Box stores files and manage how users share and work on them. They have 25 million users at 225,000 businesses interacting with content 2.5 billion times quarterly. That gives Box a unique vantage point on the way companies actually work.
What do you do when you are a startup with access to high quality data and a passion to foster collaboration? You set to analyse the data and see if it has a story to tell. That is exactly what the guys at Box did. In a recently published Information Economy Report, they explained how they approached studying the way modern companies operate. With the authorization of a few customers, they collected data. Their focus was the flow of information within each organizations.
How to represent it? Not with an organizational chart but with a network or graph. The graphs Box built are made of nodes that represent individuals. These individuals are either employees of an organization or external collaborators. The nodes in the graphs are linked together. Every time someone has transferred a file to someone else, they have a link.
This approach is interesting for two reasons :
- it is data-oriented : it captures actual data from real businesses ;
- it reflects the way people work : sharing a document with someone means that you are working together (although “working” can mean a wide range of things)
The result reflects a truth about companies (and human organizations) : they are social networks. A company is a set of people working together to achieve common goals. How they share information and collaborate affect the ability of the organization to achieve its goal.