Wednesday, April 27, 2011
How to gauge the success of the State Department's new internal social network, Corridor.

Last week, I wrote about Corridor, the State Department's new internal social networking portal.  This week, I want to examine some ways that its administrators can illustrate to their leadership that their investment in Corridor is returning results.  Here are the top four metrics I think they should look at:

  • Membership and activity - especially among senior leadership
  • Reduction in email volume among members
  • Profile search volume and creation of ad hoc working groups
  • Integrating (or replacing) duplicative systems

Membership and activity - especially among senior leadership

Of course, the first metric of success is: are people joining the site and are they using its features?  A more sophisticated analysis would look more closely at senior leadership and see if they are sharing articles with their staff, using the sites resources, and encouraging those under their supervision to turn to Corridor to accomplish their tasks more easily and quickly.

Senior leadership sets the tone and directs the activity of an office.  When the office directors and other executives lead by example, their staff is more likely to follow them.  More importantly, the senior leadership will add value to the content on the network.  In State, as in any organization, staff is more likely to click on a link that is sent by those above them in the chain of command, and Corridor can make it easy for higher-ups to share the articles they find important.  

Thankfully, gathering the numbers for this metric is easy.  The set of GS15s and SESes is defined and seeing how often they post, how many links they share, and how many people click on the links are all data at eDiplomacy's disposal.  This is perhaps the most important metric of success and can be articulated succintly: "Corridor has a large membership that uses its many features often." 

And what do they use those features to do?  Answering that question are the other succes metrics:

Reduction in email volume among members

One of the challenges for State, or any large organization, is creating documents that have multiple layers of editorial input.  At State, they call it "moving paper."  Currently, much of that work is done through email, an imperfect collaboration tool at best.  Other work is either accomplished or cooredinated through email as well that would be better done through a social media portal with defined features specific to the tasks, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Asking questions to large groups of people, when only (a) a select few  may know the answer and (b) only one person needs to respond.  This situation can be better addressed either through a feature like Quora, or Facebook Questions.
  • Locating/storing documents on a shared drive.  Through a social media portal, people should be able to tag documents with multiple key words and search for them, making them easier to find not only for themselves, but for others who are looking for them.  (NB: the fact that State creates both classified and unclassified documents is an important issue I'll address in a later post on obstacles to success).
  • Finding contact info and creating working groups.  Everyone has sent emails along the lines of "Hey, X, do you have Y's phone number/email address/office location?"  Or even more difficult to answer: "Hey, X, do you remember that person who worked in Tunisia in 2006?"  These types of questions can be answered through a robust personnel database that is searchable through multiple defined fields.

Profile search volume and the creation of ad hoc working groups

The last example in the previous section points directly to another success metric: are offices able to find people for specific vacancies more quickly.  Additionally, working groups can be created quickly (outside the strictures of State's staffing protocols) to address urgent needs.  Search volume is a straight-forward metric and it will depend heavily on members filling out complete profiles and making those profiles searchable.

Integrating (or replacing) duplicative systems

Of course, State already has a personnel database.  It also has internal email, and a host of other features that Corridor can be seen as duplicating.  One component of Corridor's success will be either integrating itself with these systems (HR being perhaps the best example), or supplanting those systems (collaboration space and sounding Board - State's online suggestion box- perhaps the best examples).  This will result in cost savings for the Department and time savigns for all employees.


I'm curious to know what other success metrics could be developed.  Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Next, I'll outline the features of corridor and show how they align with the success metrics.  Then, I'll write about some obstacles to success that eDiplomacy will have to navigate.