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Social Network Analysis for Improved Collaboration

Posted by on January 18, 2010

I was reading Mike Gotta’s blog today and came across his post on a new prototype tool that SAP has been implementing internally for SNA (social network analysis).  For those of you unfamiliar with SNA it’s not a new concept in fact, it has been around for quite some time now.  The basic concept of SNA is to explore how people interact with one another and collaborate and share information.  You can imagine that for Enterprise 2.0 the idea of SNA is quite relevant.

Before going forward let’s remember that the whole point of collaboration is not just to collaborate but to actually drive some sort of business result.

When designing collaboration strategies there are several key pieces of information that we want to know, among them are:

  • Which departments are the most active collaborators (again driving business results) internally and within other departments
  • Which specific employees are the most active collaborators internally and with other departments
  • Who are the communication or collaboration bridges between departments (perhaps someone that has been at the company for a while that knows everyone)
  • Who are employees collaborating with the most/least (individuals and departments)

Being able to understand how individuals and departments are collaborating and sharing information with one another is crucial for developing a successful Enterprise 2.0 strategy.  What’s interesting is that you can do a SNA before and after you implement a strategy to see how the changes are taking shape.

What SAP has done is create an internal tool that essentially maps individuals and groups within the Enterprise.  Large organizations such as SAP have pretty complex internal structures (as Mike pointed out in his post) so it’s important to really understand how individuals and departments work together and collaborate within those structures.  According to SAP:

“The purpose of this technology is to deliver an environment where people can easily and quickly analyze corporate network relationships and find the information they are looking for in their daily jobs. The social network analyzer prototype lets you import and aggregate all the business network relationships between people that are already recorded in your business applications, such as:

  • Management hierarchies from your human resources system
  • Data on who worked on which deals, from your sales force automation system
  • Partner, customer, and partner supplier contacts along your supply chain system
  • People who work on similar transactions or projects within your operational systems”

This new tool is available for anyone to use, there is a live demo you can play around with or you can download the actual tool and input your own company data.

Here are a few screenshots from the SAP tool:

  • sean_juteNetworks

    Great article. There are a few companies offering varieties of Social Network Analysis / Visualization packages.

    There are some real challenges for those of us doing this work. The interfaces are still far from mature, and the use cases are not yet clear.

    Shameless self-promotion warning: my company is one of them.

    You can see how we worked with a lobby that does work in the independent sector here

    I'm happy to do a demo for you, if you're interested.


  • I have not heard of these tools before and really can not use it as I am a one man team, however when talking about collaborations I immediately thought of twitter. Perhaps the most useless amount of collaborations take place on twitter. Business will follow each other and what for?

  • I have not heard of these tools before and really can not use it as I am a one man team, however when talking about collaborations I immediately thought of twitter. Perhaps the most useless amount of collaborations take place on twitter. Business will follow each other and what for?

  • Same here, but i know a little about social networking. I was told about the use of social media when it comes to  business. There are lots of advantages that one can gain when using this one.

  • Martinrjpitchford ! Join this all new social network

  • carl mason

    Interesting article. Social media is defo going to take over…I can see the benefits for the smaller company using it especially.

  • carl mason

    Great article….I agree with every point made here!