ROI of Social Networking for TransUnion

gerrycall    March 1, 2012

Organisation Name:  TransUnion

Industry:  Credit Information and Information Management Services

Contact: John Parkinson, Chief Technology Officer

Web References: (abridged from a post by Ross Mayfield, Chairman, President & Co-founder of Socialtext, reporting on an interview of John Parkinson by Internet Evolution’s Chris Murphy (

Description of how social media is used for business performance:

TransUnion is one of the big three credit report companies.

The need for an internal social networking platform grew out of a realization that the company did not want employees discussing business issues on the public internet. TransUnion knew it was time to provide an internal social networking tool when people started asking for permission to set up an employee group inside Facebook. So the company did a quick survey. About 2,000 of its 2,700 employees were using some kind of public social networking tool. Since the company deals in credit reports, it wasn’t keen on employees gathering to talk shop on the public Web. So the IT team set up Socialtext inside the company firewall. Parkinson liked the features of the online network Ning but decided he needed the software on its own network for security.

The Socialtext platform has profiles, a wiki capability, and instant messaging. Employees can use it to ask questions of a broad group. People can tune their settings to allow all questions or allow only those from certain groups or people. But all the questions and answers get written to the database. The platform lets people vote on answers they like. It also has tools to analyze which answers people are reading and using to solve problems, and how answers correlate to topics that are most valuable to the company.

TransUnion is studying usage data to learn who is best at solving business problems raised in the social network. With that, it’s experimenting with new job descriptions for a couple of them, so that handling these questions within the forum is a formal part of their role.

“It was never very clear to us, looking in, who the authoritative sources were, who was good at solving problems,” Parkinson says. “Now we can see a lot of that because we’re starting to see patterns emerge, to see who’s following whom, who’s the good source of questions, who offers good answers. All those things that you sort of know by the grapevine, we now have data for.”

TransUnion’s Socialtext platform co-exists with Microsoft SharePoint, which has some of the same wiki and networking tools. Parkinson draws the line this way: If an activity is part of a formal process, the collaboration should happen in SharePoint. In bringing on a new customer, for example, many formal steps are involved, and SharePoint has workflow tools that allow for collaboration while making sure the necessary hand-offs happen and the process is completed. “On the other hand, if I want to improve the process of bringing on a customer, I launch a discussion on Socialtext,” Parkinson says.

Lessons for others:

Regarding the difficulty of developing an ROI for the investment in social networking,

John Parkinson estimates a $2.5 million savings in less than five months, while spending about $50,000 on a social networking platform. The savings comes from buying less hardware and software.

TransUnion runs on a lot of custom software code. Instead of buying more computer hardware and software to improve IT performance, employees are brainstorming ideas across larger groups on the company’s Socialtext platform. “The savings mostly come out of teams that would have historically said, ‘Buy me more hardware’ or ‘I need a new software tool’ or ‘I need more processing capacity,’ who figured out how to solve their problems without asking for any of those things,” says Parkinson.

Submitted By: Gerry Call

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