11.4.2 Why and where to use it

SNA becomes an important tool for organisations to reveal and analyse social network and determine if it is meeting the business needs of the group. The outcome of an SNA lets us see where collaboration is breaking down, where talent and expertise could be better leveraged, where decisions are getting bogged down and where opportunities for diffusion and innovation are being lost.

The data gives SMEs the picture they need to create a set of remedial actions for individuals and managers to improve productivity, efficiency and innovation. These actions include modifying roles and responsibilities to foster more effective patterns of communication, methods of improving trust, better use of technology to reach others, re-alignment of rewards and incentive programs1.

Some of the potential benefits in using SNA include:

  • Awareness of Social Networks:
    Being aware of social networks that exist both within and outside the organisation is important for knowledge management. The social networks serve as a base for Communities of Practice. People need the infrastructure of social networks to establish Communities of Practice, which, in turn, will increase the exchange of knowledge within and outside of the organisation2.
  • Building Knowledge Maps:
    SNA techniques can be applied in building and analysing knowledge maps. Further analysis of these knowledge maps through the use of other demographic details helps us to effectively analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the networks. With SNA, managers can gain access to sets of useful data for further analysis and comparisons, which helps them to make better and more justified management decisions in relation to knowledge management projects.
  • Retention of People with Vital Knowledge:
    This can be achieved by increasing the social capital within the organisation. For example, people who are more connected are more likely to be satisfied with their work and are therefore more likely to stay.3
  • Increased Innovation, Productivity and Responsiveness:
    This can be achieved by reducing gaps in people’s knowledge about one another, including their experiences and expertise. Social networks are also important for the purpose of knowing whom to ask for support in different situations. Thus, the amount of time it takes for people to locate and access necessary knowledge decreases.4
  • Smarter Decisions on Formal Organisational Structure:
    This is achieved by understanding the structure of existing social networks. SNA gives insights into how work is really accomplished in an organisation, how decisions are made and the effectiveness of the existing organisational structures. An analysis may indicate gaps or overlaps in the reporting structure in an organisation, or indicate individuals who are playing crucial knowledge brokering roles. Organisational changes or changes in the reward system may be required to change some of the patterns which Social Network Analysis will reveal.5

In addition, Social Network Analysis can assist organisations in handling a number of classic situations such as:

  • Leader selection:
    If looking for a new leader of a team in your company, analysis in terms of trust and respect can provide you critical information for selection.6 
  • Taskforce selection:
    There are many situations where managers want to know how to put together a team of people who are maximally connected throughout the organisation. SNA is really useful in making such decisions.7
  • Mergers and acquisition:
    When an SME or organisation plans to merge with another SME or organisation then SNA gives the opportunity to analyse such situations. It is not just two cultures merging, but it is two separate networks. So, SNA will assist managers and SMEs to merge their networks making the right mix of people in the appropriate units8.

Some business applications of SNA  9

Team-building: SNAs can contribute to the creation of innovative teams and facilitate post-merger integration. SNAs can reveal, for example, which individuals are most likely to be exposed to new ideas.

Human resources: SNAs can identify and monitor the effects of workforce diversity, on-boarding and retention, and leadership development. For instance, an SNA can reveal whether or not mentors are creating relationships between mentees and other employees.

Sales and Marketing: SNAs can help track the adoption of new products, technologies and ideas. They can also suggest communication strategies.

Strategy: SNAs can support industry ecosystem analysis as well as partnerships and alliances. They can pinpoint which firms are linked to critical industry players and which are not.

1 Kristina Groth, ‘Using Social Networks for knowledge Management’
2 libid