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Hi - Noteworthy.
For the last session of the day, I attended Carol Rozwell's presentation on
social network analysis and the impact of understanding network processes.
I'll be doing a presentation at Business Rules Forum next month on social
networking and BPM, so this is especially interesting even though I'll be
covering a lot of other information besides social graphs.
She started with the (by now, I hope obvious) statement that what you don't
know about your social network can, in fact, hurt you: there are a lot of
stories around about how companies have and have not made good use of their
social network, and the consequences of those activities.
She posited that while business process analysis tells us about the sequence
of steps, what can be eliminated and where automation can help, social
network analysis tells us about the intricacies of working relationships,
the complexity and variability of roles, the critical people and untapped
resources, and operational effectiveness. Many of us are working very
differently than we were several years ago, but this isn't just about
"digital natives" entering the workforce, it's about the changing work
environment and resources available to all of us. We're all more connected
(although many Blackberry slaves don't necessarily see this as an
advantage), more visual in terms of graphical representations and
multimedia, more interactively involved in content creation, and we do more
multitasking in an increasingly dynamic environment. The line between work
and personal life blurs, and although some people decry this, I like it: I
can go to many places in the world, meet up with someone who I met through
business, and enjoy some leisure time together. I have business contacts on
Facebook in additional to personal friends, and I know that many business
contacts read my personal blog (especially the recent foodie posts) as well
as my business blog. I don't really have a lot to hide, so don't have
problem with that level of transparency; I'm also not afraid to turn off my
phone and stop checking my email if I want to get away from it all.
Your employees are already using social media, whether you allow it within
your firewall or not, so you might as well suck it up and educate them on
what they can and can't say about your company on Twitter. If you're on the
employee side, then you need to embrace the fact that you're connected, and
stop publishing those embarrassing photos of yourself on Facebook even if
you're not directly connected to your boss.
She showed a chart of social networks, with the horizontal axis ranging from
emergent to engineered, and the vertical axis from interest-driven to
purpose-driven. I think that she's missing a few things here: for example,
open source communities are emergent and purpose-driven, that is, at the top
left of the graph, although all of her examples range roughly along the
diagonal from bottom left to top right.
There are a lot of reasons for analyzing social networks, such as predicting
trends and identifying new potential sources of resources, and a few
different techniques for doing this:
. Organizational network analysis (ONA), which examines the connections
amongst people in groups
. Value network analysis (VNA), which examines the relationships used to
create economic value
. Influence analysis, a type of cluster analysis that pinpoints people,
associations and trends
Rozwell showed an interesting example of a company's organizational chart,
then the same players represented in an ONA. Although it's
not clear exactly what the social network is based on - presumably some sort
of interpersonal interaction - it highlights issues within the company in
that some people have no direct relation to their direct reports, and one
person who was low in the organizational chart was a key linkage between
different departments and people.
She showed an example of VNA, where the linkages between a retailer,
distributor, manufacturer and contract manufacturer where shown: orders,
movements of goods, and payments. This allows the exchanges of value,
whether tangible or intangible, to be highlighted and analyzed.
Her influence analysis example discussed the people who monitor social media
- either within a company or their PR agency - to analyze the contributors,
determine which are relevant and credible, and use that to drive engagement
with the social media contributors. I get a few emails per day from people
who start with "I read your blog and think that you should talk to my
customer about their new BPM widget", so I know that there are a lot of
There are some basic features that you look for when doing network analysis:
central connectors (those people in the middle of a cluster), peripheral
players (connected to only one or two others), and brokers (people who form
the connection between two clusters).
There are some pretty significant differences between ONA, VNA and business
process analysis, although there are some clear linkages: VNA could have a
direct impact on understanding the business process flows, while ONA could
help to inform the roles and responsibilities. She discussed a case study of
a company that did a business process analysis and an ONA, and used the ONA
on the redesigned process in order to redesign roles to reduce variability,
identify roles most impacted by automation, and expose critical vendor
Determining how to measure a social network can be a challenge: one telecom
company used records of voice calls, SMS and other person-to-person
communications in order to develop marketing campaigns and pricing
strategies. That sounds like a complete invasion of privacy to me, but we've
come to expect that from our telecom providers.
The example of using social networks to find potential resources is
something that a lot of large professional services firms are testing out:
she showed an example that looked vaguely familiar where employees indicated
their expertise and interests, and other employees could look for others
with specific sets of skills. I know that IBM does some of this with their
internal Beehive system, and I saw a presentation on this at the last
Enterprise 2.0 conference.
There are also a lot of examples of how companies use social networks to
engage their customers, and a "community manager" position has been created
at many organizations to help manage those relationships. There are a lot of
ways to do this poorly - such as blasting advertising to your community -
but plenty of ways to make it work for you. Once things get rolling in such
a public social network, the same sort of social network analysis techniques
can be applied in order to find the key people in your social network, even
if they don't work for you, and even if they primarily take an observer
Tons of interesting stuff here, and I have a lot of ideas of how this
impacts BPM - but you'll have to come to Business Rules Forum to hear about
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