My long discussion Saturday of how to evolve (or replace) Twitter included a short discussion of what might be called Enterprise Twitter. Dennis Howlett just alerted me that there’s been considerable other discussion of the subject recently. For example:
- Dennis reported on an internal SAP Enterprise Twitter research project, and pointed at a number of the other pages I’ll mention. (Note: If that goes anywhere, it will have to be in conjunction with Business Objects.)
- Jevon MacDonald listed pros (many) and cons (few) of Enterprise Twitter.
- Andrew McAfee argues at length that an enterprise needs multiple social networking tools, to match up with different intensities of collaboration among coworkers.
- Niall Cook offers a short, convincing use case for Enterprise Twitter.
- JP Rangaswami also offers use cases.
- Ed Yourdon argues that Twitter is “good enough” for enterprises. But he seems to concede it could indeed be a lot better.
- Paul Gillin praises Twitter’s business potential for us self-employed consultant types.
- Sid offers a number of quick-hit use cases for Enterprise Twitter.
- Bill Ives takes a more skeptical view, focusing on enterprises uses of today’s Twitter.
- Nancy offers many Twitter use cases, some of which are enterprise-relevant.
Here’s my take on the subject.
I see four basic (and somewhat overlapping) use cases for Enterprise Twitter:
Real-time short communication. This is a major part of enterprise communication, especially when face-to-face meetings need to be arranged. Enterprise Twitter could do this better than email. It would require limited archiving, decent URL-attaching, and good targeting or filtering by user (work)groups.
Real-time wide outreach. The CEO could (briefly!) share her thought for the day. The cafeteria could announce specials. The salesman on the Universal ACME account could see if anybody else is familiar with UA. The users who help others with crashed PCs could let themselves be interrupted only when they actually don’t mind helping. This is probably the Enterprise Twitter use that requires the fewest changes from Twitter’s current form, although stuffier enterprises may require profanity filters and the like.
IM integration. Instant messaging is a very useful enterprise tool, since the alternatives are less timely or more distracting. That can and should be wholly integrated with Enterprise Twitter. Sometimes IM conversations expand to more than two people. That’s all the more reason for Twitter integration.
Beyond the firewall. IM discussions can and should penetrate the firewall, including employees, partners, customers, suppliers, and so on, just as email does. The Enterprise Twitter form of this is like a permanent (and hence very low average volume) IRC/AOL chatroom. To make that happen you need good group selectivity, good security, and perhaps also some nannyware oversight (profanity, intellectual property, hucksterism, etc.) .