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How Important is Having a Business Case for Social Applications?

by Anthony J. Bradley  |  January 29, 2009  |  2 Comments

I wanted to point my blog readers to an interaction I had (or am having) with Andrea DiMaio on his blog post entitled Forget a Business Case For Web 2.0. I think we have come to some agreement but I’m not sure yet.

This is near and dear to my heart since I am now diligently working on a Gartner Business Case Framework for Social Applications (similar to the Gartner SOA Business Case Framework I published near the end of 2008). It is a lot of work and I don’t want to do it if people don’t need it (or don’t want it I should say because I would argue that you do need it). 

So, how are you justifying social application efforts? Are you building business cases? In this difficult economic environment, do you need to start building business cases? Should I continue work on the Business Case Framework for Social Applications? I need to know 🙂

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Category: social-applications  

Tags: business-value  

Anthony J. Bradley
10 years at Gartner
26 years in IT

Anthony J. Bradley is a group vice president in Gartner Research responsible for the research content that Gartner publishes through its three internet businesses (, and These responsibilities include creating and leading the research organization and infrastructure needed for the strategy formulation, planning, research, creation, editing, production and distribution of the content. He has four global teams of highly talented people who are advancing towards the world's greatest destination for content on how small businesses succeed through information technology.

Thoughts on How Important is Having a Business Case for Social Applications?

  1. Mark Raskino says:

    Hey Anthony – I don’t doubt the need for it. Those who proceed without will be the more Type A oriented organisations – acting on exploratory faith and aspiration using risk capital they feel they can afford to lose. The bulk of the mainstream majority nearly always need to write a case. How else to compare disparate IT investment opportunities in a portfolio? The whole point about being a follower (fast or otherwise) is that you learn from the leaders. Some of the most critical early learning points are in the cost structure and value metrics. Nobody said a business case template has to be heavy going – the lighter and more precisely targeted on the few things that really matter – the better.
    I know some social application projects can appear not to require a case because their setup / entry level technology costs are so small and they rely on iterative learning to evolve. But they grow, perhaps exponentially on occasions and that can cause disruptions. There are other costs as well – not least the time employees will spend in the activities. All the more reason to create a business case framework that paints the picture of the untypical cost profile a social system can incur.

  2. Anthony Bradley says:

    My sentiments exactly. I see many enterprises with too strong an emphasis on technology. The cost of the technology may be cheap but the costs of delivering a social application on that technology are larger and very often the “softer” costs (employee time for example) can be enormous. Without a sufficient (and I specifically choose the word sufficient here) examination of the “return” on the softer costs, the enterprise runs a significant risk of the effort being considered an unproductive use of employee time which feeds the skepticism. There is an art to social applications, no doubt, but this doesn’t mean we can ignore the science. There will always be a margin of error and a confidence interval with any investment but numbers matter and must be explored. Get the marketing people involved. Thy know how to crunch the numbers on target communities.

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