Last Friday you would remember how I created a weblog post on a recent BusinessWeek article regarding Social Network Analysis and its potential business value, specially for larger organisations where their employees may be rather dispersed in multiple timezones, geographies, etc. etc. Well, just this morning (And it looks like I wasn’t the only one since one of my fellow IBM colleagues, Aneel, also received an e-mail from Noel Cuinane (From Blood and Treasure) and has commented on another weblog post on the subject), I got an e-mail from Noel as well asking for some further feedback comments regarding their weblog post. Since I cannot leave a Trackback there I thought I would create a new weblog and link to it from here in order to add some more into the conversation.
The weblog post is titled Social Network Analysis and you can find a link to it over here. The article itself comes to question the actually business value of SNA for every business and while reading through it I just couldn’t help noticing a couple of paragraphs worth while noting:
“Senior management will love it. All the hot buttons are there – hierarchies, web surveys, expertise, software programs, management consulting, resulting charts, hub-and-spoke route maps, internal networks and, finally, innovation“
Actually, I wouldn’t think that just senior management would be interested in Social Networking Analysis. We all know how this discipline has been around for a number of decades now and how it has been applied to multiple communities to try to get the best out of them and create some more awareness about the different connections inside of the community. What is actually happening now is that more and more businesses are realising how they could benefit from something that has been there for a long time and which they could leverage with. Pretty much the same thing as what is happening nowadays with weblogs, wikis or Instant Messaging.
Apart from all that it would also be worth while noting that all those elements quoted above are, in my opinion, just a minimal representation of what SNA would be about since we should not forget that it has always been associated with Knowledge Management. And still is, probably.
“What Social Network Analysis does, essentially, is identify who is considered popular and who is not. That someone has managed to persuade others to rate their input ‘important’ doesnâ€™t necessarily make their input valuable. You have to take a look at the results they are achieving to judge that. SNA however, does not measure business results. It measures social popularity according to a defined set of â€˜collaborativeâ€™ behaviors.”
I never thought we would be identifying Social Network Analysis as having to deal with popularity. All the other way around, actually. It is about everything else but popularity. SNA is all about trying to study the different relationships, and their connections, that are taking place within a particular group to try to identify who may have potentially more connections in such a group and try to leverage those. Main reason being ? Well, thinking about how relevant (remote) collaboration and knowledge sharing are becoming nowadays, with the increasing presence of Web 2.0 applications, SNA will be that tipping point that will make it work by helping businesses identify who could act as potential critical mass users in order to help spread the message and get a much tighter collaboration where everyone is encouraged to share their knowledge, their skills and so forth but all of that with the additional help of multiple hubs that would act as catalysts . Nothing to do with popularity I would think. In fact, I can imagine how there would be quite a lot of people well connected but not necessarily popular. However, their collaboration and knowledge sharing skills may be much more meaningful for the business than they themselves being popular.
“When â€œhubsâ€? show up on the informal map, however, you’ll know you’ve found the people who spend all day promoting themselves internally instead of doing their jobs. Now you can annihilate them.“
Indeed ! Unfortunately, this is the very same reason why people still do not think that collaborating and knowledge sharing would help them instead of annihilating them ! Thinking that you are indispensable to do your daily job and therefore your reluctance to stand out and share what you know is perhaps one of those factors that companies are realising it is no longer good enough. Actually, more and more that attitude is the one getting you less noticed and in much more trouble. I have yet to see the first person being annihilated for sharing or collaborating too much with other colleagues; however, I can think of many hundreds, if not thousands, of other people who have been annihilated just because of how exclusive they felt their knowledge was that they didn’t share it with others. In the end it is all about how much you would want to collaborate, share and work closer together with others and certainly SNA can be a great helper to find out who those folks may be and how you could get the most out of them to become the engines of your business. Simple.
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