The waning world of the Individual Meritocracy, eclipsed by the NETocracy.

Peregrine_Moon

There is an old saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know”  that was used to explain the nepotistic hiring practices of some organizations.  Today a new hiring paradigm could be restated as “it’s not what you know, but who you know and what they know” . It is an overt acknowledgment that the Network is now perceived more important than the individual contributor.  A recognition that no matter how good you are, you simply cannot be expert in everything anymore and one of your consulting assets is in fact the network of people around you.  But how does a client or hiring manager judge the value of your network? Certainly quantitative  analysis is of little value. Today my Linkedin network count tells me that I am connected to 3,065,656 professionals and for $29.95 I can send them all an annoying email asking if they happen to know something about fact X. I am quite certain I will not receive 3,065,656 valuable responses. So what are the qualitative attributes of a network that could be of value to a client?

  • domain expertise
  • role expertise
  • demonstrated and referenced expertise in a specialty area
  • accreditation in specialty area
  • publication in specialty area
  • project alignment
  • special access
  • MTTR (mean time to recover)

I am highly selective with my network. I don’t just let everyone join. I ignore requests more often than accept in order to build a network that provides value to my clients and also so that I can provide value to others in my network.

  • Domain Expertise – In my network you will find primarily financial services and healthcare domain experts.
  • Role expertise – You will find some of the best architects in the world in multiple technology and business domains.
  • Demonstrated and Referenced expertise – You will find people with successful, real, large  project expertise
  • Accreditation – You will find highly accredited people.
  • Publication – You will find thought leaders in IT with well known published works.
  • Special Access – You will find people with specialty “insider” roles , mostly in product engineering at their companies.
  • MTTR – You will find people that I network on a regular basis where we all try to respond in a timely manner to assist each other with urgent questions.

Today there are very few ways to assess the value of a network. Some consultants may have all or none of the following:

  • Your corporate network – There is the implied formal network if you work for one of the big SI’s. I work for Microsoft so it is assumed that I can reach out into my organization for valuable information and assistance when required. It is for the most part, true.
  • Your technical networks – There are numerous public technical network that while they are not differentiators, it is expected that you can effectively leverage them to optimize  productivity. (MSDN, TechNet, etc)
  • Your professional networks – There are professional networks that link professionals of similar domain, project, technology and  provide mechanisms for review, feedback, questions, support, references and trusted “network” hires.

As clients get more sophisticated about evaluating the value of your network they will start to ask:

  • can you give me some examples of IP you have successfully reused ?
  • if you are leading the team and they hit a technical snag, explain to me the steps you would take to remediate it?
  • I have the following positions open on the team, who would suggest as appropriate candidates?
  • I’d like to have some references on the following projects A, B and F?

If your answers to the above don’t make extensive use of your network, you probably have 1,000+ people on your Facebook and Linkedin account but don’t have  a high value network.

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