April 2, 2015

Introducing Polinode: A New Tool For Understanding and Optimizing Organizations via Network Analysis

Andrew Pitts

Today we are thrilled to publicly announce Polinode - a fully integrated tool for mapping, analyzing and visualizing relationships within organisations. It’s now straightforward to collect information like who works with whom, who do people go to for advice and what mentor/mentee relationships exist?

The key to Polinode is it’s flexibility - you can literally ask any question at all. Because of this flexibility, the applications for Polinode are limited only by your imagination. Some areas though where this kind of organizational network analysis is particularly helpful include: change management, identifying emerging talent, improving communication, succession planning, onboarding of new team members and mergers and acquisition integration.

Before we dive into some of the details of what you can do with Polinode, check out this video to get a quick overview of the tool.

So, what’s so special about Polinode? In truth, there are too many features and applications to cover in a single blog post but here are 10 things that I think are worth highlighting and part of the reason why Polinode is such a powerful tool.

1. Integrated collection and analysis of network data

Polinode is really two tools in one. Firstly, there is the ability to collect relationship data, i.e. to ask people questions about how they relate to others via a survey tool. The surveys are of course fully responsive so can be answered on mobile devices and tablets as well as desktops. Secondly, there is a fully integrated tool for analyzing and visualizing this relationship data once collected.

2. Calculate key metrics in your browser, fast

It’s straightforward to calculate metrics such as centrality, betweenness, degree, community and HITS for any network in Polinode. If you haven’t come across some of these terms before don’t worry as we’ll be going into them in a bit more detail in future blog posts.

       

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3. The ability to give other people access to your analysis

This is a really nice feature of Polinode - you can share your analysis with others. Think of it as Google Drive for organizational network analysis. You have the ability to add other users to your analysis and you can even determine the level of permissions they have - either full edit permissions or just view permissions.  In a sense we are bringing networks to network analysis.

4. Flexible question piping and construction

We don’t tell you what to ask or how to ask it. Polinode's survey tool is both flexible and fast and includes the ability to pipe answers from one question to another. It’s so flexible that you can pipe from one question to many subsequent questions or even chain piped questions together. With the ability to insert page breaks or descriptive text anywhere you like and customize your thank you messages, the trick is often to keep things simple and not try to use all the functionality at once.

5. Measure relationship strength, not just existence

With Polinode, you have the ability to collect data on relationship strength via a unique slider-type question. This means that every edge in the network data you collect can have a strength or weight associated with it and, because the analysis functionality is integrated, this means you have the ability to visualize the strengths of these relationships or to filter by relationship strength.

 

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6. Collect relationship data on anything, not just respondents

In Polinode there is a concept called a Supplementary List, which essentially lets you collect relationship data on anything at all. For example, you could ask respondents about their favorite holiday destinations or operating systems. The network data that you collect is not limited to just your respondents or even to people. Often though this functionality is used to collect information about a superset or subset of respondents - for example you can ask a team about the whole organization or you could ask an organization about a team.

7. Upload attributes for all respondents

We really enjoy making your life easier here! So, we thought we would give you the ability to include data that you already have. It’s really easy to do this, you have the option to upload a list of respondents for your survey as an Excel file and, if you have some extra information to include, you would just add a few extra columns to this Excel file. This makes it easy to add data such as the gender of respondents, the division they are in, their team or anything else you would like to include.

8. Automatic syncing of responses and respondents

When you use Polinode you don’t need to apply it in a static fashion, i.e. take a snapshot of the network at a single point of time. While it’s certainly possible to use it that way, you also have the ability to change your set of respondents over time. Suppose new people join a team or organisation - there’s no need to start over as you can just add or remove people and all the network data will automatically sync. Links to the responses also remain live so respondents can update their responses at any point in the future if you allow it.

9. POLINODE EASILY HANDLES LARGE NETWORKS

We've built Polinode with large networks specifically in mind. For that reason we've included a unique search and select question type where respondents can make a selection from a list containing thousands of items via a search input. In building the network analysis piece, we've also targeted large networks. The largest network tackled to date has been ~2,500 nodes and we are actively working on some enhancements that should see this number increase even further.

     

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10. Flexible data export options

From the outset we wanted Polinode to be able to meet 90%+ of most people’s needs when it comes to the collection, analysis and visualization of network data within organisations. We also realize though that there are some great other tools that a lot of people enjoy using. For this reason, we’ve made it possible to export a range of different data to both Excel and Gephi (via the GEXF format).

Where to now?

Polinode is still in beta at the moment but we have been incredibly fortunate to have a terrific group of beta testers over the last ~6 months. Right now there are close to 200 people using Polinode around the world. We have been thrilled and fascinated by the different applications people have come up with so far. There is a real mix of users with everyone from large enterprises and consultants represented through to academics, students and passionate individuals.  

We would love you to join this community and sign-up here. Please also stay in touch via social media for all the latest developments - we are working on some pretty powerful and interesting new features at the moment that we expect to be posting about here shortly!

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