Obtaining and Using Key User Adoption Metrics for Enterprise Communities

Online communities are an appealing but challenging topic for enterprises. Most organizations feel they will increasingly use social networking tools, but are uncertain how best to proceed.

Proving business benefit and responding to deployment challenges can be a difficult, but these activities must be grounded on objective data, so obtaining key metrics is essential. However, often community and social networking applications intended for enterprise deployment lack the necessary query and reporting tools to support business champions and system administrators.

Recently we launched a Success Metrics community on Open Text Online Communities for those who have deployed Open Text Communities of Practice (CoP). Members of that community have access to reporting tools and templates specifically designed to provide community metrics.

My colleague Agnes Kolkiewicz just made the following blog post in that community (see Metrics Blog):


Many of you have mentioned that you are struggling with user adoption within your communities. As I believe that the success of any software project (and particularly where document management and collaboration are concerned) is largely dependent on user adoption, I believe it would be within the scope of this community to include some best practices on user adoption. To support this, I will start a "user adoption best practices" wiki in the community with the hope that all of you can add to it as we progress.

Metrics and user adoption, especially in the case of collaborative or social media software go hand-in-hand. The more that substantive content is added and the higher the participation and log-in rates, the more value your system will bring to the organization, but you need to be able to measure that progress and growth in participation:

  • Measuring log-in and participation ratios will enable you to determine how your efforts to improve user adoption are progressing. These ratios will also enable you to identify "peak times" in participation - this way you can likely pinpoint what had caused the surge in participation and aim to recreate the event. By measuring these ratios on a regular basis, you will also be able to demonstrate at a later date how the system has improved over time and set a foundation on which the overall value of the system can be determined.
  • Metrics are applicable throughout a project lifecycle. This applies to any software project but it can easily get out of hand where large enterprise deployments are concerned. This is why most analysts recommend that you start off with smaller deployments and apply metrics to measure progress. Once successfully deployed, you can then use the success of this project, and any ROI realized, to champion the solution as a "success story" throughout your enterprise to further promote user adoption in subsequent projects.
  • You should start looking at metrics in the pre-project phase taking into consideration what your objectives are for the software project at hand: these objectives will help you identify metrics as well as KPIs for the deployment. The developed metrics should then be measured throughout the lifecycle of your software deployment until the software is no longer used by your organization.
  • In many cases, the same metrics that were used to evaluate the overall health of your system will also form the foundation for any later cost-benefit or ROI calculation. Where no metrics are kept during deployment, it is much more difficult to "go back in time" and determine how the project has progressed over time and identify realized improvements as there is no benchmark for comparison. We have tried to overcome this obstacle by creating some reports that allow you to measure certain aspects of your deployment at a specified date, but that hasn't been always possible. A rule of thumb here is to start thinking of metrics as an integral part of any project you undertake.

I would encourage everyone to use metrics throughout your project lifecycles – please keep in mind that metrics not only help you prove an ROI, but also help guide your project as it progresses by enabling you to measure progress and identify areas that work well and those that need improvement. In the case of document management or collaborative software, user adoption goes a long way in helping ensure the "success" of your project.


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