My friend Mrinal just pointed me towards someone I should have found long ago. Rob Cross is a management professor at the University of Virginia who's applied social network analysis to improve all sorts of companies. The part I like the most is that his case studies are strongly focused on concrete results and money saved. Here's some of the things that he's used network analysis for:
- Cloning a successful team by duplicating its structure with another set of people
- Fostering innovation by identifying brokers who spread improvements across the organization
- Spreading best practices by integrating groups within the company working on similar problems
- Building connections between sales teams so they can boost revenue by cross-selling
All of his analysis, in common with other practitioners like Ronald Burt, is based on self-reporting and surveys. I'm pretty convinced that many of these same techniques will be even more interesting and detailed if you apply them to implicitly generated communications data. Your email inbox is going to be a more accurate and comprehensive record of who you communicate than your recollection.