Detailed case study of Twitter in the enterprise: Janssen-Cilag

Earlier in the month I wrote a post on Micro-blogging in the enterprise: an idea whose time has come? I mentioned a number of the current corporate initiatives in the space, including those of Janssen-Cilag, which in February implemented an internal version of Twitter it called Jitter.
After my post I learned (on Twitter) that Janssen-Cilag was highly commended in the 2008 Intranet Innovation Awards. The executive summary of the report includes a description of Jitter. James Robertson from the Intranet Innovation Awards has also recently posted a seven-minute video interview of Janssen-Cilag’s Nathan Wallace on one of their other Intranet initiatives, Juice, for ordering IT supplies.
Last week Nathan wrote up in detail Janssen-Cilag’s experiences with micro-blogging, very generously sharing insights into the challenges as well as benefits from the initiative. This is a must read for anyone interested in the realities of implementing Web 2.0 and new communications technologies. Some selected insights from Nathan’s review:

So far, 59 different people have contributed a total of 306 posts to Jitter. We’re excited that about 17% of people have tried posting, but disappointed that posting remains so infrequent and experimental. Here are some examples:
• State of our public hospitals June 2008 report now available at: http://www.health.gov.au/ahca
• Neuro Specialist Team your cycle meeting accreditation guide can be found on the Topamax specialist team private space. Please review prior to cycle!!
• Suffering from glute meltdown…
• Whoo-hoo! This weekend Trudi became the new Australian Swing Dance Balboa champion.
• XYZ still appears to be down – I have requested ETA on when this may be back and will notify the business when I have an answer.
• Please come and get some friday snacks from my fundraising box in downstairs kitchen. These are to buy new toys and equipment for my baby’s daycare.
• Dear colleagues, I need a lift to Gordon or Pymble for the next 3 days. Anyone live that way ?
• Jitter, Jotter, Blotter, Blatter, Matter! Does it?

Jitter has settled into a pattern as our informal news channel. It’s used for public congratulations, for sharing links and for short news flashes. This is a communication need that is infrequent, but not served by email (too intrusive) or JCintra news (too formal).

People have no idea what Twitter is. People have no idea what microblogging is. Most people don’t know what wiki’s, blogs or social networks are either. When explaining Jitter, one user was even worried that this meant that all the SMS text messages they sent to anyone would now be published on the Intranet. These technologies are natural and well known to people like us, but for the vast majority of people in the world they are new, confusing and weird. Remember to design your solutions and train people as though your mum is the key user!

Microblogging is particularly difficult to position as a business tool since it’s so hard to say anything worthwhile in so few characters. For an organisation starting the journey of sharing ideas and thoughts, blogging may be an easier starting point. Posts can be more serious and business like. Blogs are better known, and at worst look more like normal web pages. Authors can craft and position their entries to meet the political challenges and communication realities of the enterprise. Even if your organisation is ready for fast thoughts and short posts, authors can evolve towards really short blog entries.

It’s interesting that even in an organization used to innovation in internal communication this has been so challenging. A few quick thoughts from Janssen-Cilag’s experience:

* The 140 character limit used by Twitter may be too small for enterprise use and this could be extended, possibly even to 1000 characters.

* It may be useful to initially use micro-blogging specifically for nominated types of communication, for example IT support updates, social messages, or publication releases.

* Implementing categories on posts could make it easier to allocate them to topics, even though it can make it a little more complex. Tags may also be useful once people are familiar with the tool.

* Building a blogging interface that encourages quick, short entries could bridge the divide between blogging – which is seen as hard – and the ease of micro-blogging.

* People need education on the possibilities and how to use these tools. The only way to learn is by doing it themselves.

At a higher level, I think it’s important not to confine the issue to specific tools such as blogging or Twitter-like micro-blogs. This is really about enabling easy messaging and subscription inside organizations. This is really more about RSS and managing your information channels than micro-blogging per se. If we can create ways for people to easily create messages, categorize them, and for others to receive just the information categories they choose at differing levels of priority, we absolutely will have a far more effective enterprise.
Back in 2000 in the first edition of Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships I included a chapter on Managing Communication Portfolios. I made the point that we continue to get new communication channels, in addition to all of our existing ways of communicating. The challenge for both organizations and individuals is both to work out how to use new communication channels effectively, and how to manage the complete array of communication channels that we have as a portfolio, taking an integrated approach to achieve our communication objectives. New channels are continuously emerging and morphing, meaning we must continually develop how we can most effectively use the communication channels we have. Those that can do that well will be strongly advantaged in an information-based economy.

By Ross Dawson on October 20, 2008 12:50 pm | Permalink