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Think Agile When Considering Return on Investment for Social Collaboration Tools

Think Agile When Considering Return on Investment for Social Collaboration Tools

Most significant business projects typically have short term and long term objectives, but executives often make the mistake of losing sight of one in the pursuit of the other. Too often this can spoil the ultimate appreciation of the project value on completion. Of course this can be the fault of the outsourced partner who might over-promise and under-deliver. But it can also be a problem customer-side as impatience for the grand vision clouds an objective view of important short term wins.

In light of this, I find it important to educate customers about how innovations in thinking - using the revelation that is Agile - can enhance their return on investment calculations. But first a brief outline of the issues at hand.

Back in the late nineties, the software industry globally did itself a huge disservice as it promised a vast and ambitious Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) vision that it ultimately struggled to deliver on. Fierce competition between the biggest players - Oracle, SAP and Peoplesoft ensued as they painted monumental wonderland pictures that simply could not be achieved. As the huge implementations derailed, often millions over budget and months or even years behind schedule, customers lost faith in the projects that amid all the hype had returned little or no benefits, only pain.

These are very different times. Cloud software has meant that implementations can be much faster if planned correctly, and can deliver immediate benefits. Standards are far more open and so integration with other systems is much easier. Finally, many software projects have become more modular in nature and can be rolled out in stages that provide instant functionality to users.

There is always a balance of short term benefits that triggers a software purchase with the longer term aspiration that forms a strategic direction. However, if the focus on the former is diminished by excitement about the latter, then the benefits of that immediate outcome can become overlooked. This makes the reward of the project harder to appreciate, particularly at the most senior levels within the organisation. In many scenarios, this can be a communication problem between the project owners and the business.

In my space of Social Collaboration Tools, companies are often driven towards the purchase of an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) by a certain project or communication challenge. However, Mumba Cloud (and companies like ours) will always design a longer-term strategy so that the reward of the product accrues exponentially over time. Afterall renewal is important to our business model. For instance, in the short term an ESN can deliver rapid cost savings or productivity gains that are important as employees begin to use the product from day one. But over time additional and more enduring benefits such as staff retention, recruitment enrichment and employee engagement are certainly key outcomes. However, these perhaps less tangible and yet incredibly valuable benefits require time, investment and user education and are therefore far harder to measure. Yet organisations can become fixated on them at the expense of the immediate gains they originally targeted.

This brings me back to Agile. The now widely-adopted software development methodology can be applied to any project by breaking it into small, incremental chunks that deliver immediate results while working towards a far greater vision. It is almost like Tapas - small easily digestible snacks that build towards a very satisfying feast. Customers should adopt this sort of thinking when they approach the return on investment appraisal of a social collaboration project. A short-term focus that embraces the incremental benefits of a deployment, but that also anticipates the longer term fulfillment of a more strategic promise.

At Mumba we have baked this kind of thinking into our DNA.  Our consulting framework for implementation balances the rollout and strategy between pursuit of today’s micro operational objectives -  that are usually applicable to specific business units or teams - with tomorrow’s macro, company-wide vision.  This way, the project delivers quick value that managers can begin reporting back to the business straight away, as well as an overall transformation in the business to spur growth and achieve a significant competitive edge.

If you are interested in learning about our Framework please contact us to setup an online demonstration for you and your team.

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