The social network is an untapped information asset in most organisations, leaving interaction patterns between people and teams hidden, according to Gartner.
Gartner says that social network analysis serves up business intelligence on the ties, information flows and value exchanges that can be used to determine if these patterns represent business opportunities or disruptions. Organisations can use this information to exploit these patterns when they offer new organisational insight.
"Work is routinely conducted among employees, business partners and customers without a clear understanding of the positions that people play in the social network or a quantification of the value exchanges that occur," says Carol Rozwell, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "CIOs, IT professionals and business managers need to look to social network analysis to achieve a pattern-based strategy."
Pattern-based strategy is the discipline that enables business leaders to actively seek, amplify, examine and exploit new business patterns to capitalise on opportunities or avoid disruptions. Gartner has identified three variations of social network analysis that can help organizations realise a pattern-based strategy:
* Organisational network analysis explores the constraints, connections, communication and information flows among individuals, or nodes, in the network. It can help an organisation understand which employees are critical to its business performance, overcommitted or bottlenecks to getting work done and untapped sources of insight.
* Value network analysis examines the transactions and relationships among roles that create economic value. The value exchanges are depicted as tangible and intangible deliverables. It can help an organisation understand which business partners are meeting their performance commitments, clear on their role and position in the value network and untapped sources of intangible value.
* Influence analysis identifies influential people, associations or trends in the collective. It can help an organisation understand which customers and other members of the collective are influencing other customers and prospects, potential customer satisfaction disasters and creating the next product innovation.
All three variations of social network analysis enable an operational tempo (optempo) advantage that improves the organisation’s ability to match pace to purpose by adapting to patterns of change that occur in the social network. Optempo is necessary for maximising the allocation and utilisation of organisation and value network resources (such as people, processes and information) as new patterns emerge.
Social network analysis also supports a performance-driven culture, extending the traditional performance focus from measuring what happened in the past to focusing on leading indicators and using measurable results to drive desired behaviours.
Another function of social network analysis is to provide transparency. In the context of a Pattern-Based Strategy, transparency is the demonstration of corporate health and can be used for strategic differentiation.
Social network analysis provides more than appealing pictures of relationships and transactions; it also arms the organisation with business intelligence about the social networks on which it depends to achieve its performance goals by providing tools with dashboards that summarise key parameters.
"Social network analysis is an information-age pattern analysis technique that illuminates shadow activities," says Rozwell. "It does not provide specific answers to relationship questions, but it does provide data that organisations can use to ask questions about the 'as is' state and design of interventions needed to achieve the desired 'to be' state in the context of a pattern-based strategy."