The ROI of Enterprise 2.0 – an Accountant’s View

(2019-07-15) Updated metadata. Sadly CIMA seem to have retired the community blogs site so the core post and paper referenced in this post are now lost to the world

Louise Ross from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants has created a blog post and paper to guide CIMA members on constructing business cases for Enterprise 2.0 efforts. [via Bill Ives].

In the paper Louise sets out 20 brief case studies from various companies, and surveys typical commercial uses for a wide range of social tools. She goes on to pick out several key questions that organisations should consider: is the organisation suited to this approach; is there a real community to tap into; when and where to implement; is the information “good”; and is the company prepared for the changes that might come? She then spends several pages on more general guidance on how to construct the business case and investment analysis.

Louise emphasises the need to understand the likely benefits, even if uncertain, and the importance of changes in behaviour to support those benefits. This, for me, could usefully have been extended with some reference to benefits mapping as a tool to firstly gain consensus on the benefits and what would need to happen to get them, secondly to communicate those benefits and changes to senior management in support of the business case, and thirdly to provide a framework for measurement.

The changes in behaviour needed to gain benefit in the enterprise from social tools are significant, and as many have commented (e.g. Euan Semple, Jon Husband), they are often changes that sit uncomfortably with senior business, finance, technology and HR managers. This is precisely the sort of scenario where a clear visual emphasis, such as a benefits map, that you need to change what you do, not just the technology you use, is of use in shaping the approach taken by management.

As a member of the Internet-using public I’m always a little sceptical of companies who see Web 2.0 as yet another “channel” for push marketing and sales approaches. In the conclusion to the longer paper, Louise notes that people often resent such overt tactics, and writes “[…] Instead, I think the greatest potential for web 2.0 tools come from their role in encouraging collaboration; and accessing talent outside the organisation’s boundaries […]”, so it seems to me that she “gets it”, and indeed invites debate via comments on her blog.

Sadly CIMA don’t seem to get it – to comment on the blog you have to be registered with their system, and although I tried I was baulked by a combination of server errors, account verification emails which never arrived, and some pages which seemed to suggest you could only register if you are a CIMA member. So if anyone from CIMA reads this, please take note of your own experts!

Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change