Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ROI in the Age of Narcissism

But what's the business case? Nodding intently and listening to the question for the million trillionth time, suddenly it hits me. "Well, maybe your people can stop doing things that nobody cares about and reinvest that time in something useful".

D'oh. Inside Voice! Inside Voice! Inside Voice!

User engagement. Adoption rates. Participation. Content ingestion. To get a business case for an ECM deployment (never mind Enterprise 2.0....) companies need to kneel at the altar of the Pivot Table to get an ROI justification. Achieving said benefit means systems need to be used and stuff needs to be put into them.

People put the content into content management systems. When they don't do that, content management projects don't deliver that magical ROI. Luring typical information workers into a system perceived as onerous, complex, corporately mandated that ultimately seems not relevant to day to day tasks is tough.

But maybe there's an angle we've missed...

"Personal Productivity for ME... but the Community benefits"... this is how I've been describing emerging 2.0 tools as they enter mainstream business.

Social Bookmarks - are MY favorite items... but like-minded colleagues get the info and share their own... Blog - dead easy simple self publishing for ME, but my readers only need to find me in one place... Social Networks - let me tell you about MY expertise and experience and maybe we'll find some common interests and exchange information of mutual benefit.

When I started blogging personally a few years ago, like most bloggers, I became obsessed with my hit rates. Playing around with Sitemeter.. Google Analytics.. other cool tools du jour trying to understand: Who was reading me? How did they find me? Who linked to me? Does anybody bother coming back?

Seriously - name a blogger who isn't consumed with their traffic patterns and referrals. Yeah, thought so.

But... hang on. Where have I seen this before?

Haven't good old document management tools been providing metrics and tracking on content for umm... almost 2 decades? Who edited, who printed, who emailed, who viewed, who copied....kind of old skool, actually.

So here's my question: Why not apply the blogger self-absorption mentality to corporate ECM contributors? Bloggers who are motivated by traffic hits write content of interest to their audience. More hits = more on the topic. I often joke (not...) about Productivity Driven By Ego. In the enterprise space, why don't I pay attention to the content people read and well, quit producing the content they don't. Why do smart expensive educated knowledge workers invest time in things that no one bothers to look at?

Audit trails, activity lists, document history is the measurement of usefulness. One of my favourite analysts at Gartner - Debra Logan - uses the phrase "content valuation". But you can't know what's used and whether it's valued if you don't measure the consumption of specific content artifacts.

Why do I personally invest the time in tagging my Harlequin dive bar concert videos on YouTube? Because I want them to be found and be more popular than the ones my sister posted... Meaningful metadata lets them be found in the sea of millions upon millions of cheesy music clips. Why can't my colleagues find my whitepapers that easily....

Measure, track, compare, assess, weigh... Spend time on things that are useful to people, and stop doing things that aren't. Sounds like ROI to me.


  1. Exactly. What's in it for ME! Focus on the end user value proposition and all else follows. I often think of this as a set of old fashion scales.

    On one side are all the COSTS keeping someone from participating: poor features, difficult to use, protective culture, extra effort required, etc.

    On the other side are all the BENEFITS: helping ME do my job quicker/easier, getting ME more visible/credit for my work, getting ME better ideas from the community, etc.

    You can't mandate sharing and collaboration. The best systems help tip the scales to make sharing a natural choice and "the path of least resistance" for the user. Minimize the costs: make things intuitive, easy to use, and part of the user's workstream. Maximize the benefits and provide the framework for the community to flourish... er, should I say BLOOM ;)

    In the end we're all motivated by self-interest (and there's nothing wrong with that).

  2. Thank you for a well written perspective. We are all looking for that single blog that goes viral or a single video idea that will bring fresh eyes.

    Your understanding and articulation of content valuation helped me.

    To your continued success

    David Pylyp

  3. Well done....combining self-interest and the right thing to do. Web 2.0 can do much more than ROI "return on investment"......I heard someone say that ROI is more "return on initiative"