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I have been deliberate in networking and gaining visibility in my workplace over the past year. Many of these opportunities have come fairly naturally as a result of my work and choice of additional responsibilities and I simply choose to take advantage of this benefit.

Through this I have met many people in my company, from individual contributor though several layers of management, at a variety of locations/functional groups. For the time being I am focusing exclusively on internal relationships. But I expect the process would be very similar for both internal/external relationships.

I want to catalog these for future uses. I end up in a lot of situations I am effectively asking/requesting work with no direct authority. Namely, I want to keep track of this information to:

  • Request information/guidance/help
  • Expand my network
  • Grow existing connections

I am struggling in understanding how best to keep track of these relationships. Some of them are relationships where the person would vouch for my abilities, some are ones where they simply know who I am, etc.

I have thought about simply creating a google spreadsheet but I am unsure of what information I should capture (other than name/email/title). I want to somehow characterize each of these relationships, as well, to retain information about them.

  • How should I categorize and track my business relationships and what information should I capture to characterize them?
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    This strikes me as a slightly odd question, since I don't consider someone I can't remember as being a meaningful relationship. What have you tried, how is it insufficient? – Telastyn Sep 24 '14 at 17:59
  • @Telastyn I want a way to systematically approach and catalog contacts, to determine which are key contacts, etc. To identify relationships to grow. Which are lacking. Etc. For someone in a large corporation with many locations doing project management, it's impossible to remember everyone you encounter. – enderland Sep 24 '14 at 18:20
  • And org charts and/or network diagrams are not enough to know where people fit into the corporation? – Telastyn Sep 24 '14 at 18:27
  • What's your primary means of communications with your contacts? Do you have any lines of correspondence open with them outside of work? – kolossus Sep 24 '14 at 18:51
  • @kolossus it varies, phone/email/in-person. I generally do not interact in non-working times. – enderland Sep 24 '14 at 18:58
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I think in these situations, relationships can be difficult to maintain the information in a rigid contact management system. Many can't handle a spider-web of connection. Maybe you could make one work.

A tool for what you're attempting to do needs to be readily available, flexible and searchable. Relying on search is not as perfect as directly connecting relationships and categorizing everyone, but you don't want to sacrifice getting the data.

I like Evernote.com because it has mobile, web and desktop clients and can scan in Molskine notebook pages if you're prefer pen and paper. There should be no reason you can't enter and access information whenever you need ti. It can capture photos (few people will let you take their picture in a business situation, but you may find something on LinkedIn or a corporate site.). That bottle of wine a client preferred when you took them out for dinner, take a picture of it for reference as a future gift.

Notes are fine. Tags offer more flexibility when categorizing and offer more multiple ways of identifying people.

I tend to remember a lot about people except their name which is one reason this system works for me. If I track, their position, things we talked about, sites they recommended, where they're from and maybe where they went to school, I can do a search on "That guy that graduated from..." and do a search on that. Once you find it, there may be contact information.

Unless you're trying to do mass mailings or some type of reporting, you don't need to have each piece of data in a specific box on a form. You'll end up with hundreds of boxes (because you never know) that never get used. "Address Line 3", who needs it unless you're trying to print mailing labels.

If you find yourself emailing someone or calling them on your mobile, they're contact information will be there somewhere. It's the people you don't meet that often, but you never know when you need them, that you want to contact them.

So dig up all those business cards and get them into a note system.

  • OneNote is a good alternative as well. – Roger Sep 25 '14 at 12:18
  • @Roger - how accessible is OneNote from devices other than a Windows desktop? – user8365 Sep 30 '14 at 3:29
  • Your OneNote notebooks can be synced to Microsoft OneDrive, and there is a Web client. There are also apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. – Roger Sep 30 '14 at 10:34
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At the risk of dehumanizing your relationships with these contacts, I'll recommend keeping a lot of interaction restricted to an integrated communications suite. In a typical work environment, email and IM are the primary forms of communication. Keeping all your correspondence with each contact accessible via an email or IM thread is a fairly basic way of tracking your relationships with these contacts. Your mastery of a specific email tool will be key here. Take your standard MS Outlook for example which offers:

  1. Conversation-based email listing: with this functionality, you can view all emails that bear the same subject in a collapsible thread. This gives you the ability to drilldown to specific emails, along the same thread.

  2. Rule-based email folder storage: this would allow you setup rules that would route emails to predesignated inbox folders. That way, at glance, you can have an overview of your correspondence history with any contact you setup a rule for.

  3. Windows messenger integration: this integrates the windows messenger IM client into your inbox. With this, your chat history, and emails with a specific contact can be grouped and viewable from one spot

  4. Meeting/Calendar sync: This functionality is provided by default with outlook. Your calendar is part of your inbox, so your meetings, emails and chat sessions are part of a contact's thread.

Outlook also provides a pane just below the email viewing window that displays your entire communication history with the sender of the email being viewed

The idea here is that you keep your relationship centered around an integrated communication suite: Meetings, Calendar, Emails, IM should be integrated around the same toolset, so that your dealings with each contact can be surveyed from a single point of access.

Again, I would mention the risk of dehumanizing your interactions with these individuals by making it mostly digital and stuffing them into folders and baskets.

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