizations successfully engage their customers and their employees, they experience a 240% boost in performance-related business outcomes.” But Gallup also notes that in most workplaces, only about 30% of employees are actually engaged – with a nearly equal number actively disengaged and hurting the value of the organization.

When MIT did research on social collaboration, they found that if 5% of the least collaborative employees in a company improved their skills from below-average, to just average, they would save the other 95% approximately 3.75 hours per week.  If you’re in a 1,000 person organization, that adds up to 3,500 hours per week – or nearly 2 full-time years of labor each week.  MIT also identified the risk of teams that are held together by only a small group of individuals; in these cases, the departure of a single key individual can cause significant organizational disruption.

And as far back as 1973 – long before modern enterprise social collaboration tools and paradigms existed – Sociologist Mark Granovetter observed that our weakest connections can be the areas of greatest opportunity.  Strategically strengthening connections with those we do not already collaborate with can be far more productive than collaborating with those we already work with closely.  Why?  Because weak connections are an indicator of a wider gap in experiences, knowledge and interests – bridging that gap means opening up new worlds that leads to more insights, innovation and inspiration.

Three Things We Know about Social Collaboration

So we know three things: (1) enterprise social collaboration is critical, (2) virtually every organization chronically falls far short of their potential in this area, and (3) organizations that can make even a small incremental gain in this area stand to leapfrog the marketplace.

Here’s what we don’t know …

How is Our Enterprise Doing with Social Collaboration?

Measuring social connections. For all of the research on collaboration that we have, no organization really has a good benchmark for where they are now – let alone a good idea of what kind of progress that they are making.  Yes, there are employee engagement and satisfaction surveys that can be a guideline.  But those tools don’t let us get to a granular level of detail to measure who is collaborating with who, who is having a positive or negative influence on others, and the strength of those ties.

But, for the first time ever, this kind of analytics is possible.  Because we can track many of the connections that are made via email, social posts/likes/follows, document sharing, meeting attendance and so on – we can begin to quantify the number, strength and “energy” (positive or negative) of the connections in our organizations.  Not only is this data available for the first time ever – but big data analytics tools make it possible to efficiently aggregate all of this data and to produce usable reports. We can also track the interests and strengths of individuals to aid in identifying those with the most (and least) overlap in these areas.

Modern enterprise social collaboration tools and big data analytics means that, for the first time ever, we can measure employee and customer engagement at a granular level.

In the nearby image, you can visualize social collaboration as: the strength of connections (dotted vs solid lines), groups at higher risk of losing collaborative ties (lower right-hand side), energy of the individual (color of dot), quantity/influence of collaboration (size of dot), and specific connections to other individuals.

Why Measuring Collaboration Matters

Now that we can measure enterprise social engagement, what should we do with those numbers?

In the same research from MIT quoted earlier, it was observed that strategically assigning individuals to the right teams results in those team members being sited 55% more often as top performers – even junior employees received this halo effect from better collaboration.  We know that small improvements can spell big returns (see above).  We know that weak connections, if they can be identified, can be strengthened to produce more innovation.  And we know that attitudes are contagious – if we can turn around just a few of the disengaged employees in an organization by better connecting them to the highly engaged, we can stop settling for incremental gains and we can make evolutionary leaps.

Incremental improvements in social collaboration can drive explosive business growth.

In other words, once organizations begin to measure enterprise social collaboration, they can provide strategic focus to teams, projects and tasks that creates a more collaborative environment.  Leveraging that knowledge to go from 28% employee engagement to just 32% employee engagement translates into a tremendous bottom-line difference – not to mention a much higher level of satisfaction in the workplace.


Interested in measuring and improving the level of social collaboration within your organization?  Contact C5 Insight to get started.