The information revolution has given birth to new economies structured around flows of data, information, and knowledge. In parallel, social networks have grown stronger as forms of organization of human activity. Social networks are nodes of individuals, groups, organizations, and related systems that tie in one or more types of interdependencies: these include shared values, visions, and ideas; social contacts; kinship; conflict; financial exchanges; trade; joint membership in organizations; and group participation in events, among numerous other aspects of human relationships. Indeed, it sometimes appears as though networked organizations outcompete all other forms of organization — certainly, they outpace vertical, rigid, command-and-control bureaucracies. When they succeed, social networks influence larger social processes by accessing human, social, natural, physical, and financial capital, as well as the information and knowledge content of these. (In development work, they can impact policies, strategies, programs, and projects— including their design, implementation, and results—and the partnerships that often underpin these.) To date, however, we are still far from being able to construe their public and organizational power in ways that can harness their potential. Understanding when, why, and how they function best is important. Here, social network analysis can help. Social network present in organizations are increasingly becoming a powerful managerial tool as it affects the satisfaction and performance of employees. Personal relationships within the organization define and resolve issues impacting group performance. There is a clear indication that social network influences job satisfaction, employee commitment and employee performance in business organizations.
The defining feature of social network analysis is its focus on the structure of relationships, ranging from casual acquaintance to close bonds. Social network analysis assumes that relationships are important. It maps and measures formal and informal relationships to understand what facilitates or impedes the knowledge flows that bind interacting units, viz., who knows whom, and who shares what information and knowledge with whom by what communication media (e.g., data and information, voice, or video communications). (Because these relationships are not usually readily discernible, social network analysis is somewhat akin to an "organizational x-ray".) Social network analysis is a method with increasing application in the social sciences and has been applied in areas as diverse as psychology, health, business organization, and electronic communications. More recently, interest has grown in analysis of leadership networks to sustain and strengthen their relationships within and across groups, organizations, and related systems.
A social network analysis in a business setting has three important elements: Groups, Interactions and Attributes. Conducting the analysis in groups of people, classified by functions, power, age or some other criteria allows us to look at the level of interactions between the group members. Interactions are also referred to as the links or ties between people. The pattern of interactions in a group is called a social network. In addition, attributes help to determine the presence of systematic factors that influence interactions between people. For example, we often find that people in one business unit do not routinely share information with people in another unit. In business management cases, relevant attributes might include where someone works (e.g. country, geographic region), which business unit they are in (e.g. sales, marketing, and development), their level of seniority, and how long they have been with the company. They may also include personality measures, such as Myers-Briggs personality types or scores on...