The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.
Jul 5, 2012

Over the past six months, I’ve been studying how advances in digital media and networking technologies are affecting the corporation. Rather than focusing on the obvious benefits of social media (marketing and PR), I’ve been spending more time looking at their affects on other corporate functions. The model above is my first attempt at describing the new, networked company.

Here’s how to read it:

  • Everything within the gray area represents corporate assets (employees, departments, etc…)
  • Everything in the white area represents those things outside the corporation (customers, vendors, prospects, etc…)
  • The ring in the very center represents employees and their internal network connections.
  • The ring of larger circles represents the various corporate departments/functions.
  • The four departments on the left side of the chart (Marketing, Sales, PR, and Customer Support) represent “customer-facing” functions.
  • The four departments on the right side of the chart (Human Resources, R&D, Finance, and Production) represent “non-customer-facing” functions.

To date, most of all that is written about social media and networked technologies has occurred on the left-hand side of this chart–with the vast majority of that discussion falling into the marketing and PR categories. It’s time to start spending some time with the other four:

  • Networked Human Resources, as represented by services such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, CAPTCHA, and Duolingo
  • Networked R&D as represented by such services as Innocentive and FoldIt
  • Networked Finance through such services as Kickstarter, Crowdfunding for Equity, FundAGeek
  • Networked Production/Product Development through technologies such as “additive manufacturing” (like 3D printing) or services such as Quirky.

I’m now looking for your ideas. What are your reactions, comments, and thoughts about this model? What would you like to see to make it better?

Filed under: Networks,Social Media


This will strike into the core of the debate about ROI. You’re right that most of all that is written is about the sales and marketing side of the model. That’s where the direct correlation is to dollars. 

Getting more social into other areas withing the organization may be tricky because of fear about sharing “corporate secrets” or the “secret sauce”. LinkedIn has set the infrastructure to do this type of B2B social media though by use of groups and answers. Employees in the functional areas on the right-side of your model are certainly free to use a tool like LinkedIn for social conversations. The question is will they?

Bob Williams
July 5, 2012

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the comment. It helps me be more specific about what I am working on…or more importantly, what I’m NOT working on. I’m not looking to use things such as LinkedIn and “social conversations” on the right-hand side of the chart. Instead, I’m looking at emerging platforms that are being built to serve the right-hand side areas.

Specifically, I’m using the word “network” in the truest sense of the term. Networks have nodes and edges. Nodes are connected by edges. Nodes can consist of documents connected to other documents (semantic web); people connected to other people (social graph); and machines (sensors and actuators) connected to other machines to form distributed feedback and control systems.

I’m digging into examples of networks built on heterogeneous nodes of documents, people, and machines. Such amalgamated systems are producing results for corporations that were impossible just a few years ago.

Finally, I’ve spoken enough about how ROI is a bad measurement on the left-hand side of the chart (see anything that I’ve written on Audience is an Asset). However, ROI is easy to measure on the right hand side of the chart because labor, R&D, production, and money are measurable in terms that executives use every day.

July 5, 2012

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