Why CEOs Cannot Just “Buy Some of That E20 Stuff”

As an independent consultant I am often approached by C-suite executives interested in, “that whole social media and E20 thing”.  As we talk it becomes obvious that they are aware of the importance but unsure why it is important and and unclear what it can do for them.  This is where it pays to take the time to identify the metrics and business processes that the social technology will impact.  However, they are also often unprepared for the time and effort that it takes to develop a successful, measured and process-integrated social strategy.

Here is an excerpt from a longer and very good article that outlines what it takes to be successful with social tech initiatives.  As you read, pay special attention to the level of detail one organization went to in order to ensure appropriate adoption and successful deployment:

The link between financial metrics, operating metrics and front-line performance metrics is difficult to quantify precisely. Specific examples of where and how social software made a difference on the front line can, however, build a strong case that improvement in front-line performance metrics contributes to related improvement in operating metrics and that this in turn translates to related improvement in financial metrics. The key is to have the links between these three levels of metrics clearly and explicitly identified so that everyone in the organization can visualize how impact at the front line can translate into driving metrics at higher levels of the organization.

A major municipal transit authority recently used this approach to metrics that matter to discover unexpected opportunities to use social software to make a meaningful difference in their operations. They began by looking across their agency and decided to focus on their metropolitan bus unit because it represented a significant portion of their overall budget. Within the metropolitan bus unit, they zeroed in on their maintenance operations (part of their broader infrastructure management operations) because it was the largest single expense item and had been growing in recent years.

At this point they identified two key operating metrics driving the financial performance of this part of their operations: mean time between breakdowns and cycle times required to restore a bus to service once it had broken down. As they drilled into these metrics, they discovered that cycle times were driven significantly by parts availability. Often the needed part was not easily located and they ended up having to wait for the part, holding up the process of restoring the bus to service. It turned out that one of the key obstacles to locating the right part involved difficulties in communicating across three parts of the organization: the maintenance organization, the parts inventory managers and the parts procurement group.

This led them to focus their initial deployment of social software in one of the last areas that they had initially expected would be a promising arena for deployment. But they realized that social software could help them more rapidly reach out through a distributed organization and identify parts availability, offering the prospect of driving a significant operating metric for the agency which in turn would help to improve their overall financial performance and quality of service.

They went through 5 steps of discovery and analysis before jumping on the E20 bandwagon and rolling out their social technology. Each step was unique to their business, their market and their organizational structure. Here are the steps.

1. Look across the enterprise and find one group to start with. Decision Driver: which group is the biggest budget consumer. Rationale: biggest impact potential.

2. Within the group focus on one key set of operations. Decision Driver: LOB budget. Rationale: cost was trending up, it should be going down.

3. Identify the core metrics for those operations. Decision Driver: know what to measure and what you wish to impact. Rationale: need to know how you know it’s working or not.

4. Drill into the business processes that the metrics measure. Map it out. Decision Driver: understand exactly how you got here. Rationale: figure out what should be improved before you go about trying to improve something.

5. Deploy the social and E20 technology to solve the specific problem – it may not be what you expect. Decision Driver: the discovery process you just completed. Rationale: with purpose the social tech will solve your problems.

There is no shortcut for this process. But avoiding it is a sure way to waste time, budget and the political capital it takes to roll out new tech.

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