syllabus‎ > ‎P: InfoVis design‎ > ‎

Castignani_Botha (2)


Problem Statement

During strategic planning sessions or decision conferencing, facilitators/ strategic advisors need to guide the members of the organisation in the process of coming to grips with their respective roles in carrying out the relevant plan. Prior to the session, the members might have different or one dimensional perceptions of their various roles in the decision making processes. Surely, a richer and uniform picture is needed to build a reliable strategy. A visualisation tool could aid the facilitator/advisor in getting the message across more effectively and less ambiguously.

The current organisational environment is well suited for the development of a tool as the one which is introduced in this report: most organisations are confronted with 1) messy problems, 2) having to change and adapt quickly, 3) having to adopt and manage new strategies and 4) having to manage knowledge consciously and effectively. The reader will notice that most of these challenges involve the human capital of the organisation directly -: strategies need employee buy in to work; some forms of knowledge reside solely in the minds of people in the organisation; people, in general, are change-averse.  The latter could lead to various kinds  of negative effects if a proposed change is not managed correctly.  

However, actively working towards a common understanding of relationships amongst employees and their respective roles in the proposed change, as well as being able to ‘absorb’ this understanding without losing much time and energy, could help to gain employee buy in, employee input, avoid financial losses, avoid bad press etc. ConnectaKit has been designed to accomplish this, in various domains, through its ability to visually depict complex interactions in an unambiguous way.

Literature Overview

A quick search delivered no tools that serve the exact purpose as the one that is proposed here. A range of decision support software tools already exists such as Eidos Think Tools, Decisionarium and Vanguard’s decision support software. However, these packages mostly enable quick and reliable calculations of multiple criteria decision making analysis (in its various forms), the generation of decision trees and their corresponding optimal outcomes, risk analysis and scenario building. None of these packages offer a tool that is versatile enough to visually depict the ‘soft’ relations in a company. Most of these tools analyse and visualise quantitative data.

The authors of Happy-Performing Managers (2006), Hosie, Sevastos and Cooper, state that it has become integral for developed organisations to actively address soft issues if they wish to become learning organisations and sustain a competitive advantage.  The importance of recognising such issues justifies the need for a tool which enables the analysis of the soft aspects of an organisation.


Product Description

ConnectaKit is a dynamic solution which aims to assist with strategic decision-making in organisations. It is a versatile tool which may be utilized in all contexts where people are involved in collaborative decision-making activities. The product has a simplistic user interface allowing the user to focus on the dynamic interaction of organisational entities. Data to feed into the model should be carefully elicited through several interactions with the members of the organisation so that a deeper understanding of bi-direction relationships may be accurately captured and furthermore extrapolated by connectaKit. The tool is not limited to a certain type of data set and the use case will depend on the specific organisational circumstances. The product has the following functionality:

·         Produces a simple network representation in the form of an organisational model based on data specifying individual relationships and connectedness, thereby reducing visual clutter and complexity.

·         The visualization consists of “nodes” which represent organisational entities and whose size depends on the extent to which they are involved in various “groups”. Nodes may be grouped according to organisational function but are not bound to this form of categorization. The node’s name becomes visible when the user hovers over it.  The size of the represents the amount of institutional knowledge that node possesses.

·         “Links” represent interactions between nodes and are grater in size when the number of interactions between those nodes increases. Thicker links are therefore embody organizational ‘reach’. 

·         The tool allows the user to “drag” nodes in various “strategic directions” and thereby to examine the impact this would have throughout the organisation. Algorithms have been designed to ensure that where there is little reach or decision-making power, the disruption will not have as substantial an impact as where reach and decision-making power are great.

·         To allow the user to easily identify connections as well as where “strategic pull” may be rooted, amplified or diminished throughout the organisation, the node initiating the disruption as well as its links to other nodes are highlighted. This further improves the visual experience of the user and aids analysis.

·         At any point a Static representation of the interactive tool may be viewed.


Product Contribution

ConnectaKit may be utilized by any organisation requiring a more meaningful understanding of individual reach and connectivity, organisational impacts, assessing risk and locating and assessing knowledge overlap. It’s flexibility renders it a tool for a diverse number of application areas. It may not only be applied across various types of organisations but also at various levels within a single organisation.

ConnectaKit is unique in its simplicity and the emphasis that it places on connectivity strength and reach. It also emphasizes visualizing unintended impacts throughout the organisation. It is designed particularly, but not exclusively, for consultants.

Recommendations for further improvements include more dynamics links between views as well as a legend which would allow filtering capabilities. In addition, it would be beneficial to simulate removal of nodes in order to determine the impact throughout the organisation as well as to observe how the organisation would once again reach a stable state. Additional functionality regarding the simultaneous movement of nodes would further improve the ability of the tool to aid strategic decision-making.

Team Work

The two members of the team enjoyed (!) working together and felt that the of the mark achieved would best be distributed 50-50.

Both Botha and Castignani were actively involved in the conceptualisation of the tool. Castignani took the lead in grappling with the initial technical issues whereas Botha had insight into the field of decision making (in groups) and could motivate the development of the tool with practical experience and her academic history. Botha provided the idea for the data and helped Castignani with preparation and massaging of the data.  Both team members worked on the storyboard: Botha was responsible for storyboards 1, 2 and 6. Castignani was responsible for storyboards 4, 7 and 8. The team collaborated on storyboards 3 and 5. The team members also contributed equally with regards to the writing of the report and the physical representation of the proposed tool in class.