in ROI

An idea for saving 10,000,000 dollars + 10,000 lives

When you think of social business case studies, you might think about new ways of communicating or supporting customers or generating sales leads.

But the range of social business is actually much broader than that.

“What you’re really trying to do is create a culture of network thinking.” (A quote from the very smart Rachel Happe.)

If you do that – if you use a social business lens to take a new look at old problems across your firm – it turns out you can create some wonderful solutions.

Here’s an example.

An age-old problem

Large companies routinely pay for resources that employees no longer need or want. It’s a big but mundane problem that might escape the attention of social business advocates.

Most cost management is usually focused on the approval process. Once an item’s approved, though – whether it’s hardware, software, market data, or even real estate – it’s inherently difficult to know when something’s no longer required unless the employee leaves.

Also, employees often don’t know what’s being charged on their behalf. And, if they do, they don’t have much incentive to give things back (even if they knew how). So, as people move and re-organize, and as needs changes, the waste adds up.

In a company of 100,000 people, just $100 of waste per person adds up to $10 million. Given increasing technology costs, you’ll probably find more than that in your IT department alone.

Applying network thinking

At most firms, all of the data about who uses what is locked up in different golden sources in different divisions. And the traditional approach is to produce reports and have business management-types look for possible cuts.

A better way – a “social business way” – is to let everyone see their own data, crowdsource the quality of that, and provide feedback mechanisms to share what’s working.

Making the data available and easy to change

Getting access to the data is usually the hard part, but the social business platforms are making this easier than ever. Companies like Jive and Tibco ”give your legacy apps a social life” by “exposing data from backend systems.”

With platforms like these, employees already have a rich profile with data from HR and other systems. And this is a perfect place to display an employee’s personalized bill – all the resources the firm is paying for on their behalf – along with ways to communicate a change to the right service provider.

Making people care

Even if everyone knew their costs, though, they’d need to have a reason to look at their bill and change it.

How would you make them care?

The Dragonfly Effect” offers useful examples. (It also provides a great framework for driving enterprise change in a scalable way.)

It demonstrates how to engage people by “creating a personal connection, accessing higher emotions through deep empathy, authenticity, and telling a story. Engaging is about empowering an audience enough to want to do something themselves.”

Saving money for your big corporation might not inspire you. But what if, for example, a percentage of those savings went to providing clean water to people who don’t have it?

Organizations like WaterAid can give someone clean water for as little as $25. What if you knew that by simply reviewing your bill that you could transform a life? Or several lives?

Sharing the change

Now comes the social part: connecting people across the firm with the people they’re helping and with each other.

Whenever you talk about bills and resources, you show the video of a village turning on the tap for the first time, talking about the difference water makes. Not just statistics, but real people in real places.

And whenever you’re promoting the impact your initiative is having, you talk about the teams in the firm who are making a difference so they can inspire others to do the same.

It’s those stories and those connections – those virtuous feedback loops – that turn a good idea into a movement.

They can take a common business problem in a big firm and turn it into something that can change lives. A movement with real commercial benefits that employees can genuinely care about and want to be a part of.

That’s the power and the possibility of social business.