Gartner Blog Network

Personal and work networks: Separate them, mash them, or mesh them?

by Nikos Drakos  |  September 26, 2008  |  5 Comments

You get hired for what you know and promoted for who you know goes an old adage.

And today who you know is becoming much for relevant and valuable as who you know, and how well you know someone is not limited by geography or organization boundaries. 

There is clearly value here, certainly to each individual. But here is an interesting question about how much an employer should seek to leverage that value.

It came from a large Telecom company: They said: ‘ as we modernize our directories and expertize location systems to take into account what people really do, what they really know and who they know, should we also be looking to tap into personal networks that employees may have created using services like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, etc?’

There is a reasonable argument that yes, in some cases this is desirable – for example when an employee participates in an external social network as part of their formal company responsibilities (eg for marketing or recruitment), or when an employee brings individual contacts into the work environment (eg by introducing someone to a colleague, or when they invite them to participate in a project, discussion, transaction, etc.) 

But tapping into personal networks beyond these simple cases where employees willingly and knowingly bring in external contacts would be problematic in many ways. Asking or expecting employees to import this information into an internal directory or give wholesale access to their personal networks is generally a bad idea.

A lesson from the way that the public/private divide is managed in consumer social network services is the way they can help individuals control the flow of information between their public and private networks. Perhaps a similar approach where the employee can stay in control as gatekeeper between work and personal networks but can also easily broker connections on an individual basis as needed may be the optimum compromise. 

What do you think about personal and work networks?  Separate them, mash them, or mesh them?


Tags: employee-networks  personal-networks  privacy  social-networks  

Nikos Drakos
Research Director
13 years at Gartner
20 years IT industry

Nikos Drakos, Ph.D., is a research director in Gartner Research, covering social software and collaboration. Prior to joining Gartner in 1997, Dr. Drakos was a founding member of a pioneering Web development company and was responsible for several high-profile interactive and transactional websites for European clients. Previously, he was employed as a postdoctoral research fellow, working on object-oriented programming, visual languages, artificial intelligence and Web technology. During that time, he also led the effort around one of the first open-source Web publishing systems, which is still widely used today.Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Personal and work networks: Separate them, mash them, or mesh them?

  1. Aaron Strout says:

    Nikos – I am thrilled to see that you are blogging. I know all of the analyst/research firms are struggling to find the right balance between what they give away publicly (on a blog) vs. via paid content. Based on some of the ground that Forrester analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, has done, Gartner will have a point of reference.

    I look forward to keeping up on your posts.

    Aaron | @astrout

  2. Timo Elliott says:

    As a start, organizations should make use of all the information they have to create enterprise networks automatically, by extracting relationship data from various systems, including security, HR hierarchies, processes, project teams, workspaces, wikis, IM, corporate email lists, support databases, etc.

    In many cases, these will expose the relationships in which the enterprise has a legitimate interest in — e.g. which people have been working with which customers.

    But note that this process could also bring in information that employees might not be comfortable with — e.g. If you have ever used your work email for personal contacts (which, of course, given modern work conditions, is absolutely inevitable), or if the organization decides to mine public information through blog postings and the information you can get publicly from facebook, linkedin, etc.

    The whole thing will need delicate handling, and standards will evolve over time… in general, this is just one example of the “advanced data governance issues” that are appearing as a result of more powerful data integration and business intelligence technology… indeed, I’ve seen it said that they only thing protecting our data privacy is data quality issues that prevent us from matching the fields correctly!

  3. […] here, and each link provides a one-sentence summary of Gartner’s take in that area • Personal and work networks: Separate them, mash them, or mesh them? Nikos Drakos, Gartner blog, 26 Sep • For our Analyst Blogs Index, go to and […]

  4. Mary Adamaki says:

    Great article. My opinion is that should be separate fields. The question is how an employee in the corporate system today, can really resist the temptation ‘request’ to deliver.

  5. Sam Patel says:

    I believe that it is best to keep the two areas separate so that the flow of information is regulated. To that point, I am noticing that more and more of my peers are setting up separate Facebook and LinkedIn accounts so they can control the information that is to be shared. Contact information has always been a slippery slope for Sales Professionals since they normally would have to input their valuable contacts into a CRM package which some say decreases their value to the company. However, I believe accurate contact information is valuable but personal relationships with those contacts is the real value.

Comments are closed

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.