Micro-blogging in the enterprise: an idea whose time has come?


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.

Technology companies such as IBM and Oracle have rolled out Twitter-like tools. Enterprise micro-blogging provider Yammer won the TechCrunch50 prize, though has not disclosed its corporate clients.

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.

9 replies
  1. daniela barbosa
    daniela barbosa says:

    I just posted a post on the same topic-and shortly after i started thinking about the continuous strain on information organization and knowledge retention that some of these tools my further create since there do not seem to be optimized for in the Enterprise space. (not saying they won’t get there)
    I know as a Twitter user sometimes i can spend a while looking for that ‘Twitt’- search is ok but as volume of repeated twitts or language differences between regions for example say the question “what is the best environment dishwasher” is asked every few days-sometimes people use ‘environmental’ sometimes ‘green’- sure someone out there will have answers- will the ‘popular’ answer become automatic or will the two people that answered the first time it was asked, turn to four; then six; then eight then and eventually ten plus people are taking the time out of their day to answer the same question? [or worse yet no one answers because they think someone else will get it]…all the while annoying everyone else that knows the answer).
    Lots of good stuff to think about! I certainly see the benefits and I am looking forward to working on resolving some of the issues of these new media formats.

  2. pligg.com
    pligg.com says:

    Micro-blogging in the enterprise: an idea whose time has come? – Trends in the Living Networks

    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 pe…

  3. Ross Dawson
    Ross Dawson says:

    Thanks Daniela these are some great points.
    I certainly expect evolutions of micro-blogging into new forms to be more relevant to the enterprise. For example, overlaying user filtering (possibly by attention profiles :-) ) on micro-blogging streams can help to bring out what’s relevant to the individual.
    In addition there is the possibility of using channels or tags to make sure people see what they need and not too much more, and threaded comments in some form.
    I just see so much potential here – let’s try to work out how to do this well, because it’s going to take some working out.
    For those who didn’t see it, Daniela’s latest post on the topic is at:

  4. Pieter Jansegers
    Pieter Jansegers says:

    For an international organisation active in many countries, microblogs could provide a unique way for international socializing and identity reinforcement of that company.
    You mail essentially to people you know of, but your micromessages can be read by anyone in the company anywhere in the world.
    The enlarging capacities of microblogging for the social dimensions of an enterprise could turn out to be really fantastic.

  5. Ross Dawson
    Ross Dawson says:

    Yes I absolutely agree Pieter. However I wouldn’t underestimate the massive challenges in doing this well – in many cases it could introduce more inefficiencies than it overcomes.

  6. Romasha Roy Choudhury
    Romasha Roy Choudhury says:

    I completely agree with you , Ross.
    We at Cynapse, have seen how difficult it is for businesses to adopt new technologies, especially when it does not translate directly to increase in revenue.
    We realized that an enterprise version of twitter would really work only if it was contextually integrated into the tools that their teams already use for collaboration. So we tightly integrated microblogging into cyn.in. We’ve also added threaded discussions to messages to make it a great way to start conversations and increase knowledge sharing!
    I’ve just put up our ideas on why we believe in microblogging and how we have implemented those in cyn.in. Would love to hear your feedback.

  7. Ross Dawson
    Ross Dawson says:

    Thanks Romasha.
    I absolutely agree with the concept of integrating microblogging into other collaborative tools, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do well – I expect that you and others will be working on this issue for a while yet. Look forward to seeing what you come up with when it’s announced!
    I’m just beginning to experiment with microblogging in my own (small) companies, so we’ll see how that goes…

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