Introduction to
Social Network Analysis

Social network analysis, and specifically organizational network analysis, is the study of how employees work together both on an individual and on a group level. That is to say, it is the study of informal networks in a workplace: the relationships not determined by formal structures but by the work at hand and the employees themselves.

Informal networks have a great influence on how easily information flows within an organization and therefore on the organization’s ability to perform and innovate. Managers are using organizational network analysis to better understand how value is created by their organization and to learn how it can be improved.

By quantifying and visualizing interactions between employees, informal networks become easier to understand. In particular relationships between more than a handful of people can be difficult (if not downright impossible) to comprehend for any individual manager without analytics: the number of possible ties between people rises with the total number of people for every person added to the network. This is evident from the following illustration showing the number of emails that would be sent if each employee was to email the others. This example also shows why relationships need to managed.

Xxx - relationships illustrated by emails

A network analysis measures the location of employees within the network in order to assess network roles. Typical network roles include: connectors, bridge builders, bottlenecks, isolates and influencers. In addition, clusters within the organization can be identified. Assigning the employees to groups in the survey – groups such as departments or pay levels – can provide additional insights into the organization and cross-group interaction.

Although the use of social network analysis is relatively new in an organizational context, social network analysis has been a popular tool for social and behavioural sciences for more than 30 years. The underlying mathematics (graph theory), however, dates back more than 200 years.


A Practical Guide to Social Network Analysis


Previous Applications of SNA