Sunday, October 8, 2006

JP Rangaswam: Musing about the value of social software

Great stuff: Musing about the value of social software


I have a passion for social software. [You?ve noticed? Great :-) ]. And while trying to do something about it, I‘ve been accused of many things. Being a VC darling. A wannabe A-lister. An A-list groupie. A time-waster. A moron. A rootless academic. Many things.

So why do I do it? Because I believe we have a real problem to solve. A War for Talent. Because I believe we have a real solution to that problem. One that provides transparent communication and thereby creates trust. One that leverages the wisdom of crowds and thereby reduces process cycle time and improves customer satisfaction. One that embeds strategy in process and helps us understand our value drivers and levers and how to use them. One that reduces attrition and increases stickiness, be it staff or customer or partner. One that simplifies workflow. One that minimises rework by reducing the opportunity for misinterpretation or mishearing. One that enfranchises everyone. One that reduces the time to train. One that simplifies the process of education. One that helps people learn how to do their jobs, and get better at doing their jobs.

But all that is hot air, when I can‘t prove it on a balance sheet. Because the tools to prove it aren‘t here yet. In the meantime, we need to keep looking at proxies. Proxies such as customer satisfaction metrics. Retention rates. Process cycle time reductions. Time to market improvements. Error reduction and consequent rework minimisation. Avoidance of duplication and its related wastage. Consistency in global processes. The list is long.

The trouble is, these things are hard to measure as well. Every investment made in an organisation has sponsors seeking to attach credit to their decision, and I have seen too many “value turf wars”. Unseemly attempts to hoover up any improvement in anything.

Until I find a static organisation with a stable structure and zero money for investments, I probably won?t have a decent test case. If there was such an organisation, then we could have the Petri dish for social software, and watch all the proxies move in the right direction as if by magic. And nothing to point to as the reason. Except social software.

So I have to live in hope. Continue with my passion. Because I believe. (emphasis mine)

How do you argue with that?

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