Analyzing your Enterprise Graph to… maximize effective information flow

Analyzing the Enterprise Graph (your social, collaboration, and business networks) can help you identify, understand, and improve the flow of information within and between teams. Understanding information flow is clearly important for ensuring optimal knowledge dissemination in order to raise the collective intelligence of your organization. It’s also key to ensuring that your organization is executing against a single vision and strategy that has been clearly and reliably consumed and internalized by everyone. However it can also indirectly tell you a lot about the health of your organization, highlighting organizational robustness, fragility, dysfunction, agility, and potential. In today’s rapidly evolving marketplace, the ability of an organization to be agile and responsive to change is the key to survival, which makes this type of analysis so important.

Let’s examine some of the questions that graph analytics can help to answer and consider what this might mean for an organization.

Is there good information flow between and within teams?
Are groups isolated? Are teams that should be working together actually working together? Are parts of your organization badly connected with over-reliance on a small number of information brokers? Do you have dense networks with lots of redundancy in information flow?
Traditional hierarchical organizations tend to have networks where information dissemination relies on a relatively small number of Information Brokers (usually managers). This creates all sorts of issues for information flow and is largely being supplanted by social and collaborative networks as the mechanism through which information moves around a company (or indeed any community or group of people). However just because a company moves away from a command and control structure it doesn’t mean that they’ve removed the inherent organizational brittleness that comes from an over-reliance on information brokers. Companies may be unaware that they have a problem and may not even know who the information brokers are. In fact the information brokers themselves may be aware of the important role that they play. By analyzing information flow and better understanding the ways that information gets disseminated (or not), you can engineer your network to be more robust and start to address any inherent brittleness.

How does information flow?
What key roles are people playing within the network? Who are the information brokers? How critical is their role? What would happen if those information brokers were taken out of the network?
When contemplating transmission of information we frequently think about Information Brokers, but what about Information Blockers? What is an Information Blocker? It’s simply an inactive Information Broker. In a social network, we only see information when the people we follow interact with some object (create, comment, share, like, tag, repost, …). Therefore if an Information Broker doesn’t engage, they inadvertently block information from flowing onwards. These folks are clearly not blockers from choice and probably don’t even know that they are; in fact they may not even know they are brokers. Now if you have broker redundancy then its likely that someone else can fill the gap, however if you don’t then you have a breakdown in the flow of information and that can have a seriously negative impact on an organization. And remember that it’s the weak ties that are the most valuable within a social network. — “Weak ties are responsible for the majority of the structure of social networks in society as well as the transmission of information through these networks. More novel information flows to individuals through weak rather than strong ties because the information close friends receive overlaps considerably with what we already know.”, Wikipedia.

How can you increase effective information flow?
Is transmission of information optimal for the demands of the business? Do the right communication networks exist? Are you maximizing the impact of your information brokers and influencers? Do you even know who they are?
To come back to the concept of Information Blockers, if you have people in your organization that are highly connected and have a level of eminence or influence, then you want to ensure that these folks become active information brokers and not blockers. It’s important that they understand the important role that they play in the network, and if they are a lone broker between two organizations then you really want to foster more people in this role to increase redundancy and minimize brittleness.

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