Social network analysis (SNA) has been around a while now. Patti Anklam wrote a good article, KM and the social network, that describes how social network analysis can be used for knowledge management.
Social network analysis can be used for discovering networks, visualising them, and testing knowledge flows within a knowledge management context. Essentially, it’s all about who is, or should be, linking to whom.
Bonnie Cheuk at Online Information 2006 in London last November presented on “Using social networking analysis to facilitate knowledge sharing in a multinational organisation”. I see from my notes of that presentation that she cited her previous experience at the British Council. She used SNA to discover the connections between 13 regional leadership teams scattered around the world and then mapped them. From that information and visualisation of the network, strong and weak links could be identified. Strategies were developed to improve personal and team effectiveness, enhancing collaboration and knowledge sharing, leading to a more effective business.
Yet it seems there may be more nefarious uses of social network analysis. Patrick Lambe blogged recently about how one company is selling a social network analysis package to allow management to monitor activity via IP addresses. One of the “selling points” is the ability for managers to use the technology to detect “loafers”, something that any good manager should be able to detect by good management, good communication, and meaningful performance measures.
I must say that adding new devices for electronic surveillance at the workplace is not going to be a huge selling point for recruitment and staff retention rates!