So far in our previous posts we have described what social media analysis is, and how organisations can make meaning of this analysis. We will continue to discuss about SNA, but in an organisational context, otherwise known as organisational network analysis (ONA).
As organisations have developed over time, structures of organisations have become less hierarchical, catering for a more functional and organisational structure. Organisations seek to promote more efficiency and flexibility with this organisational structure, as more coordination and work occur naturally through informal networks of relationships rather than formal reporting or work processes.
Formal networks such as the organisational charts are well-defined and regulated by the organisation. The chart is often a hierarchical view of the organisation that follows the layout of a pyramid, where every individual reports to another in the organisation. This provides a formal and prescribed view of how knowledge exchange takes place in an organisation, however, this is not the case. The day-to-day activities of an employee often involve interacting with several other colleagues who may or may not in the same business unit or team. Such interactions in the organisation are often conducted via emails, meetings or face-to-face conversations, phone calls, or instant messaging. These types of informal networks are often not captured, and are often hard to perceive. By mapping out these informal channels in an organisation, this provides how knowledge and information actually flow. Greve highlight that human capital, employee knowledge, as well as social capital all had contributing positive effects on an individual’s level of productivity, with social capital being the most dominant effect.
The image below shows an example of how an organisation may be formally structured through its organisational chart on the left, however, the day-to-day activities of an organisation involve interacting with several other members who may not be in the same business unit or team. On the right, the image shows how individuals in an organisation typically interact on a more informal manner in order to complete their tasks. Hence it is crucial for organisations to understand how employees interact among each other, ensuring that these invisible patterns of information flow are streamlined and as collaborative as possible.
Organisational network analysis (ONA), is a form of SNA that allows organisations to understand how employees connect and exchange information with each other. The goal of ONA is to be able to identify the not only the breakdown of cooperation and sharing, but also identify opportunities to strengthen these communication channels to provide appropriate and supported facilitation of these networks. The structure of an organisation is important, as it inherently influences the flow of knowledge and information, which has a cascading impact on productivity. Previous research has identified that organisations that can provide appropriate connectivity in networks internal to the organisation can have a substantial impact on performance, learning and innovation. By capturing the ONA of an organisation, it captures a more realistic way in which tasks are done.
One such example as described by Becheru and Luncean, was the company Halliburton. As a multinational company, it was hard for employees to exchange information using traditional methods. By implementing ONA techniques, it enhanced how Halliburton’s employees shared information. By enhancing their communication channels, employees were able to tap into far more knowledge than was anticipated. Hence, their productivity, as well as revenue had grown.
In order to generate an organisational network analysis, it typically involve: understanding the holistic view of the organisation to capture all relevant and emerging networks, gather data to evaluate current networking and collaboration patterns focusing on metrics such as frequency of interactions and reason of these interactions, and quantifying and providing a visual representation of these networks on a network map. This resulting network map allows for organisations to be able conduct analysis in understanding the types of linkages between employees.
Types of analysis that can be realised from ONA include:
- Work interactions à understanding how the organisation currently functions through work-related interactions across various business units and teams, identifying any teams who may be disconnected from the rest of the organisation,
- Key contributors in the organisation à identifying who is heavily networked, which may indicate potential promotion opportunities, or may be identified to be a risk if that key player was to leave the organisation,
- Diversity à identifying any diversity related issues in the workforce, where some ethnicities, gender, age, etc, may be ostracised or in the minority group in the organisation.
Hence, by conducting ONA, this allows organisations a deeper understanding in how employees conduct their day-to-day tasks, as well as identifying any potential ethical issues that may arise from these networks. Organisations are able to use this analysis to help and facilitate these communication channels to encourage more collaboration among individuals across teams, as well as create new diversity initiatives for any potential issues that may arise.
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Becheru, A. and Luncean, L., 2015, May. Organisational Network Analysis within the academic world: Initial steps. In Computer Supported Cooperative Work in Design (CSCWD), 2015 IEEE 19th International Conference on (pp. 206-211). IEEE.
Cross, R., 2014, ‘What is ONA?’, Rob Cross, weblog, accessed 9 May 2016, <http://www.robcross.org/network_ona.htm>
Greve, A., Benassi, M. and Sti, A.D., 2010. Exploring the contributions of human and social capital to productivity. International Review of Sociology–Revue Internationale de Sociologie, 20(1), pp.35-58.
The Advisory Board Company, 1996, ‘Managing Core Competencies of the Corporation’, Orgnet, accessed 9 May 2016, <http://www.orgnet.com/OrgNetMap.pdf>