Valdis Krebs and his Orgnet consultancy have probably been looking at practical uses of network analysis longer than anyone. They have applied their InFlow software to hundreds of different cases, with a focus on problem solving within commercial organizations, but also looking at identifying terrorists, and the role of networks in science, medicine, politics and even sport.
I am especially interested in their work helping companies solve communication and organizational issues. I’ve had plenty of personal experience with merged teams that fail to integrate properly, wasted a lot of time reinventing wheels because we didn’t know a problem had already been solved within the company and been stuck in badly configured hierarchies that got in the way of doing the job.To the people at the coal-face the problems were usually clear, but network visualizations are a very powerful tool that could have been used to show management the reality of what’s happening. In their case studies, that seems to be exactly how they’ve used their work, as a navigational tool for upper management to get a better grasp on what’s happening in the field, and to suggest possible solutions.
Orgnet’s approach is also interesting because they are solving a series of specialized problems with a bespoke, boutique service, whereas most people analyzing company’s data are trying to design mass market tools that will solve a large problem like spam or litigation discovery with little hand-holding from the creators of the software. That gives them unique experience exploring some areas that may lead to really innovative solutions to larger problems in the future.
You should check out the Network Weaving blog, written by Valdis, Jack Ricchiuto and June Holley. Another great thing about their work is that their background is in management and organizations, rather than being technical. That seems to help them avoid the common problem of having a technical solution that’s looking for a real-world problem to solve!