Big Data at Work

9 September 2015


Analytics is everywhere and strongly embedded into our organizational daily lives. Until now, corporate analytics have involved structural and procession data to visualize, map and mine the hierarchical dynamics of companies and organizations. But Big Data can open new analytical opportunities.

Big Data offer new opportunities to understand also the non-hierarchical dimensions of corporate communication, interaction and workflow. Todays, new data collection and computational tools enhance organizational and business analysts ability to bring together different data—datasets of different types and from different platforms or contexts. As I wrote in my afterworld to “Fisica Sociale” (UBE Università Bocconi Editore, the Italian translation of “Social Physics” book by Alex Pentland, 2015), it is increasingly relevant to gather and collect data related to the informal and situated organizational structure, not just to the formal architecture. In fact, considering the necessity for change management to exploit the power of company hierarchies together with the power of company networks, is more and more relevant to gather information on how informal nets work and interact, about their internal dynamics and about the potential resistance or enhancement in change management processes and strategies.

In many digital transformation journey we are currently supporting, it is clear the importance to map and involve this “dual operating system” to increase the probability of success in change journey. As Kotter recently writes in his book Accelerate talking about the “dual operating system”: “In a truly reliable, efficient, agile, and fast enterprise, the network meshes with the more traditional structure; it is not some sort of “super task force” that reports to some level in the hierarchy. It is seamlessly connected to and coordinated with the hierarchy in a number of ways, chiefly through the people who populate both systems. Still, the organization’s top management plays a crucial role in starting and maintaining the network. The C-suite or executive committee must launch it, explicitly bless it, support it, and ensure that it and the hierarchy stay aligned. The hierarchy’s leadership team must serve as role models for their subordinates in interacting with the network. I have found that none of this requires much C-suite time. But these actions by senior executives clearly signal that the network is not in any way a rogue operation. It is not an informal organization. It is not just a small engagement exercise, which makes those who participate feel good. It is part of a system designed for competing and winning”.

In a recent study conducted by OpenKnowledge partner, Laurence Lock Lee, the dual operating system of a company was mined and analyzed to gather organizational insights. As Laurence writes: “Recently we studied the interaction habits of a mid-sized specialist consulting firm with over 700 staff spread between offices in each of the major Australian cities and several others throughout Asia and the UK. As well as surveying them to identify the people that they had met face to face with over the preceding month, we also analyzed the connection patterns contained within their Email (Outlook), instant messaging (Lync) and Social networking (Yammer), and their timesheet records on client project tasks that they shared with each other. We were therefore able to build a very rich picture of how this organization collaborates over both business/geographic, as well as core discipline lines”. In the study, Laurence demonstrates how traditional channels reinforce the business “as is” and discourage the “business as unusual”.

If you are interested in big data topic related to organizational networks, you’ll find the entire article at this link: