Any organisation that wants to understand the human interactions that drive the organisation will want to use all available data that adds value. The question is it worth the effort of collecting and including Instant Message (IM) data as well as email. I previously looked at an organisation from a departmental level where it could be seen that Email and IM interactions were consistent and adding IM data did not provide additional insight. Starting to look more at individuals the question is does IM data add additional information of value? My starting point is to plot the volume of Email sent by an individual (to recipients internal to the organisation) against the volume of IMs they initiated (again limited to internal parties). The data is also broken down by departments; I’ve included four fom my previous examination of department-level internal and external interactions:
Visually this plot shows there is very little correlation between the volume of Email and the volume of IMs a person in the organisation generates. There are quite a few people in the organisation who do not use the internal IM system and these are clustered on the x-axis; this study is not exploring why this is but it is probably related to the relative newness of IM within the organisation. The departments do not appear to differ significantly in the distributions although Shared Function A does tend to prefer IM more than the other departments do. In my opinion this plot reveals that it is worth continuing to look at the value of IM data.
Email has long been studied to understand Social Networks. In more recent years organisations have embraced internal Instant Messaging, such as Microsoft Lync. Any organisation that wants to understand the Social Networks, and other insights communication data might reveal, will want to know if analysis of Instant Messaging logs can enhance insight from other sources like Email. Depending on an organisations culture Email and Instant Messaging (IM) may represent different levels of trust or formality; revealing a cultural meaning of Email versus IM is beyond this discussion but anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time in an organisation will probably be aware of that organisation’s cultural tendencies in communications.
My initial question is does IM show us anything Email does not? Starting at a macro view I revisited the inter-departmental communications: there was not much difference when looking at the IM traffic versus the Email traffic (when viewed as percentages of overall traffic) but there did seem to be some potentially significant differences in the volumes of communications internal to a department (I did not previously examine these numbers).
To further explore differences between IM and Email, at a macro level, I have looked at the percentage of internal departmental communication compared to total communication emanation from the department. Here is a chart of the results:
For the purposes of looking at differences between IM and Email, this chart shows there does not seem to be much difference in the ratio of use between intra- and inter-departmental communications. My conclusion, so-far, is that there does not seem to be significant differences in the use of IM versus Email at this level.
As an aside, the above graph does seem somewhat inconsistent in the function between department size and the percentage of communication that is internal. Looking at the purpose of each department they can be categorised as either ‘Product’ (focussed on selling and servicing a product line) or ‘Shared’ (e.g. HR, Accounts) and these seem to fall neatly into those with an internal communications level below 70% (Shared) and above 80% (Product); here is a table of the data:
As this is leaving my discussion of differences between Email and IM (this shows very little) I’ll explain more in another post.