You might think from recent posts that I don’t believe in measurement, particularly when it comes to measuring enterprise social computing projects. In fact, I do believe in measurement but also believe that measurement should be treated in a (organisationally-speaking) political context.
I’ve also noticed a quantum-like quality to cause-and-effect in organisational measurement – the helicopter view reported to the board often appears to bare little resemblance to the experience of staff on the ground. I don’t actually think there is anything quantum about the enterprise – its just that ‘organisations’ are complex systems. This simply makes it difficult to measure in absolute hard numbers anything that impacts on that system, unless you are prepared to invest in longitudinal and solidly scientific research methods.
The worst examples of this are systems that promise employee self-service but simply shift the transaction burden from a cost centre (where it is measurable) to the individual (where it is not measurable).
For example, if you are trying to justify the value of an intranet then time saved should be a great metric. However, it depends on how you value employee time and the actual impact on the organisation of time wasted searching for information. In many cases, this waste is invisible – people just end up working harder to make up for deficient systems.
So, if measurement is important what should we measure?
Wrong question. More on this another time.