Social Network Analysis
Connectivity between people and organizations is a key driver of success. Social network analysis allows you and your customers, partners, or colleagues to map out who they know, and how they interact. Soundience has developed a web-based software platform allows people to map out their personal network while preserving privacy, and then generates interactive diagrams of their network, as well as overview diagrams of the whole network.
Our software allows you to diagnose key hubs (who may be bottlenecks), clusters, and places where there might be too much interaction. This information can be used to refine the configuration of your network, so that interactions are more effective, and more gets done faster.
Typical applications of this approach are improving effectiveness after reorganizations or mergers, improving innovation and collaboration, and making better use of relationships with clients and other partners.
An online interactive environment for Social Network Analysis
While the advantages of Social Network Analysis are widely recognized, it usually involves collecting data into a database on one computer, the analysing this data and preparing static snapshot diagrams; this makes it harder for many participants to become engaged with the insights. Also, the analysis is also hard to keep current, since data is typically collected once and not maintained.
Our approach differs in the following ways:
- The database and results are accessible over the web
- The presentation is very participant centric: dashboard and diagrams show the logged-in participant's position and status in the network, and each person can explore their own position in the network
- Conventional social network analyses are also available, such as identifying clusters, bottlenecks, network density, etc.; these help to diagnose where and how the network can be improved to be more robust and to promote more collaboration
- Presentation is very visual and interactive; for example, users can generate and manipulate network diagrams (e.g., add, explode, remove, reposition nodes), and can add new connections to their network Lets the network database grow organically through user contributions and word of mouth
Benefits of Soundience Social Network Analysis
Social Network Analysis, and in particular our approach to it, offers many benefits:
Better results through improved collaboration
- Objectively identfy connections that really determine how work gets done, not what the org charts say
- Pinpoint "hubs" who may be too central in connecting disparate groups
- Identify people who need to be connected more
- Monitor the actual integration between groups after a merger or reorganization
- Create a platform that is tailored to individual productivity, but delivers group-wide results
A visual way to see your networks
- Filter and visually highlight person and link attributes (e.g., by location, role, or organization)
- Create, save, and share any number of diagrams
- Create many of the pages required for a typical Social Network Analysis project, can be exported to PowerPoint
- Automatically create personalized Social Networking Analysis pages for each participant
Analysis of key network characteristics
- Perform many of the standard analysis metrics of social networks
- Find clusters, components, key people in the network
- Find paths between any two people in the network
- Import and export data for analysis with other SNA packages, such as Pajek and UCI Net (can be adapted for others)
Understand your networks in a collaborative way
- Runs over the web, so not restricted to one machine
- Links, diagrams, and reports can be annotated by users
- User blog entries to share interesting findings about the network
- Users can attach files
- People can invite people into the network; any person added to the network automatically has a login id
Ensure security and privacy
- Participants can mark entries about themselves or their connections with varying degrees of privacy
- Runs behind SSL (secure sockets layer) for encrypted access
- No access without authentication (passwords, plus other possibilities such as IP address, LDAP, etc.)
- Changes to data are logged and can be audited
How it Works
Our service for Social Network Analysis runs over the web, making it easy for people to view and build their personal networks, and making it possible to use it as a collaborate vehicle.
Building the network
Information on connections can be obtained from a variety of sources, depending on the objectives and what is available:
- Billing records: for a law firm, we performed an automated analysis of project billing records, to determine who worked in common sectors
- E-mail traffic: e-mail and messaging traffic can be automatically searched, creating connections based on frequency of communication over time
- Collaboration: for a leading management journal, we analysed co-authorship of articles to identify groups of experts in key subject areas, and mapped these to find out which authors tended to collaborate with whom
- Group membership: membership of groups or committees within or outside of an organization can be used to identify and map connections between people
- Interviews: discussions and questionnaires can be used to identify who works with whom, who seeks advice from whom, and other types of connections
- Combinations: networks can be built by combining the above sources, for a richer picture
Making it visual
These sites are highly visual. Icons, which represent people or groups, can be chosen to represent any number of attributes, such as location, organization, role, expertise, etc., and you can switch between different icon views by selecting from a drop-down list. Different kinds of connections can also be represented (e.g., friendship, reporting lines, project collaboration, co-authorship, geographic proximity, etc.), and these can be represented on diagrams by colour-coded lines.
These diagrams are also highly interactive: you can actually move the icons around by dragging them with the mouse, or hide people, or add connections by clicking and dragging to create lines directly on the diagram. The system then recalculates key social networking metrics to reflect the impact of the change on the strength of the network or on potential collaboration.
In the example illustrated here (click on small image to see larger view), Armstrong has created a diagram with himself at the center, and expanded each of his contacts to see one level removed.
Users can generate and save any number of diagrams under descriptive names, marking them as public if they wish to share them with others (otherwise, they remain private).
Building and exploring your own network
Unlike typical Social Network Analysis, which perform analysis on a pre-collected data set, our approach is user centric: it emphasises the ability for each individual to view, analyse, and monitor their network on a continuous basis. It does this by using the power for the web to give each person their own virtual web site, showing diagrams of their network, and allowing them to add or change people and connections.
While data can be loaded in one time at the beginning of a project (from corporate databases, for example), the database then becomes "live", allowing you to monitor the performance and characteristics of the network as it evolves.
As part of the user-centric bias, we are developing a dashboard that ever user will see upon login (preliminary example at the right, please click on it to see larger version). This dashboard screen will contain summary information about that user's own network, including the people they are connected to, recent activity, and so on. The underlying data is of course part of an aggregate database, from which aggregate views of network are constructed.
Analysing the network
Social Network Analysis dates back to the 1930s, and increasingly sophisticate analyses have been developed to quickly get at the essence of how the network is shaped: is there any clustering, are certain people crucial nodes through which others connect, how connected is everybody to everybody else, and so on. These questions are not academic--they are key issues that need to be understood and addressed for your organization to do its best. Our work supports these analyses in two ways, visual and analytical.
Visual analysis lets you generate, view, and manipulate diagrams of connections, such as that shown at the right (click for larger view). In this example, an academic community has been separated into three clusters, representing three campuses. Diagrams are very useful, and make it possible to see patterns that analytic measures often miss. These diagrams enhance this ability, by allowing you to move shapes around and choose icons to represent different characteristics of the nodes (campus in this example).
Analytic tools use mathematical algorithms from the fields of graph theory and matrix algebra to automatically come up with summary measures that describe an individual, a whole network, or just part of it. They are a useful complement to visual inspection of diagrams.