User Stories

Connecting the world and its people: Cisco’s innovative approach to upgrade organizational network analysis

July 17, 2023

Powerful. Flexible. Insightful. That’s how Sven Joseph, Senior Manager, and Chuck Shipman, Senior Software Engineer and Developer Lead on the small but dedicated Purpose Innovation team at Cisco described their experience using Ogma, Linkurious’ all-in-one JavaScript library for large-scale interactive graph visualizations

At Cisco, one of the world's leading information technology companies that delivers innovative networking, cloud, and security solutions, the Purpose Innovations team is tasked with how to innovate around technologies to help drive purpose throughout the organization. So when Cisco looked for a breakthrough way to visualize the dynamics of their teams and organization at large, they turned to Linkurious.

Their approach: advancing organizational network analysis (ONA). A method that involves mapping out the formal and informal relationships among people, teams, communities, and more within the organization and analyzing the resulting network to identify patterns and insights that help improve organizational health and performance.

Developing a data-driven approach to collaboration

Collaboration is the nervous system of any successful organization, but understanding what drives it and where it begins or ends can be a challenge. Moreover, with an increasing number of employees working remotely, grasping the intricacies of team interactions becomes ever more complex and relevant.

For Cisco, unlocking the answers to these questions holds the key to valuable insights that can help leaders understand how teams are connected, identify the individuals who are fostering these connections, and look after teams that may be isolated from the larger organization. By unraveling the fascinating fabric of collaboration, Cisco can gain a better understanding of how to foster cross-functional teamwork and drive success.

To start, the Purpose Innovation team gathered information from employee surveys and utilized their own video conferencing and collaboration platform, Webex. To ensure they could translate Webex meta-data into relevant work-connections, they trained a machine-learning algorithm and cross-checked it against survey responses to achieve a match rate of >90%. Still, they needed a way to visually represent the data in a manner that was easy to comprehend and communicate. 

Because their data relied heavily on visualizing the connections between employees and work dynamics, graph technology proved to be the most suitable solution, enabling them to visualize their data as a network graph and identify insights or patterns that would otherwise be difficult or even impossible to uncover with raw, tabular data. In addition, to make this valuable information more accessible to everyone, they required a web-based tool that could effectively visualize and interpret their complex connected data at scale.

Network analysis with Ogma

To help Cisco achieve their goals, they leveraged Ogma, the all-in-one JavaScript library that would allow them to develop powerful, large-scale interactive graph visualizations. 

“What made the difference for us in choosing Ogma was the higher-level abstract, programmatic API that came out-of-the-box along with the responsiveness of the support and technical team which was a huge win,” said Chuck Shipman.

Extracting key organizational insights

In order to effectively visualize their data, the Purpose Innovation team relied on several important features of Ogma, such as its diverse graph layouts and design capabilities. However, as Chuck pointed out, being asked to choose just one impactful feature is “like walking into a candy store with a sweet tooth and trying to pick the one thing off the wall that you most like out of everything else - it’s difficult.” Nevertheless, the team was able to easily manipulate node color, size, and edge thickness based on an individual's strength of connection within the organization, for example, which facilitated the extraction of key insights from their data.

Ogma also comes equipped with over a hundred different examples and tutorials that developers can use to help kickstart their projects. “What helped jumpstart us were examples and tutorials. Being able to dive into the code and tutorials allows us to backtrack and see what API terms meant in the documentation,” said Chuck.

Turning ONA insights into action

Leveraging Ogma for organizational network analysis allowed them to anticipate disruptions in the workplace if an influential employee were to leave. Additionally, they could identify the types of connections that top talent were forming, which could ultimately serve as a reference for others aspiring to advance in their careers and these kinds of insights, according to Sven Joseph, proved to be very valuable to leaders in the organization. In today’s hybrid-first context, “leaders are flying blind, for the most part. So for them, creating a view of what’s going on in the organization was really insightful. It became a critical success factor to lead effectively in a hybrid work environment.”

The future of graph visualization at Cisco

As for what’s next at Cisco, “we’re an innovation team, so we do a lot of experimentation. We try to experiment with different technologies and ways of doing things. Sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn’t,” says Sven. However, the possibilities are endless with the whole team already thinking about projects around the behavioral patterns and productivity of hybrid workers and with Employee Resource Group’s, self-organized support networks of minority groups. Their objective is to bring more visibility and – of course – more purpose-led relationships to the organization while exploring other opportunities for innovation.

One thing is for certain, the ability to efficiently visualize large and intricate concepts is crucial in today's world. According to Chuck, “adopting intuitive and user-friendly solutions for this purpose is important to improving the process of comprehending complex ideas. And having tools such as Ogma, which offer a robust visualization library, are key to that.”

About Ogma

Ogma is a commercial JavaScript library that can be leveraged to develop powerful, large-scale interactive graph visualizations for your applications. No matter your specifications, Ogma comes equipped with everything you need to easily visualize and analyze your graph data and increase your productivity across the board. 

With Ogma, you can display and interact with thousands of nodes and edges in a matter of seconds, create rich experiences that allow any user to make sense of the complex networks in your business, and leverage ready-to-use examples and tutorials to cut down on development time and focus on what you want to deliver.

To learn more, visit us here.

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