Email is not just a method of communicating with others. It can be an internal social network. Email contains huge amounts of data that can tell us more about our own behaviour and that of others. It is a treasure trove of information which often remains locked away and under appreciated. But given that most organisations have millions of emails, isn’t it about time that you started paying more attention?
Social relationships and graph theory
Graph theory is a mathematical concept relating to the study of graphs. Companies frequently use graphs to model all kinds of relationships. Another use is to model social relationships. By representing data graphically, it can help us visualise trends and patterns. Accordingly, graph theory has multiple applications.
Social sciences are frequent users of graph theory. Most people will already be familiar with the exploitation of social networks to influence people’s behaviour. But it can also be used in Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) to help identify communications within organisations.
Email v Social Network
Individual emails contain a a wealth of information. As a minimum we know who sent and received the email, when it was sent and what the email is about. There may also be other fields that provide more information. For example, is the email important, was there an attachment or has the email been read.
#1 Identifying Superstars
Analysing emails can have a number of use cases in HR processes. For example, you may want to identify who your highest performing employees are. Perhaps you are looking at succession planning or performance related bonus schemes. This may not be difficult in a small organisation of say less than 20 employees. However businesses with large headcounts may find it difficult to identify individual ‘superstars’ or compare employees against one another.
Typically this is done by asking individual managers to nominate or highlight talent centrally. However this method is subjective and the information flow sporadic. Therefore using specially designed analytical tools can help standardise the process.
#2 Identifying Trends
A social network is a great way to identify trends. The market leader in this field is Twitter. Businesses can quickly get a sense of what interests the wider public by simply looking at trending hashtags. Typically this is focussed on ‘real-world’ events but a similar approach can be used in individual businesses.
In a large organisation, with thousands of employees, it would be helpful to known what matters are ‘trending’ internally. For example, what topics or projects are high priority or details of new offers for customers. The ability to find others who are working on similar projects and improve collaboration can bring immediate efficiencies and improve productivity.
#3 Identifying Spam
Most email users will already be familiar with spam filters. These attempt to classify emails into spam or no-spam. But they are not foolproof. For example, how many times have you found a potential new clients email in your junk folder? If this happens too often it might have a detrimental impact on sales.
However spam detection software is adopting advances in natural language processing (NLP) to help identify spam. Rather than simply looking at the senders email address, message ID, IP address etc, machine learning can look at the email bodyl too. So rather than spam or no-spam, emails can be classified as interesting or not interesting.
The big social network companies make billions each year out of data. Yet it is easy for smaller businesses to also take advantage. To help you implement a strategy, consider using a software solution such as Threads Analytics. Threads seamlessly aggregates all your business data in one easy to search dashboard and provides real time analytics to help you understand your social interactions and trends. To try Threads free for 14 days, just click here.