Social Network Analysis: SNA, ONA, VNA

Stan Garfield
8 min readJun 29, 2018

Originally published on March 15, 2017

25th in a series of 50 Knowledge Management Components (Slide 33 in KM 102)

Social network analysis: mapping and measuring of relationships and flows between people, groups, organizations, computers or other information/knowledge processing entities; the nodes in the network are the people and groups, while the links show relationships or flows between the nodes — provides both a visual and a mathematical analysis of human relationships (from Valdis Krebs)

Social network analysis (SNA) can be used to improve communities, identify missing links, and improve connections between groups.

In a KM implementation plan, identify all groups that need to connect, and include boundary spanning as a required knowledge flow. The higher the level of connectedness you can achieve, the more knowledge will flow between groups. You can use social network analysis to help determine the current state of social networks and to identify boundary spanning opportunities.

SNA can be used to identify people who are linked, but who may not be part of a formal community. These people can be invited join a community relevant to them.

In The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations, Rob Cross and Andrew Parker describe the benefits of using SNA, including:

  • Improving effectiveness of functions or business units. SNA can help leaders assess the extent to which collaborations throughout their unit are aligned with strategic objectives and generating measurable business value.
  • Promoting lateral coordination throughout an organization. SNA can help identify opportunities in networks that span functions, geographies, or process steps.
  • Driving innovation in new product development, R&D, or market-facing functions. SNA can isolate how and where leveraging expertise in a network will either support or impede innovation efforts.
  • Facilitating large-scale change or merger integration. SNA pre-change can identify key players to work through and retain. During the change, it can inform key interventions. After the change, it can ensure appropriate integration.
  • Supporting Communities of Practice. SNA can help to rapidly form and improve effectiveness of communities by working through the network to more efficiently improve collaboration and business results.
  • Forming strategic partnerships or assessing client connectivity. SNA can illuminate the effectiveness of external ties to strategic partners or clients in terms of information flow, knowledge transfer, and decision-making.
  • Talent management and leadership development. SNA can help improve leadership effectiveness and replicate high performance throughout an organization.

You can use SNA to bridge silos, create awareness of distributed expertise distributed in the network, and identify and draw in peripheral network members. In Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving, Valdis Krebs and June Holley assert that “improved connectivity is created through an iterative process of knowing the network and knitting the network.” SNA enables you to know the network so that you can then proceed to weave new members into it.

In his profile Valdis Krebs, advises to “connect on your similarities and profit from your diversities.” By using SNA to identify those with both similarities and differences, and using this information to better connect those people, you can enable greatly improved collaboration and knowledge flow within and across organizations. SNA is especially useful in understanding and improving the social networks of individuals, in enabling more effective collaboration by ensuring that the right people are included, and in starting, building, and extending communities.

Two related processes are Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) and Value Network Analysis (VNA). Patti Anklam states, “ONA comprises social network analysis (SNA) tools that provide managers with visual maps and quantitative data that indicate the current patterns of connection within and across groups in an organization. ONA is proving to be an exceptional tool for providing a baseline against which to measure changes in collaboration and connectivity during times of organizational change. I use ONA with clients to help them assess the current state of connectivity in their organizations and reframe their strategies in terms of network capacity and diversity.”

Patti also states, “VNA brings insight and perspective by creating a map of the interactions — tangible and intangible — among the functional groups in an organization’s business processes. VNA puts the network lens on a value chain. I use it to help clients see the important patterns in knowledge flow and collaboration so as to help target the introduction of methods and tools to support enhanced collaboration and innovation.”

Verna Allee defined VNA as “a business modeling methodology that visualizes business activities and sets of relationships from a dynamic whole systems perspective.” She further stated, “the Value Network approach helps individuals and work groups better manage their interactions and address operational issues, such as balancing workflows or improving communication. It also scales up to the business level to help forge stronger value-creating linkages with strategic partners and improve stakeholder relationships.”


1. Valdis Krebs: Social network interaction will become the engine for innovation. Master it. Good advice from the Gartner Group at their Symposium/ITxpo: Emerging Trends. They gave 4 core messages for Leading Edge IT Change. Message #1 includes network mapping and network weaving. Gartner said that Social Network Interaction is where leading-edge companies will make their mark and wield their influence. It advised CIOs and IT leaders to:

  • Expose your trickiest business and technology challenges to open forums and learn how to identify real contributors.
  • Solicit and respond to customers’ input, feedback and new service ideas through communities of customers.
  • Use social network analysis software to map out how information and ideas flow among your people across regions, continents and business entities.

2. Patti Anklam: Networks exist outside of corporations as well — everyone participates in multiple networks, including the informal family, community, work, and their purely social networks of friends. Formal networks include civic organizations like Rotary International, alumni groups, and business and professional groups. The latter have all evolved distinct governance models, norms for joining and participating, legacy databases, membership rolls, and very public identities. There is yet another class of network that is not yet well defined, and for which the norms and governance models are emerging — networks such as inter-company and intra-company learning and collaboration networks; independent consultants who share common interests and passions who want to remain independent but work collaboratively and consistently with like-minded others. They can be geographically local business networks; web-based virtual learning groups and communities; or global action networks destined to make the world a better place.

3. Rob Cross and Andrew Parker: That organizational charts rarely describe functional hierarchy is obvious to any employee who’s ever tried to adhere to one. Instead, survival often depends on incorporating oneself into unofficial social networks that allow one to gain access to necessary information and to collaborate with the colleagues who can actually get things done. By literally mapping information flow and collaboration patterns among the people who make up a department or firm, it is possible to pinpoint individual bottlenecks, essential employees and those who have been pushed to the periphery or whose expertise is underutilized. Social network analysis enables managers to adapt their strategies to exploit and support these now visible networks and improve overall productivity.

4. David Green: The role of Organizational Network Analysis in People Analytics — I prefer Michael Arena’s description in his excellent recent podcast with Al Adamsen, where the Chief Talent Officer of GM defined ONA as providing “a new lens to evaluate how people show up in an organization.”


  1. Social Networks
  2. What is ONA? (old) and What is Organizational Network Analysis? (new) by Rob Cross
  3. Social Network Analysis: An Introduction by Valdis Krebs
  4. Suggested tools for visualizing / analyzing value networks by Oliver Schwabe
  5. Theories and methods for understanding human social networks by Garry Robins and Pip Pattison: a complete course on SNA with slides and notes
  6. Social Network Analysis by Peter Morville
  7. Organizational Network Analysis by Deloitte
  8. Organizational Network Analysis: Improving Intelligence and Information Sharing Capability among Homeland Security and Emergency Management Stakeholders by Christopher P. Bell and Elizabeth Conjar
  9. Using Organizational Network Analysis to Improve Integration Across Organizational Boundaries by Dan Novak, Mark Rennaker, and Paulette Turner
  10. Organizational Network Analysis Primer: A Systems Approach to Organizational Development by LINC
  11. Social Network Analysis by Knowledge Sharing Toolkit
  12. Social Network Analysis by Optimice
  13. ONA and SNA by Laurence Lock Lee
  14. Steve Dale
  15. APQC
  16. Andrew Rixon and Shawn Callahan
  17. Chris Collison
  18. Patrick Lambe
  19. Dave Snowden
  20. Luis Suarez
  21. SIKM Leaders Community Threaded Discussions
  22. Modeling Complexity with Value Network Analysis — SIKM Leaders Community presentation by Verna Allee
  23. Patti Anklam


  1. ONA Surveys
  2. OrgMapper
  3. NetMiner
  4. Social Network Visualizer (SocNetV)
  5. LINC’s Social Network Analysis (SNA) tool
  6. SWOOP
  7. Free online network survey utility for Organizational Network Analysis by Bruce Hoppe
  8. Inflow by Valdis Krebs
  9. Top 30 Social Network Analysis and Visualization Tools by Devendra Desale
  10. 20+ Free and Open Source Social Network Analysis Software by Martin Butler
  11. A comparative study of social network analysis tools by David Combe, Christine Largeron, Előd Egyed-Zsigmond, and Mathias Géry
  • Gephi is an interactive visualization and exploration platform.
  • GUESS is dedicated to visualization purposes, with several layouts.
  • Tulip can handle over 1 million vertices and 4 million edges. It has visualization,clustering and extension by plugins capabilities.
  • GraphViz is mainly for graph visualization.
  • UCInet is not free. It uses Pajek and Netdraw for visualization. It is specialized in statistical and matricial analysis. It calculates indicators (such as triad census, Freeman betweenness) and performs hierarchical clustering.
  • Pajek is a Windows program for analysis and visualization of large networks. It is freely available, for noncommercial use.
  • igraph is a free software package for creating and manipulating graphs. It also implements algorithms for some recent network analysis methods.
  • NetworkX is a package for the creation, manipulation, and study of the structure, dynamics, and functions of complex networks.
  • JUNG, for Java Universal Network/Graph Framework, is mainly developed for creating interactive graphs in Java GUIs, JUNG has been extended with some SNA metrics.

Thought Leaders

  1. Verna Allee
  2. Patti Anklam
  3. Rob Cross
  4. Graham Durant-Law
  5. June Holley
  6. Bruce Hoppe
  7. Valdis Krebs
  8. Laurence Lock Lee
  9. Andrew Parker
  10. Oliver Schwabe
  11. Karen Stephenson


  1. International Network for Social Network Analysis
  2. Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems
  3. Silicon Valley Networks Analysis Project (inactive)


  1. Valdis Krebs — TNT: The Network Thinkers
  2. June Holley, Valdis Krebs, and Jack Ricchiuto — Network Weaving (inactive)
  3. Bruce Hoppe — Connectedness (inactive)
  4. Patti Anklam — Leveraging Context, Knowledge and Networks (inactive)
  5. Laurence Lock LeeOptimice (inactive)
  6. SWOOP


  1. Social Network Analysis by Lada Adamic (Coursera)
  2. Masterclass: Social-network Analysis by Patti Anklam
  3. Theories and methods for understanding human social networks by Garry Robins and Pip Pattison: a complete course on SNA with slides and notes


  1. Net Work: A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and in the World by Patti Anklam
  2. Value Networks and the True Nature of Collaboration by Verna Allee with Oliver Schwabe
  3. The Future of Knowledge: Increasing Prosperity through Value Networks by Verna Allee
  4. The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations by Robert L. Cross and Andrew Parker
  5. Driving Results Through Social Networks: How Top Organizations Leverage Networks for Performance and Growth by Robert L. Cross and Robert J. Thomas
  6. The Organizational Network Fieldbook: Best Practices, Techniques and Exercises to Drive Organizational Innovation and Performance by Robert L. Cross, Jean Singer, Sally Colella, Robert J. Thomas, and Yaarit Silverstone
  7. Social Network Analysis: Methods and Examples by Song Yang and Franziska B Keller
  8. Social Network Analysis by John Scott
  9. Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications by Stanley Wasserman and Katherine Faust
  10. Analyzing Social Networks by Stephen P Borgatti and Martin G. Everett
  11. Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings by Charles Kadushin
  12. Understanding Dark Networks: A Strategic Framework for the Use of Social Network Analysis by Daniel Cunningham and Sean Everton
  13. Social Network Analysis: History, Theory and Methodology by Christina Prell
  14. Social Network Analysis by David H. Knoke and Song Yang
  15. The SAGE Handbook of Social Network Analysis by John Scott and Peter J. Carrington
  16. Social Network Analysis: Interdisciplinary Approaches and Case Studies by Xiaoming Fu and Jar-Der Luo
  17. Social Network Analysis and Education: Theory, Methods & Applications by Brian V. Carolan



Stan Garfield

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager