Four Tips for Getting Good ROI from Web 2.0 Projects

Telecom company Embarq has seen early success making Web 2.0 technologies part of its innovation strategy. Here are four lessons they've learned on how to make social networking or collaboration software work.

Executive Buy-In Is a Must

While social technologies in the consumer space thrive because end-users adopt them through "viral channels," enterprise social software needs some top-down encouragement in order to drive adoption. This doesn't mean you need to mandate that people use the technology, but if the boss mentions that the technology may help bolster a project, the chances for success improve, Stafford says.

First, make it easy for administrators to get rolling with the software themselves.

"If you were placed in charge of a new product team, and you want to get your group going in one place to share documents and share profiles, this has to be something you set up within a few minutes," Stafford adds.

With Jive, Stafford says it takes Embarq staffers "a very short time, probably minutes" to set up a site using wikis or discussion forums. At that point, the administrator can send invitations to key stakeholders, giving them log-ins and passwords, and ideally explain the purpose of the site in that initial message.

Stafford encourages users to set up profiles on Jive. Jive's profiles aren't like Facebook pages. They merely list some business critical information, such as expertise, and mentions of past projects. This allows others using the portal to connect with key colleagues on product development issues.

Measuring Your Web 2.0 Success: Time is Money

It's often difficult to assign hard ROI numbers to social software projects, since it doesn't replace any existing infrastructure but compliments or improves it. As a result, Stafford says you should measure how much faster the platform allows you to accomplish tasks and collaborate on key projects.

When Embarq needed to test whether or not to adopt some software that ran promotional offers via mobile phones, it set up a discussion forum on Jive with the software vendor and some potential Embarq customers who might be interested.

Very quickly, Embarg received feedback of a common customer problem: the software drained phones' batteries.

"The vendor read this, came back with a patch, and it improved the performance," he says. "For us, we saw the feedback cycle in a couple of days that normally would have been weeks. That really crystallized the value for us."

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