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Exploring Factual and Perceived Use and Benefits of a Web 2.0-based Knowledge Management Application: The Siemens Case References+

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References+ is a business-related Web 2.0-based application de-signed to facilitate the worldwide sharing of knowledge, experi-ences, and best practices on the Siemens intranet. The underlying knowledge management approach has a strong focus on the user community, which currently comprises approximately 10,000 registered members located in more than 75 countries. To measure the individually perceived benefits generated by References+, a user survey was performed in 2011. This paper not only evaluates the survey results received from nearly 1,500 respondents, but also detects and discusses any correlations to factual use and con-tribution behavior measured by an evaluation of the respondents’ system usage statistics. This allows a first attempt to explore the potential of a combination of perceived use and benefits (as meas-ured by the user survey) with factual use (as measured by the cor-responding usage statistics). As an important finding of this re-search, it was observed that higher perceived benefits correlate with usage frequency and the number of viewed contributions. The correlation is less strong regarding average contribution ac-tivity and for some cases ambiguous regarding the number of followers. Furthermore, it can be reported that in general a higher perceived use is also reflected in a higher factual use and in a higher number of followers.
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Exploring Factual and Perceived Use and Benefits of a
Web 2.0-based Knowledge Management Application:
The Siemens Case References+
Alexander Stocker
Virtual Vehicle Research Center
Information & Process Management
Inffeldgasse 21a, Graz, Austria
+43 316 873 9844
alexander.stocker@v2c2.at
Johannes Müller
Siemens Switzerland Ltd.
Building Technologies Division
Gubelstrasse 22, Zug, Switzerland
+41 41 724 4373
j-mueller@siemens.com
ABSTRACT
References+ is a business-related Web 2.0-based application de-
signed to facilitate the worldwide sharing of knowledge, experi-
ences, and best practices on the Siemens intranet. The underlying
knowledge management approach has a strong focus on the user
community, which currently comprises approximately 10,000
registered members located in more than 75 countries. To measure
the individually perceived benefits generated by References+, a
user survey was performed in 2011. This paper not only evaluates
the survey results received from nearly 1,500 respondents, but
also detects and discusses any correlations to factual use and con-
tribution behavior measured by an evaluation of the respondents’
system usage statistics. This allows a first attempt to explore the
potential of a combination of perceived use and benefits (as meas-
ured by the user survey) with factual use (as measured by the cor-
responding usage statistics). As an important finding of this re-
search, it was observed that higher perceived benefits correlate
with usage frequency and the number of viewed contributions.
The correlation is less strong regarding average contribution ac-
tivity and for some cases ambiguous regarding the number of
followers. Furthermore, it can be reported that in general a higher
perceived use is also reflected in a higher factual use and in a
higher number of followers.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
H.4.2 [Information Systems]: Applications Miscellaneous.
General Terms
Management, Measurement, Documentation, Human Factors.
Keywords
Knowledge Management, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Social Busi-
ness, Social Collaboration, Social Intranet.
1. INTRODUCTION
1.1 Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0
Web 2.0 as coined by Tim O’Reilly [22] has revolutionized how
people share information and knowledge on the Web. Applica-
tions such as Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and
LinkedIn have been very successful in forming participative envi-
ronments where anybody can freely create, share and modify con-
tent in an easy and intuitive way. Web 2.0 has virtually empow-
ered users to become creators of content by applying a wide range
of social software. As a result, user-generated content has become
a valuable source to facilitate all kinds of decisions.
Driven by the huge success of Web 2.0 and social software as well
as motivated by their observation of user interaction on the Web,
enterprises began to launch their own initiatives centered on
Web 2.0 principles and technologies. The adoption of Web 2.0
was supposed to lead to business advantages for various domains.
So far, the majority of corporate Web 2.0 projects has focused on
external online marketing (e.g. establishing company profiles on
Facebook), but some enterprises have already gained notable ex-
perience using Web 2.0 platforms within their intranets.
Early adopting enterprises started to implement Wikis [1] [32],
Weblogs [10] [14], Social Networking Services [27] [28],
Microblogging [20] [33] [34], and media/content sharing plat-
forms. These corporate artifacts are usually built upon the princi-
ple of every employee becoming not only a consumer but also a
producer of content (in analogy to user-generated content). Simi-
lar to the Web 2.0 phenomenon, employee-generated content
spreads quickly in corporate intranets. This intranet evolution is
referred to by a variety of terms ranging from Enterprise 2.0”
[17] to social business” [12] [13]. The basic idea behind these
terms is to increase openness and transparency of information and
knowledge by adopting social software. Recently, such initiatives
have also been aligned with a series of broader concepts including
networked enterprise” [3] [30] or future workplace” [8].
1.2 Web 2.0 and Knowledge Management
Web 2.0 platforms have steadily lowered the barrier of knowledge
sharing on the Web and provide rich sources for knowledge ac-
quisition. Their new modes of use have attracted knowledge man-
gers in enterprises who intend to implement Web 2.0 principles
and applications to facilitate “sharing” in a comparable way.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2494188.2494204
However, to fully exploit the huge potential of Web 2.0 for
knowledge management, managers need to understand and master
the emerging field of tension between the self-organization of its
users as a fundamental principle of Web 2.0 and the prevailing
hierarchical organizational structures in enterprises.
The increasing convergence of Web 2.0 and organizational
knowledge management has been studied by scientists in the past:
Levy [15] argued that Web 2.0 shares numerous principles and
attributes with knowledge management although certain differ-
ences do exist. Other publications discussed the potential of
Web 2.0 to empower knowledge workers [31] and investigated
key determinants of knowledge sharing and collaboration enabled
by Web 2.0 technologies [23]. Insights into the ability of Web 2.0
to harness and manage personal knowledge are provided by
Razmerita et al. [25]; they question whether Web 2.0 can recon-
cile conflicting interests of managing organizational knowledge
with personal objectives. Richter et al. [29] studied and analyzed
social software adoption in 23 companies and derived six main
goals of corporate social software adoption. These findings were
compared with the goals of knowledge management, as identified
from a series of well-known knowledge management studies [4]
[9] [24]. While some goals of introducing corporate social soft-
ware including improvement of knowledge transfer and commu-
nication have already been known to KM researchers, others, such
as facilitating user participation along the value chain or fostering
employee-to-employee communication, are rather new.
1.3 Measuring the benefits of Web 2.0-based
Knowledge Management
As enterprises increasingly need to justify their investments in
information systems, they often have to assess the benefits of
Web 2.0-type knowledge sharing platforms. Information system
(IS) researchers have introduced conceptual models based on the
popular DeLone and McLean IS Success Model [6] [7] and
adapted them for assessing social software in the enterprise [26].
DeLone and McLean propose concepts including information
quality, system quality, service quality, usage, benefit for the indi-
vidual and benefit for the organization to conceptualize and op-
erationalize IS success. As another important contribution, Davis
[5] introduced the concepts perceived usefulness and per-
ceived ease of use which are crucial to assessing how and why
new information systems are adopted by employees. Both the
information systems success model and the technology acceptance
model were used in many studies and have been continuously
refined.
Usually, the benefits of Web 2.0-based knowledge management
applications have to be evaluated in the same way. Based on the
models described above, a variety of instruments is used in prac-
tice: Key user interviews, user surveys, and usage statistic evalua-
tion are very popular. Calculating a return on investment (ROI)
for Web 2.0-based knowledge management (and knowledge man-
agement in general) has become a hot topic. In some cases, man-
agers request calculations to evaluate if investments have paid for
themselves (i.e. generated the budgeted return). However, measur-
ing the success of knowledge management is a very complex top-
ic. Some practitioners even refer to the calculation of ROI as
business case tuning when platforms aimed at facilitating
knowledge sharing have to provide a value to be measured in
monetary terms.
Many studies involve interesting cases to learn about Web 2.0-
based knowledge management and its benefits [1] [10] [14] [20]
[27] [28] [32] [33] [34]. Because Siemens is well known for its
ambitious efforts in knowledge management, the development of
Web 2.0-based platforms for knowledge sharing and social net-
working has a long history there. Evaluating the benefits of the
References+ platform is an important issue for both Divisional
Management and the Senior Manager Knowledge Management
responsible for References+ (who is a co-author of this paper).
For this purpose, he regularly evaluates usage statistics and con-
ducts user surveys in addition to performing key user interviews.
Since he periodically reports to management about the benefits of
the platform, he experimented with online surveys to make quali-
tative effects visible and (in terms of ROI) understandable in
monetary terms.
This paper outlines the results of a 2011 online survey to which
1,479 users of References+ responded. It also presents the results
of an analysis of usage data for all those survey participants. As a
key point of this paper, survey results are linked to corresponding
usage data to allow a comparison of both data sets. This was fea-
sible because the online survey used References+ as the underly-
ing application. By linking perceived use and benefits (measured
by the survey results) with factual use (measured by usage statistic
analysis) this paper aims to answer the following central research
question: How do the survey results on the perceived use and
benefits of a Web 2.0-based knowledge management platform
match the factual use of that platform? Exploring this question is
a crucial point as most investigations of use and benefits (and ROI
calculations) are based on either surveys or an evaluation of usage
data, but do not combine both.
Against this background, this paper is structured as follows:
Section 1 provided an introduction of the key concepts
of Web 2.0, Web 2.0-based knowledge management ap-
plications and the challenges of measuring the use and
benefits of such platforms.
In section 2, the paper continues with an outline of the
Web 2.0-based knowledge management application
References+, giving an overview of its history at Sie-
mens, its functionalities and prior evaluations.
Section 3 is dedicated to the research design and intro-
duces the underlying research data and the chosen re-
search approach.
Section 4 presents the results of the online survey, com-
piles the results of the usage statistics analysis, and links
both results to elaborate on the presented research ques-
tion.
Section 5 continues with a discussion of the research re-
sults and the limitations of the selected approach and re-
fers to matters of generalization. Furthermore, a conclu-
sion and an outlook to future research is given.
2. REFERENCES+
References+ (previously named References@BT until February
2012) is a well-known case of a Web 2.0-based knowledge man-
agement application in the scientific community [19] [20] [21].
The primary goal of References+ is to make the core business
knowledge and the corresponding experts available within the
company more quickly. From the outset, no attempt was made to
provide a knowledge base that is “complete” in terms of scope
and content. Instead, References+ is more of a social networking
tool designed to connect employees across organizational, hierar-
chical, and geographic boundaries and to stimulate direct commu-
nication. The use of References+ is entirely voluntary; currently
there are no business processes that force employees to use it.
Figure. 1. References+ homepage (with the new
Siemens web layout introduced in March 2013)
The key components of the knowledge management platform
include comprehensive functions to search posts by full-text que-
ries and metadata, to subscribe to new or modified contributions
via e-mail notifications and RSS feeds, as well as social network-
ing features such as “following” other community members. The
platform’s structured content includes Knowledge References,
discussion forums, microblog postings, and profile pages as de-
scribed below.
Knowledge References are structured information objects con-
taining multiple text, number, and metadata fields. Among other
things, they describe customer projects, product and solution
modules, services, internal process improvements, and Lessons
Learned.” Similar to customer reviews on the internet, each user
can post feedback about a Knowledge Reference that is visible to
all other readers. This feedback contains an optional rating on a
scale of 0 to 5 (indicated by the number of stars) in addition to a
textual comment. This allows the community to comment on and
rate the quality of the contributions.
Discussion forums allow users to exchange information asyn-
chronously about technological or functional topics. For example,
in the very popular Urgent Requests forum they can ask business-
related questions about products, technologies, compatibilities,
customers, contacts, etc. Due to their high priority, Urgent Re-
quests from References+ can also be displayed in other company-
internal community platforms such as TechnoWeb [18] and
Community4Competence [2], with users being able to specify on
an individual basis if their requests should be forwarded or not.
This increases the potential audience of such requests and the
probability of receiving useful answers. These other systems use
an RSS feed provided by References+ to import the relevant con-
tent.
Microblogging is similar to Twitter, Yammer, Socialcast, Chatter,
or comparable tools. It supports open communication and social
networking about topics relevant to the core business. An in-depth
evaluation of this microblogging service can be found in the arti-
cle Enterprise Microblogging for Advanced Knowledge Sharing:
The References@BT Case Study” [20].
Member Pages can be customized by community members as
desired. A Member Page is essentially similar to a profile page on
other social networking platforms (such as LinkedIn). It displays
the user’s name, organization, place of work, phone numbers,
e-mail address, an optional About Me” text field, and an optional
photo. Most user data is synchronized regularly with the Siemens
employee directory, eliminating the need for manual updates. If
desired, the About Me” field can be used to enter personal in-
formation relevant for the business, such as title, field of work,
and expertise. In addition, the user’s presence status from Mi-
crosoft Communicator (an instant messaging service used by Sie-
mens) is shown as a colored sphere.
3. RESEARCH DESIGN
Our research problem can be defined as follows: Measuring the
benefits of Web 2.0-based knowledge management platforms
plays a major role because managers increasingly need to justify
their investments in information technology and human resources.
In practice, either online surveys or usage data are used as sources
for benefit evaluation. To the best of the knowledge of both au-
thors, this paper is the first to attempt combining both instruments
by matching the user survey replies with the corresponding usage
data.
Usage statistics give insights into hard facts but do not report on
generated or perceived benefits. Assessing the benefits of the
platform is largely a matter of interpretation if only usage statistics
are taken into account. The assumption is that a higher factual
usage frequency as reported by the statistics will go hand in hand
with a higher organizational benefit. On the other hand, user sur-
veys may in fact reveal benefits but can only report on soft facts,
i.e. how a benefit is subjectively perceived according to specific
platform appropriation. However, this benefit is only an accumu-
lation of perceived individual benefits. Even if survey respondents
perceive an individual benefit, they may be biased as there is natu-
rally no rigorous quantification.
The selected approach combines both instruments and therefore
allows exploring a series of research questions derived from the
central question:
How do the survey results on perceived use and
benefits of a Web 2.0-based knowledge management
platform match the factual use of that platform?
This research question is driven by the fact that calculating a re-
turn on investment is facilitated in practice by surveys (since they
allow referring to specific types of benefits, for instance). But do
the reported perceived use and benefits really match the factual
use? Elaborating on this aspect is the central point of this paper. If
this were not the case, surveys would be very ineffective in report-
ing on the use and benefit. To sum up, the authors focused on
three key concepts:
(1) Perceived use (as measured by the survey),
(2) Perceived benefits (as measured by the survey), and
(3) Factual use (as measured by usage statistics).
Table 1. Online Survey Questions
Survey Questions
Which organizational unit are you working for?
(list of selected Siemens units)
How often do you use References+?
almost daily
min. one time weekly
min. one time monthly
less than monthly
How helpful is References+ in your daily work?
very helpful
predominantly helpful
partially helpful
not helpful
How much working time did you save (in the last 365 days) by
using information found in References+?
several days saved
one day saved
one or several hours saved
no time savings
How much money did you save (in the last 365 days) by using
information found in References+?
more than €10,000 saved
€1,000 … €10,000 saved
€0 … €1,000 saved
no money savings
How much additional business turnover did you generate (in
the last 365 days) by using information found in References+?
more than €1 million in additional turnover
€100,000 €1 million in additional turnover
€10,000 … €100,000 in additional turnover
€0 … €10,000 in additional turnover
no additional turnover
I cannot directly influence turnover
How many additional customers did you attract (in the last 365
days) by using information found in References+?
3 or more additional customers
2 additional customers
1 additional customer
no additional customers
I don’t have direct contact with customers
What is your overall rating for References+ and the related
administration team?
very good
good
average
insufficient
I don’t want to give a rating.
Feel free to share any comment related to References+
(optional, min. 15 characters).
The authors were not able to measure factual benefits (as a fourth
concept) because there is no mechanism known to them to achieve
this.
Basically, the authors explored two data sets to answer their re-
search question: The first data set was generated from an online
survey which took place in August/September 2011 and to which
1,479 References+ users responded. As the co-authoring manager
aimed to explore and quantify the ROI of platform usage, the
survey included questions on working time saved, additional rev-
enue generated, and additional customers attracted by using in-
formation shared in References+ (as shown in table 1).
Since this online survey used References+ as the underlying tech-
nology, the user_id of each survey respondent is known. This
enables the authors to link any particular survey answer with the
respective factual usage data. The second data set used by the
authors is therefore a compilation of usage data. The time span
from which the user statistics were extracted ranged from 18
months before the survey date (April 2010) to the end date of the
survey (September 2011). Table 2 below presents the attributes
which were used to link survey results to usage data.
Table 2. Available usage data
Present status of user and user account (March 2013)
Office location (city, country)
Organizational unit
Registration date
Date of last visit
Account active/inactive
Photo uploaded (true/false)
# characters in
About me field
# of other internal Social
Media platforms [11][16][18]
Usage data (April 2010 September 2011)
# of days with access to Ref-
erences+
# of visited Knowledge Ref-
erences
# of contributions
# of followers and following
The data from the survey is used to establish groups of respond-
ents (according to the answer types). For all these groups, the total
and average values of data from the usage statistics analysis are
calculated to allow comparison.
4. RESULTS
4.1 Results of user survey
In total, 1,479 persons participated in the user survey (see table 1)
between August 26
th
and October 10
th
, 2011, with the vast majori-
ty responding before September 22
nd
, 2011.
The most respondents are located in Germany (340), Switzerland
(301), United States (131), Austria (63), India (48), Netherlands
(44), Canada (39), China (39), United Kingdom (39), Italy (31),
and Belgium (31). The self-evaluations regarding the perceived
References+ usage frequency range from almost daily (140), min.
one time weekly (341), min. one time monthly (371) to less than
monthly (627).
The following screenshot depicts the survey results by displaying
the number of respondents for every provided option.
Figure. 2. Results of the 2011 user survey
4.2 Results of usage data analysis
The following tables show some selected activity correlations on
usage frequency, user’s country and activity in other Siemens-
internal Social Media platforms:
“# respondents”: Number of respondents for a given cri-
terion.
Ø activity days”: Average number of days with access
to References+.
Ø visited KRs”: Average number of page views of
Knowledge References.
Ø contributions”: Average accumulated number of
contributed Knowledge References, feedbacks, forum
postings, and microblog postings.
Ø followers”: Average number of followers.
The activity figures are limited to the survey respondents and to
the period from April 1
st
, 2010 to September 30
th
, 2011. During
this period, the usage data of the 1,479 respondents reflected
29,466 activity days in References+, 13,806 visited Knowledge
References, 2,548 total contributions, and 1,828 followers.
Table 3. Usage data dependent on factual usage frequency
100+
days
16-49
days
0-15
days
# respondents
56
334
994
Ø activity days
136.9
26.9
6.3
Ø visited KRs
38.2
16.0
2.1
Ø contributions
11.1
2.0
0.4
Ø followers
4.5
1.5
0.7
Table 4. Usage data for selected countries
de
ch
cn
us
br
in
# respondents
340
301
39
131
13
48
Ø activity days
14.9
26.7
7.5
7.2
12.1
18.8
Ø visited KRs
6.3
16.5
5.2
1.4
5.4
7.9
Ø contributions
1.1
2.9
0.3
0.8
0.8
1.8
Ø followers
1.2
2.2
0.8
0.3
4.9
1.1
Table 5. Usage data dependent on membership number
in other company-internal Social Media communities
3 more
commu.
2 more
commu.
1 more
commu.
no other
commu.
# respondents
18
50
259
1152
Ø activity days
32.8
38.8
25.7
17.6
Ø visited KRs
2.1
17.6
13.2
8.2
Ø contributions
10.4
8.8
1.5
1.1
Ø followers
4.1
3.5
1.3
1.1
The preceding tables demonstrate that frequent users and users
who are also registered in other company-internal Social Media
platforms usually have more followers and posted more contri-
butions. However, reading activity does not always increase with
growing usage frequency or a growing number of Social Media
platforms where users are also registered. Due to the low number
of respondents from certain countries, no intercultural implica-
tions can be derived from the usage data.
4.3 Correlating survey results and usage data
In this section, perceived usage is compared with different types
of factual usage. Due to space restrictions, the following section
can only present a snapshot of the calculations.
The following table shows that respondents with a high perceived
usage frequency are also exhibiting higher factual usage. Interest-
ingly, the mean value for average contributions is lower for daily
users than for weekly ones, i.e. people with a high perceived us-
age frequency are not necessarily the most active contributors.
Studying usage data has shown that many contributions are made
by employees who are not daily users.
Table 6. Perceived usage frequency vs. factual usage frequency
The next table shows that respondents with a perceived high help-
fulness of References+ are also exhibiting higher factual usage,
i.e. they visit more Knowledge References, generate more content,
and have more followers. However, the user group rating Refer-
ences+ very helpful has a slightly lower mean value than the
group rating it predominantly helpful,” i.e. employees with the
highest perceived helpfulness are not necessarily spending the
highest number of activity days on the platform.
Table 7. Perceived helpfulness vs. factual usage
The next two tables show that visiting (i.e. viewing and reading)
Knowledge References greatly affects people’s perception that
using the information from References+ saves them working time
and money. However, the most active users in terms of days and
visited Knowledge References do not necessarily perceive the
highest time and money savings.
Table 8. Perceived saved time vs. factual usage
Table 9. Perceived saved money vs. factual usage
Employees who feel they generate more new business turnover
definitely visit more Knowledge References. Because this was an
optional question, the average values for all 670 users selecting
not relevant are not presented.
Table 10. Perceived new turnover vs. factual usage
As shown in the next table, employees who feel that References+
helps them attract new customers have more factual activity days
and visit more Knowledge References. Because this was an op-
tional question, the average values for all 595 users selecting not
relevant are not presented.
Table 11. Perceived new customers vs. factual usage
The last table shows that employees with a better perceived over-
all rating also have more average activity days, visit more
Knowledge References, make more contributions, and have more
followers. There seems to be a strong relationship between per-
ceived benefit and factual use. Because this was an optional ques-
tion, the average values for all 300 users giving no rating are not
presented.
Table 12. Perceived overall rating vs. factual usage
5. CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION
The goal of the presented research was to investigate whether and
how survey results on the perceived use and benefits of a
Web 2.0-based knowledge management platform match the factu-
al use of this platform. The comparison of survey results with
factual usage data reveals a tendency that frequent References+
users especially in terms of reading activity perceive higher
benefits (i.e. helpfulness, saved time, saved money, new turnover,
new customers). This tendency is not always reflected in the aver-
more than
€1,000 -
€0 -
€10,000
€10,000
€1,000
none
# respondents
9
79
202
1189
Ø activity days
18.22
20.38
22.06
19.54
Ø visited KRs
12.22
20.61
14.07
7.76
Ø contributions
1.00
1.42
1.51
1.57
Ø followers
1.44
1.15
1.27
1.23
Perceived “Saved money”
several
one
one/several
days
day
hours
none
# respondents
123
144
437
775
Ø activity days
22.01
27.10
20.88
17.72
Ø visited KRs
23.96
25.25
7.80
4.92
Ø contributions
2.40
1.80
1.87
1.18
Ø followers
1.26
1.55
1.32
1.13
Perceived “Saved time”
very
predom.
partially
not
helpful
helpful
helpful
helpful
# respondents
146
222
805
306
Ø activity days
26.53
27.39
19.07
13.59
Ø visited KRs
25.88
20.39
5.90
2.45
Ø contributions
4.41
2.41
1.20
0.46
Ø followers
2.10
1.47
1.23
0.66
Perceived “Helpfulness”
more than
€100,000 -
€10,000 -
€0 -
€1 million
€1 million
€100,000
€10,000
none
# respondents
3
17
51
109
629
Ø activity days
24.33
33.24
24.39
18.79
17.05
Ø visited KRs
5.00
42.82
30.04
8.98
5.59
Ø contributions
0.33
2.06
1.65
1.88
0.88
Ø followers
0.00
1.76
3.41
1.42
0.80
Perceived “New turnover”
daily
weekly
monthly
rarely
# respondents
140
341
371
627
Ø activity days
33.18
29.77
17.44
13.07
Ø visited KRs
21.11
16.74
8.78
3.01
Ø contributions
3.11
3.26
1.05
0.56
Ø followers
2.19
1.82
1.18
0.74
Perceived "Usage frequency"
3
2
1
0
# respondents
47
56
108
673
Ø activity days
31.55
27.34
16.67
16.65
Ø visited KRs
56.64
26.93
12.29
4.54
Ø contributions
2.70
4.29
0.81
0.75
Ø followers
1.94
2.13
1.66
0.79
Perceived “New customers”
very good
good
average
insufficient
# respondents
281
610
231
57
Ø activity days
29.96
22.11
13.29
10.05
Ø visited KRs
15.51
11.79
6.19
2.93
Ø contributions
4.69
1.13
0.76
0.44
Ø followers
2.60
1.10
0.83
0.67
Perceived “Overall rating”
age number of contributions and the average number of activity
days. The number of followers, usually an indication of the indi-
vidual’s degree of networking and a type of “status” within a vir-
tual social network, does not show a correlation with the per-
ceived benefit values in all cases.
An explanation of the observed phenomena might be based on the
motivation to use and contribute to Web 2.0-based knowledge
management platforms. Typically, users with high intrinsic moti-
vation use such platforms more often than less motivated col-
leagues. Hence, the probability of perceiving any related benefit
might be higher for frequent users since they are more active and
thus able to explore a higher number of potentially positive as-
pects of the platform. Therefore, factual and perceived benefits are
among the most important and sustainable motivation factors for
using a Web 2.0-based platform such as References+. Providing
immediate benefits for users can be the most crucial success factor
for an Enterprise 2.0 initiative.
Some limitations of this study have to be discussed: One limita-
tion is the fact that only registered platform users were invited to
participate in the survey via e-mail. However, the content of Ref-
erences+ is accessible to all users of the Siemens intranet. Another
limitation concerns the scientific rigor of the survey. The survey
included questions addressing time savings and monetary aspects,
which were of particular interest to management and the
knowledge manager. The authors know that this approach does
not completely conform to the principle of scientific rigor as some
participants may be unable to link the perceived benefits with
monetary aspects, savings, and additional customers. However,
the intention of the survey was to explore and show a tendency of
user participation and perceived benefits as key performance indi-
cators. Against this background, a non-complex questionnaire
with a set of closed practical questions was chosen to ensure a
higher participation level. (There had been a pre-test with a few
selected key users to refine the questionnaire and to make sure
that all questions were well understood.)
User surveys are a common instrument to obtain quantitative
feedback on perceived usefulness and helpfulness. They can re-
veal information on the ROI of a Web 2.0-based knowledge man-
agement platform if relevant questions are included. However, it
should be noted for further analysis and discussion that survey
results always reflect the subjective views of the respondents.
Nevertheless, by using a high number of survey replies, a tenden-
cy could be derived by calculating average or median values.
Based on the results of this paper, linking survey results to usage
statistics is highly recommended when aiming to measure ROI
since perceived usage will then be complemented with results on
factual usage from the usage statistics analysis.
Last but not least, user surveys can be very helpful and effective
in developing user-centered IT features and community coverage:
The results show the basic needs of the user community, which
helps avoid fundamentally undesirable developments. In addition,
the results help clarify questions such as the following:
Why are employees motivated to participate and con-
tribute in online communities?
What do employees expect from Web 2.0-based plat-
forms? What do they miss in the currently available
platform?
Is there any correlation between objective use or contri-
bution frequency and subjectively perceived individual
benefits?
Replies to these questions are highly important for an efficient
and user-centered development of a community platform and for
the success of an Enterprise 2.0 initiative in general.
A follow-up user survey regarding References+ usage and benefits
was conducted in April 2013, allowing further investigation of
perceived use and benefits vs. factual use as it includes a more
comprehensive questionnaire which supports deeper evaluation.
6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors would like to thank the Siemens employees who par-
ticipated in the 2011 References+ User Survey. Furthermore, the
authors appreciate the financial support of the COMET K2-
Research Centers for Excellent Technologies Program of the Aus-
trian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology
(BMVIT), the Austrian Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and
Youth (BMWFJ), the Austrian Research Promotion Agency
(FFG), the Province of Styria, and the Styrian Business Promotion
Agency (SFG).
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