Over the last few months there has been increasing discussion of how micro-blogging tools such as Twitter could be used in organizations.
Twitter is now frequently used in external communication, with organizations as diverse as @SouthwestAir, @Comcastcares, @BigPondTeam, @SEC_Investor_Ed, and @mosmancouncil using Twitter to communicate to stakeholders and for customer service. Given the rapid rise of Twitter and how influential comments can be, this clearly needs to be on the radar for any major organization.
However there are significant constraints in using public micro-blogging services such as Twitter, Jaiku, or identi.ca for internal communication. Even with the ability to protect people’s updates to being viewed only by approved followers, few organizations would like to have this kind of information hosted externally.
As such they often look at internal tools to see how yet another consumer technology can be adapted to create value for the enterprise.
At our Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum in February, Australian pharmaceutical company Janssen-Cilag described how it was implementing an internal version of Twitter.
Now Best Buy has implemented a home grown Twitter, described in a great interview on Read Write Web.
So why should companies want to Twitter?
The reality is that I think that not many will, for a little while yet. Companies need to be very comfortable with experimentation, and to the development of diffuse communication patterns.
If they are comfortable with this, then Twitter can be used in all sorts of ways: to ask quick questions on information people need, updates about what’s happening in the company, chit-chat, social events, human connection.
One of the problems that companies have had is that often this kind of communication happens on email, which clogs people’s inboxes, are often not relevant, and are seen as annoyances.
However it is difficult to get engagement in forums and discussion boards – people have to make the effort to go there and look to see what is happening.
So something like Twitter combines elements of the best of both worlds. It’s like email in that it’s broadcast, though you choose who you receive messages from, and you don’t need to read everything. You presume that messages are non-essential, so you get to then as you can, and it’s non-intrusive.
So a looser array of communication ties link the organization and how it functions. The communication networks can then become massively more effective in how people coordinate their work. The useful messages flow as needed – knowledge and idea sharing becomes immersive.
In short, enterprise micro-blogging, implemented well, could create far more effective organizations, and be a tangible source of competitive advantage.
Yet few organizations are ready for this. It requires a particular culture to allow people to go off and use these tools with no ‘tangible’ business benefit. Unquestionably there will be experimentation and time-wasting and people seeing it as ineffective and annoying, but that’s fine. People will use it if they find it useful, and won’t if they don’t.
It’s a learning process. We must discover what a whole array of new communication technologies allow us to do as organizations. We don’t know yet. But we do know that they might make a massive difference to how effective we can be. So those who are the first to work it out will be ahead. No doubt about it.
I really think the next few years are going to be fascinating in how organizations evolve. I think they’re going to be become substantially different at a quite rapid pace from now. The foundations have been laid for quite different organizations to emerge. I’m going to spend a lot more effort on the future of the enterprise.
Tools such as micro-blogging will definitely be part of that.