Measuring ROI on social software is an elusive topic, so it’s wonderful when I find projects that have managed to quantify it in some way. The following story focuses on a particular task, that of social tagging.
The Enterprise Tagging Service in IBM aims to provide an alternative approach to helping people find information compared to traditional search engines. Search based on keyword analysis often relies on a taxonomy that is rigid due to the way the software performs its structural analysis of web pages, identifying and classifying the keywords. Social tagging allows people to add human semantics to keywords that they define that sometimes can amount to finding a resource faster based on what people think is relevant.
|IBM’s ETS cost $700k to develop and deploy across the worldwide intranet as a sidebar to a number of key web properties: traditional search engine results, top content pages, and web applications like the IBM internal social brainstorming tool, Thinkplace. As a service it can really be added to any internal page. Readers can tag any page with the widget, look up tags they contributed, find others who have used the same tag, and certainly find other relevant resources by that same tag. The ETS tool was based on the Lotus Connections Dogear software.|
The ETS team instituted a survey to ask users howthis tool helped them. What they found was amazing when you look at itin context: the average person saved 12 seconds, across the 286000+searches performed through ETS each week. This sums up to 955 hourssaved each week across the company. In terms of cost savings, itamounts to a rough estimate of $4.6 million a year, in terms ofproductivity gain. The reusability of this page widget also resulted in$2.4 million in cost avoidance (reimplementing this for eachsite).
This social task is spread across the IBMintranet site, but is essentially a single set of overall content setas a mass collaboration of knowledge; in other words, the knowledgedoes not get balkanized into separate tag systems, running in theclassic problem of information getting locked away in pockets in theorganization. It involves the swarm effects of many users contributing,each for their own need, but resulting in an overall benefit for allemployees.