Adoption patterns and best practices – now Twitter

Tonight I did a quite long comment on Björn’s post at the Enterprise2Open blog on “Microblogging as a Corporate Tool“). These are some thoughts, and essentially my take on the adoption issues with Twitter that are cross-linked and -influenced by the discussions at Centrestage, Communardo (and Cem Basman too).

Björn asked about the requirements we’re seeing (and need to meet) when we want to introduce these tools towards organizations and assumed that “we need Twitter to succeed for the masses before micro blogging can be implemented in a substantial way”. I don’t think so and explain below, but he’s got a very good point in demanding more best-practices and enterprise success stories. Anyway, here’s a quote of what I commented:

I am divided if “understanding” is what we need to drive corporate adoption. Twitter and co. are basically easy to get applications. The way I see it, people don’t use it because they don’t understand and don’t see the altered mode of communication – as it’s so counterintuitive to what we all have learned for long.

Yes, telling and educating corporations about Microblogs won’t hurt (and adding a list of possible usage arenas is a good start too, @Dirk) but I propose to focus on the personal benefits of “ambient initimacy” for knowledge workers and explore usage potentials in project or innovation management from there.

People don’t really care about project documentation and “after action” knowledge reviews (and innovators despise processes and organizational boundaries) – hence, we must provide them with light-weight tools that don’t add much additional work load and that bring instant benefits. This is where Twit’ter, Yammer and co. are coming into play: they are making it easier to feel connected, to communicate and they allow for easy “drill-down” (at least three times: in terms of intensity of debate, in terms of private or public conversation, in terms of engaging into a conversation when I feel so and dropping out from it again when fit).

Now, Laura Fitton prefers “microsharing” to “microblogging” (yes, the latter is pretty common and already a kind of industry standard) and I can see the reasons. It’s not so much blogging, messaging, documenting or whatever. Twitter and co. are also means for sharing time, for caring about your colleagues and professional network.

So, as microsharing alters the patterns and ways of communication within an enterprise, we may need 1) an organizational culture that understands the need and value of “caring for your colleagues (and what are they up to in this d*** project”) and 2) we must understand that people need to use it personally some times to understand its benefits for them and their work.

Btw, somehow this reminds me of the initial reactions of people towards wikis. And with that said, I’ve seen it quite often that when people begin to use their intranet wiki, ideas where this nifty tool (and method to collaborate, dare I say) might be used too emerge quickly. I guess that might happen with enterprise microsharing platforms as well, so it’s more about building a versatile and adaptive platform than getting the usage scenarios right from the very start.

8 Responses to “Adoption patterns and best practices – now Twitter”

  1. Corporate microblogging comes in different flavours. It ranges from microcommunication over to microsharing and up to microinformation and microdocumentation (and maybe more).

    The good news is that typically we are able to pilot and try out all of this at a very low risk level. They are easy to use, also. However, the other news is corporate microblogging is actually going to be part of a much larger movement. It’s about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. Change management expertise will be necessary to understand and guide this movement.

  2. Martin Koser says:

    Agreed on both accounts. Many corporate usage areas will emerge, but for this to happen we need adaptive platforms, i.e. systems that don’t restrict (or to say it much more nicely “lead”) actual usage. It’s more about offering a solid base upon which we can let the creativity of our corporate users play.

    Now, this doesn’t sound too Enterprise-like – where knowing where platforms and systems will be used is always important – and thus adds to the change management difficulties.

    Well, this “emergence thinking background” also points us towards allowing for many different usage clusters/groups/scenarios that may show up in time. I guess arguing that Twitter and Co. as such will have a place behind the firewall is too easy then, when we must rather prepare for so many different uses, but again I agree that’s where guidance and “collaboration consulting” comes into play 😉

  3. Barthox says:

    To me, the major issue with micro-you-name-it ;o) is that it is far from intuitive to understand what the benefits are …

    I’m using twitter, but I use it up to 90% as a semi-public chat system, and 10% as a way to share infos and receive some … and quite frankly for the sharing part I don’t really see why it would have to be in real time, it would be more efficient to receive or to check this shared stuff once per day. But if I check my Twitter account once per day, I have to sift through a lot of clutter to find the nuggets. I would prefer that the people who share the nuggets share them through their regular blog which I’m following through Google Reader … once or twice a day …

  4. Martin Koser says:

    @Bathox I guess the answer to your problems may rest in more efficient filtering, grouping your Twitterati peer groups into clusters, applying all kind of neat #tracking and #finding mechanisms etc.

    I too don’t use the real time aspect most of the time – I am dropping into conversations much like I would do at the office watercooler – but sometimes it’s nice to engage in a quick multilateral exchange and here’s why I value Twitter and so much: It let’s me connect to my peer groups much more directly and swiftly.

    So I don’t actually “check” my account but I have the twhirl client running all day. Now, I don’t necessarily scan it all the time (well, got some **real** work to do) but I can rapidly chime in when I see something interesting popping up.

    This is an interesting thing to discuss, actual usage patterns of microsharing, these must be different for the different usage arenas we’re pondering. With Twitter I know that my followers don’t mind if I don’t react instantly, they suppose I’ve got better things to do.

    In a corporate setting people might feel obliged (or even be “ordered”) to monitor the stream consistently, adding to the workload and reducing IMHO the overall value. Somehow like being ordered to place your desk next to the watercooler all day long, so that nothing evades you – nobody does that of course as nice effects on personal productivity are probably guaranteed …

  5. Barthox says:

    aw crap, I just uninstalled Twirhl … I guess I did not make use of all the features …

    Now back to your comment on corporate people feeling obliged to monitor it constantly, that’s exactly what I’m afraid of …

  6. @Martin: You say “People don’t really care about project documentation and “after action” knowledge reviews”. Rightly so. And they don’t really care about knowledge sharing either. However, organisations do need a fair amount of documentation, review cycles and knowledge sharing in order to continuously improve their products and services which is vital to business success. Sounds like a vicious circle.

    People are particularly reluctant, when documenting, communicating and sharing takes extra time or has to be done multiple times. When we take a look at our daily office work then we can see that we are in fact constantly producing
    pieces of information in many ways:
    – writing e-mail or instant messages with short questions and answers, possibly containing important decisions
    – taking notes to collect ideas, remember possible problem solutions or things to do
    – writing status messages when certain tasks or work packages have been completed
    – listing certain points that need to be included in later documentations, contractual agreements etc.

    These pieces of (more or less) valuable micro-informtion are produced anyway but they are dispersed in multiple data stores (e.g. e-mail boxes, instant messenger, local files, personal paper notes and workbooks).

    In my opinion micro-blogging offers the opportunity to tap these sources. To achieve this, it is of course necessary that for example the members of a project team are using a mircoblogging tool instead of what they used before. This calls for neat integration into the omnipresent personal information manager (PIM) or more practically speaking in the tools that we already use, such as Twirl, Outlook, Digsby, Instant Messengers, Desktop sidebars, mobile phones, PDAs etc. It MUST NOT be extra effort to share information any longer. So micro-blogging tools will have to collect the bits of valuable information where they are created in the first place and microsharing tools must provide easy access for the notification of co-workers (@Barthox: immediate or occasionally to create awareness) as well as the analysis, review or generation of documentation or knowlegde assets at a later point in time.

    The personal benefit will be that these (sometimes painful tasks) can be done more easily and quickly. This is what we are working on right now.

    The practical uses in business will have to proof this though. Early adoptions show that this can be achieved, as can be seen in the post & comments at Centrestage mentioned in your post. However, we are excited and still at the beginning. There are many open questions, e.g. on processes and tools that support the conversion of collected micro-information into knowledge assets, e.g. wiki pages or documents.

    These were some rather technical thoughts. Apart from than, Yes, there is a need for “collaboration consulting” to spread sharing skills to the business world. This particularly includes the appropriate use of communication media – from phone, e-mail to wikis and micro-blogging.

  7. Martin Koser says:

    @Dirk I am really looking forward to see you presenting these ideas, tools and stuff at the upcoming BarCamps. I guess we’re really going for the same things, so no need to argue about the intricacies of people, processes and technologies when actual usage will be mostly determined by the individual needs of employees, work groups and organizations. I wonder if we’ll see widespread corporate adoption quickly?

    Anyway, we definitely need versatile and standards-based platforms for this, only one reason being that then we can master the challenges of converting knowledge assets easily between different solutions without storing them redundantly. My “educated guess” is that RSS is going to play a central role in this …

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