Knowledge Management 2.0: ROI is dead. Long live SNA

In one of my previous posts I mentioned how difficult is to measure the benefits of Web 2.0 for Knowledge Management in terms of ROI. Also, this topic has brough on many voices out there in the blogosphere. As discussed, the knowledge of workers is something hardly measurable but very valuable, and the benefits should be measured by the business impacts, like business eficiency or the competitive advantage, and ROI is not the proper tool to do this.

However, if we want to measure the benefits of KM 2.0, we need to focus on the core value, this is, the network effects. For this purpose, we can use more appropriated tools like Social Network Analysis (SNA), which provides a collection of methods to measure the relationships and flows between any information/knowledge processing entity in a social network. Things like “Degrees”, “Betweenness”, “Closeness” can provide significant figures that might help to understand how positively or negatively a social network is working. Come on, read this gem taken from the IBM Research Center at Watson:

Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a set of methods and statistics that reveals the hidden connections that are important for sharing information, decision-making, and innovation. The outcome of an SNA helps us to see where collaboration is breaking down, where talent and expertise could be better leveraged, where decisions are getting bogged down or where opportunities for innovation are being lost. The data give us the picture we need to create a set of remedial actions for individuals and leaders to improve productivity, efficiency and innovation.

In this manner, SNA can provide managers with a clear picture of how employees are working together, and measure the benefits of Enterprise Web 2.0 for Knowledge Management in terms of social capital. As Jim Petrassi and Sharon Whitaker state in their paper “Strategic Innovation and the Impact on Collaboration Technologies”, many leading companies are using SNA tools and techniques to identify the “go-to” expert, find technical knowledge and expertise, identify obstacles to collaboration, develop knowledge transfer programs and develop targeted team building programs.

Recapping…if you are asked to show the ROI of KM 2.0, just reply that if they want real figures, they should do SNA.