Gaining Insight into Your Enterprise Social Network – A Use Case

April 22nd, 2014Social Business

Several years ago, shortly after we had started our Knowledge and Collaboration program at Unisys, we realized the need to improve access to our subject matter experts located around the world.  As primarily a services company, the benefit of doing this was strikingly obvious: optimized use of our human intellectual capital, unencumbered by geography or time zone.

The foundational first step in this program was to develop an approved list of subject matter experts.  We then put in place a governance process aligned to our HR system to maintain this list to ensure authoritative expertise.  Once the list was approved, we tagged these subject matter experts and visually badged their profiles so that they would readily surface and be easily identified on the results page of our enterprise search as well as on their individual employee profile pages and in our enterprise social activity feed.

Over the years, sales, pre-sales, and delivery personal have greatly benefited through this socially enabled access to our global subject matter expertise.  We have anecdotal evidence of problems being solved and deals being won by leveraging this competitive advantage.  So how can we innovate and improve on this human capital asset, this expertise social network?

Our intuition led us to look at using the concepts of big data and social network analysis, long a staple of marketing analysis of public social media.  We had in hand a few years of data specifically related to our subject matter expert social network, we just needed to develop the tools to gain that additional insight to see opportunities for improvement.

Although there are multiple social dimensions to our expertise network, we focused on just a few specific areas to get the analysis started.  An example of one of the first insights we discovered is that while all of the experts in a given subject area were very well socially connected with one another within a given country, there was not a very good social connection of these experts between countries.  The visualization for this situation was expressed by color coded expert connections by country; you could clearly see the relatively encapsulated in-country expertise networks.  This analysis and visualization of the network topology provided insight to an opportunity to strengthen the global expert social network.

Our approach to strengthen those global, cross-country expert social networks was to implement an ‘ambassador network’ model where one or two lead persons from each country are appointed to facilitate cross-country connections.  The question of, “Who should we appoint as liaisons?” is answered by the model, based on their social network and activity level, not based on their rank, seniority, or level of expertise.  These experts are spotlighted through various social activities, for example:

  • demonstrating thought leadership through online posts,
  • answering questions directed to them via our social network, or
  • conducting internal webinars to help them get exposure and expand their social network.

Over time, this will have a viral effect such that eventually the experts between countries will become much more highly connected.  The expected visualization for this improved situation should depict the intersection of colored connection lines crossing multiple country boundaries.  While we intuitively believe that people probably don’t know others outside of their own country, the value of the tool is the ability to quantify it.  If you can quantify it, you can measure improvements.  Without the tool and the metrics, it’s hard to describe the anticipated improvements and obtain buy-in.

There are a number of other dimensions that we also look at with respect to our subject matter experts’ social network and the types of social activity they engage in.  The tool also provides unique insights and visualizations into network connectivity among experts and consumers of that expertise, i.e. the sales and delivery organizations; the level of contribution of experts; and expert connectivity within our communities structure, to name a few examples.

With a fairly mature enterprise social network in place, Unisys is leveraging big data techniques and aggregate visualizations to better understand where the business value of social is being realized as well as where the opportunities for improvement are hiding.  We continue to find ways of aligning the use of our social technologies with the achievement of Unisys’s strategic business objectives.  Being able to visualize our social network and fine tune collaboration among employees is essential for maintaining our competitive advantage.


John Knab

John is a Global Delivery Director in Unisys Workspace Services Practice focusing on Social Business and is a senior thought leader in successfully architecting and implementing socially enabled Knowledge and Collaboration solutions.