‘It’s Not What You Know…….It’s Who You Know’

Picture the scene (it’s one that we all know very well) – it’s a typical mid-week morning, I’m standing at the platform waiting for my train to arrive, it’s early. As I look around, at least 80% of people waiting are on their phones – checking email, looking at their social feeds or watching content on-demand – all connected to a device in some shape or form.

This isn’t unusual but it’s a very real demonstration of just how connected we are in our everyday lives, both personally and professionally.

As the world continues to become ‘more connected’ (there are currently 3.5 billion smartphone users globally) the data and insights that these connections and networks hold, from an organisational perspective, is increasingly becoming a critical component when developing business strategy.

The Notion of Organisational Network Analysis (ONA)

Whether you are looking at a large enterprise with tens of thousands of employees, or at a small or medium sized company, employees will always build informal ‘go to teams’ both internally and externally. Some people consider these teams to be the lifeblood of organisations worldwide. They aren’t however always reflected within a traditional organisational chart. This is where Organisational Network Analysis comes in to play:

“Visualizing and analyzing formal and informal relationships in your organization can help you shape business strategy that maximizes organic exchange of information, thereby helping your business become more sustainable and effective.”

Deloitte, Organizational Network Analysis Gain insight, drive smart Report 2018.

Those organisations that do look beyond the org chart, and take a look at really understanding their organisational network, have a greater understanding of who exactly they are doing business with, how information in their organisation is flowing, the amount of resource allocated to a given project and who the key players are – all critical factors to driving success in an increasingly connected age.

The Power of Networks

I have spent the last ten years providing services to and supporting the financial services sector. Within this environment, trust, discretion and hence relationships are key to success. Having built a strong network of contacts and connections, understanding how these formal and informal relationships can impact business strategy and organisational design has always fascinated me.

My journey into Organisational Network Analysis started back in 2014. I was looking to build the client base for my managed services business. In order to better understand the business, I decided to draw a diagram of everyone I interacted with on a regular basis and for every relationship, describe its importance.

The below is what I came up with:

From here, even with names obscured, its clear to see that I could clearly see that there were four key people in my network that had been crucial in developing my client base.

Visualisation of where connections and relationships exist on both a company to company and employee to employee level will not only identify who the critical players are but will also deliver invaluable institutional knowledge. Yes, on paper, ONA will undoubtedly highlight who the ‘Central Nodes’, ‘Knowledge Brokers’, ‘Peripheral’ and ‘High Risk’ employees are but the business benefits can go far beyond that. By running a successful ongoing ONA programme the insights gained can help to accelerate growth, manage change and drive towards creating agile networks or teams to deliver sustained competitive advantage.

Step forward to 2020 and we are now analysing hugely complex data sets with millions of data points for our clients. The technology is real time, the data can be represented in an almost infinite number of ways and importantly, the diagrams are much prettier too!

As the world continues to be more connected, and the data footprint those connections produce, having a systematic approach to ONA, and the resulting relationship infrastructure maps that it produces, will enable leadership teams to truly understand their business. If this analysis can help drive growth and efficiencies, whilst mitigating risk, surely it’s a must for any leadership team in 2020.

However back to more pressing matters……..where exactly did I put my mobile phone for the commute home?

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