The Network Science Behind 'Working Like A Network'


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Session provided at the European SharePoint Conference in Vienna, Austria in November 2016. You miss a lot of context without the live discussion, but you can check my blog at for more on this topic.

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  • About a decade ago (or more – its all so foggy now), Google came out with an ad campaign that stated “It’s all about search.” I remember mocking the slogan at the time as over-simplifying things just a tad. As a collaboration guy, I argued that navigation and taxonomy and governance and a dozen other factors were equally as important. The more I worked with SharePoint customers and understood the impacts of poor planning and the sometimes shortcomings of the technology, the more I realized how important search was to successful collaboration. It really is all about search.

    When Microsoft talks about “working like a network,” most people instantly think of specific tools or features within the Microsoft collaboration stack. But what is the “science” behind your network? This session will shed some light on how personal and professional networks interact, how they impact the quality and effectiveness of our collaboration, and how Microsoft is already using this information to build more intuitive, flexible, and ready-to-go solutions.
  • Microsoft tells us to:
  • Success is not dictated by your infrastructure choices -- its all about people and your company culture.
    Tools can only get you so far.
  • The problem with the way that many people think about network science is that they are overly reliant on search, and technology, in general, to pull everything together and make things work without an understanding of their own role – and what they can do to optimize their results. I think it is universally recognized that small teams are better at collaboration. When you are working with 5 to 7 people, communication and collaboration can be fast and effective. Those same practices and tools may not scale to a larger team, making communication and collaboration sluggish, and often creating silos of data. - See more at:
  • No matter what our role, to some degree we work as an individual contributor. We’re creating content in many different formats, lists, tasks, and so forth. And we’re saving all of that content somewhere. It’s on our desktops, its in various applications, it’s increasing in cloud-based systems. And we’re still keeping a lot of our intellectual property on good old fashioned paper.
  • With all of this going on, we also work with other people. We have a peer with whom we are working on a project, or a joint presentation. We might have a direct report who contributes to our work, or someone outside of our team who regularly reviews and provides input on our work. And we all have a manager who may review, provide input, or leverage our content.

    Leveraging the shared knowledge of this small network is fairly simple, regardless of the tools we use – or that they use. Because with a small network, we have a fairly good idea of the value each team member provides – and where to go for help with certain tasks, to find content, and so forth.
    But what if you need knowledge beyond your simple network?
  • The idea of a single network, with all nodes connected to all other nodes, is a small-team concept – and simply does not translate to large organizations. And yet that is how we handicap ourselves in enterprise collaboration, assuming that as the network grows, with every node (person, document, artifact) connected to every other node, search will “just work” and social collaboration across this flattened, two-dimensional organizational concept will somehow make people more….well, collaborative.

    According to Ron Burt at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, your network is actually a set of clusters – not one giant network. Burt talks about clustering being one of the basic patterns within network science, and how we all naturally participate in cluster. Some clusters come from our roles and professional circles – communities of practice, like being a business analyst or a project manager, for example. Other clusters form around age, musical tastes, educational backgrounds, sports, and so forth. Information is created and travels around within the cluster, but much of that data never leaves the cluster.

    But there are some individuals within each cluster who act as brokers between clusters. These are people who see value in sharing information outside of a cluster, and who bring new ideas into the cluster, or group, from other groups. There’s a great article by Forbes contributor Michael Simmons (Why Being the Most Connected is a Vanity Metric) in which he interviews Ron Burt, and provides some additional insights into how networks work.
  • So understanding the nature of brokering, and how the power of networks is not so much about the strength of any single network – but in how we connect into and leverage our multiple networks, you begin to understand the importance of social networking.
  • Working like a network leverages the people we know, the processes and business systems that we participate in, and the technology at our fingertips to give us access to more data, more content, more of the collective capabilities of everyone that is connected within these networks – than we could ever hope to achieve in the old peer-to-peer model of collaboration.
  • To work like a network means that each of us acts like a broker, adding value to the clusters in which we participate – and then connecting data and people and ideas across clusters, translating each body of knowledge for those other networks.

    Working like a network is not an empty platitude or marketing slogan. Working like a network is a collaboration imperative – which is why you’ll find it at the center of Microsoft’s collaboration strategy.
  • Everyone is familiar with the plain old Team Site template – and yet most organizations do not stray too far from this template. Humans are visual creatures. We need stimulation. We need a variety of methods to connect and engage with each other, depending on the type of engagement, the kind of collaboration, the purpose of the team or project.
  • There are add-ins like Beezy to go the extra mile and get massive adoption
  • Your collaboration efforts will fail if you do not align your technology with your culture, period.
    Pilot, rinse, repeat.
    Talk to your end users regularly
    Internal user groups
    One-on-one sessions
    Friday brown bags, lunch-and-learns
    Locate your evangelists and support them
    Make your technology decisions transparent
  • I hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions, or would like to continue to discussion, I’d love to connect with you,. You can find me blogging on the Beezy website at and my own, and on Twitter at @buckleyplanet
  • The Network Science Behind 'Working Like A Network'

    1. 1. The Network Science Behind ‘Working Like a Network’ Christian Buckley Beezy
    2. 2. • CMO for Beezy • Office Server and Services MVP since 2012 • Organizer SharePoint Saturday Redmond +6 others • Author, Blogger and Public Speaker • Involved in social technology space since late 1990’s • Hard core LoTR geek • Massive music collection (80’s new wave, techno, indie) Christian Buckley
    3. 3. SharePoint Growth & Evolution SharePoint Releases Metadata Content
    4. 4. Collaboration has evolved What have we learned?
    5. 5. “Collaboration” and “Social” are synonymous
    6. 6. Different teams gravitate toward different tools, different collaboration approaches
    7. 7. Collaboration is about finding the right “fit”
    8. 8. Mobility has become business-critical
    9. 9. Employees are better at self-monitoring than we thought at self-
    10. 10. We need to try things, iterate, and innovate
    11. 11. The power of social is not about the technology at all
    12. 12. Success = People + Culture
    13. 13. People Process Technology
    14. 14.
    15. 15.
    16. 16.
    17. 17. In an article by Forbes contributor Michael Simmons (Why Being the Most Connected is a Vanity Metric), he shares some further insights from Ron Burt: A key insight from network science is the power of brokering, the act of moving information from one group to another. Burt explains, “What a broker does is make a sticky information market more fluid. Great ideas will never move if we wait for them to be spoken in the same language.” Network brokers (i.e. – connectors) have three advantages: • Breadth. They pull their information from diverse clusters. • Timing. While they may not be the first to hear information, they are first to introduce information to another cluster. • Translation. They develop skills in translating one group’s knowledge into another’s insight. Combined these three advantages give an individual an overall vision advantage to see, create, and take advantage of opportunities.
    18. 18. What does social look like in your organization?
    19. 19. Let’s see some examples
    20. 20. THERE ARE FOUR COLLABORATION“TRUTHS” • The traditional intranet has failed • The standalone ESN is dead • Real work happens between the workloads • Culture directs communication
    21. 21.  Social interaction adds context, creates metadata  Metadata drives search, content and task aggregation, and it enables most of the new features within SharePoint and other collaboration platforms.  Social interactions expand intelligence through the Graph  It also powers discovery (serendipity)  Productivity improves human interaction with our systems and data, and provides that “social fabric” to help our technology better fit within our team and corporate culture
    22. 22. CULTURE IS KEY
    23. 23. “Social Enterprise is implemented 80% through organization culture and 20% through technology.” - Gartner, September 2012
    24. 24.
    25. 25. Christian Buckley Chief Marketing Officer and Office Servers and Services MVP @buckleyplanet /IN/ChristianBuckley Thank you!