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BLOG: How to apply the principles of network management to talent management

Maya Townsend and Bob Akerley | Jan. 25, 2012
Every CIO can agree that it's essential to keep the data network up. If it goes down, then so does the business—and potentially the CIO's career. Understanding and optimizing the network are key components of every successful CIO's role from their first day on the job to their last.

Coordinate speedy passage of needed information;

Approve access to certain people and data;

Broker relationships between parts of the organization;

Engage people past the gate in change; and

Can block an organization change, strategy or project simply by refusing to allow access or transmit information.

Just as an IT organization continually tunes its firewall to respond to new threats and specifications, the CIO needs to monitor gatekeepers to make sure theyre aligned with the mission and strategic goals of the organization. If not, work needs to occur—quickly—to mitigate the consequences of unaligned activity.

Pulsetakers are the most covert of the three roles. Their claim to fame is that they are indirectly connected to many people in the organization. The best way to describe the power of their role is by using the six degrees of separation rule. If average people take six steps to reach a connection, pulsetakers take only two or three.

In Figure 1, Fiona and Archana are pulsetakers. They dont have the most connections—only 5 each—but they travel the shortest distance to access any other person. They may not connect with many people, but they connect with the right people. Pulsetakers have their fingers on the pulse of the organization and, without much effort, they can tell you whats really happening in the company.

CIOs can use pulsetakers to:

Get the word out quickly and quietly about what's going on;

Learn how people are feeling about the new change effort;

Access people who know the right people; and

Get the real status on a strategy, project, or initiative.

Monitoring Network Performance

Human networks change constantly. Theyre resilient and can adapt quickly. That's their strength and the challenge they present to CIOs: They cant check network status once and declare victory. They need to frequently examine and analyze their human networks to ensure optimum performance.

The best way to do this is by mapping the human network. There are many mapping tools available (see InFlow, NetForm, NetMiner, UCINET, or ValueNet Works for starters). All share the same basic functionality: they map information flows and relationships between organizations, roles, groups and/or individuals. They produce visuals like network diagrams and statistics that can be used to gauge health and risk. Structural over-dependency, missing links, too many links, unaligned links and orphans are all red flags that somethings wrong.

Structural Over-Dependency. When a network depends too much on a certain node, loss of that node can cause damage to the whole. Figure 2 shows all activities related to problem solving and expertise in a small IT organization. The leader of this organization would be right to worry: Theres a single point of failure (who also happens to be a hub) in the network. The sole employee in the Security department (at 11:00 on the diagram) is responsible for almost 50 percent of all activity in this organization. Take her away and activity would grind to a halt.

 

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