E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

It’s Who You Know, but We Already Knew That, Didn’t We?

A couple of weeks back you would remember how I created a weblog post where I was providing some initial entry points on some very useful resources regarding the ever interesting subject of Social Network Analysis here is another article that I am sure you would be able to find it as enlightening as I did. It is titled It’s Who You Know and was put together by one of my fellow IBM colleagues, Kate Ehrlich, who is an expert on the subject and has been doing some really cool stuff about SNA for quite some time now. I am sure you may have bumped into some of her work already or even know her face-to-face.

What is interesting about this article is that for the first time in a while you would get to notice how the true value from a large enterprise is no longer residing in the different organisational units but more on the people themselves, on the knowledge workers, who through their informal social networks get to do their jobs much more effectively and efficiently as far as sharing knowledge and collaborating.

Indeed, Kate just puts together a very compelling news article where she is providing an example on the huge impact of ignoring or bypassing those social networks and how through the good usage of SNA things could be improved by being able to identify those key people hubs or key connectors that would get you to the right information and / or people. She gets to discuss a number of different ties (Direct vs indirect, strong vs. weak and one-way vs two-way or reciprocal) that will help in building up further those informal social networks. She also gets to describe the anatomy of an SNA, its relationships and attributes and how you could apply it to every single business out there. The more complex the better.

However, what I really liked about her article is the fact that she has also put together a number of different business applications for Social Network Analysis, which would certainly help everyone get the idea that for helping every single KM strategy to succeed you may need to conduct an SNA at some point in time. Something that I really agree with all along, and the longer that program has been running, the better. Here are the business applications of SNA in case you would want to have a sneak preview of them all:

* Knowledge management and collaboration. Help locate expertise, seed new communities of practice, improve cross-functional knowledge-sharing and strategic decision-making across leadership teams.
* Team-building. Facilitate post-merger integration or help leaders identify how to structure teams for innovation or structure and manage distributed teams.
* Human resources. Identify and monitor the effects of workforce diversity, hiring practices and leadership development to improve on-boarding, retention, employee satisfaction and productivity.
* Sales and marketing. Speed or expand the adoption of new products, technologies or ideas as part of an overall communication strategy.
* Strategy. Support planning and strategy for engaging in partnerships and alliances.

Not bad what a Social Network Analysis can do for your business, eh? That is right, it can do that and so much more. So whoever thought that SNA does not have much more of a business benefit than other traditional methods I think they should really read the article It’s Who You Know because I am sure it would be an eye-opener for most of them.

Oh, and one final thought, who would have thought that after all the focus we have been placing on tools and processes all along within KM for a number of years, it turns out that the one key fundamental success factors that will make your KM program succeed in the current business environment are the people! Does it ring a bell ? I bet it does …

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