Continuing with the theme of Twitter in the Enterprise: Twitter and Agile

[Note: This post is a follow-up to my two previous posts on the subject over the last day or so].

I can hear the doubters and scorners now. “We don’t need another tool”. “Why don’t you concentrate on new business models instead of all this tripe?” “I have enough information already”.

So why am I intrigued by Twitter? First and foremost I think it’s about the question that Twitter poses:

What are you doing?

I know, I know, people use Twitter to pose questions, not just answer them. And they ask and answer a whole slew of questions, not just “What are you doing?”. But just for a moment, I want to concentrate on this Twitter-defining question. In fact I want to refine it a bit:

What are you doing right now?

Why do I think this question is important to “the enterprise”? To answer that, I need to take you on a little wander, to something that John Seely Brown and John Hagel said some years ago:

Push systems — characterised by top-down, centralized and rigid programs of previously specified tasks and behavior — hinder participation in the distributed networks that are now indispensible to competitive advantage.

More versatile and far-reaching pull systems —characterized by modularly-designed decentralized platforms connecting a diverse array of participants — are now starting to emerge in a variety of arenas.

As pull systems reach center stage, executives will have to reassess almost all aspects of the corporation.

Don’t get too hung up about the push and pull; while it is important, the really important bit is the decentralized platform with diverse participants. Which is where Twitter comes in.

I heard the two Johns speak some years ago at Supernova, when they were just about to publish The Only Sustainable Edge. At the time, they were fresh from a study tour of China, mainly looking at manufacturing there. And something they described stayed with me: it was the way teams collaborated in a motorcycle factory that they’d visited and studied. The teams were agile, collocated, with line-of-sight of what was happening around them, and the empowerment to participate and assist their colleagues.

This concept of collocated line-of-sight is something that permeates a lot of Agile thinking. But sadly collocation is not always possible, and sometimes not even desirable. [More on that subject later].

What I see in Twitter is this: The ability for members of a distributed peer workforce to describe precisely what he or she is doing, and to share that description.

Out of this, I can foresee enterprise magic happening. Geographically dispersed team members are able to help each other out because suddenly they have line of sight of each other’s tasks, activities and processes.

More on this later. Comments welcome as always.

9 thoughts on “Continuing with the theme of Twitter in the Enterprise: Twitter and Agile”

  1. I think that the “forced conciseness” of Twitter is a good thing:
    On the one hand, it allows one to take in a lot of input with little effort – much like (good) RSS feeds.
    On the other hand, it teaches people to focus on what’s truly relevant – not just on Twitter, but (hopefully) also in e-mails and other areas.

  2. I’m still having difficulty with Twitter. What’s in it for the consumer of Tweets? As the network grows, the volume of messages will surely become unmanageable and any valuable will be lost in the noise. And in a corporate environment, what’s wrong with email and a blackberry?

  3. In the “enterprise” I would want to see channels such as Twitter incorporated into other collaboration-supporting tools. The Twitter question “what are you doing?” is basically an opportunity to advertise what some vendors call “presence” — i.e., when I’m online or at my station a badge or link displays to others that I am there and available to be contacted.

    Twitter provides a way to add more information to that on-off definition of presence. Where Twitter falls down, as you suggest, is when the advertised information can’t be understood or comprehended by the recipient, which happens a lot in Twitter since “conversations” are conducted among groups where only a subset hear both sides. That leads to noise and confusion.

    I would think that a group use of a tool like Twitter in a corporate (or project) setting would need to be pretty focused so members would all have the context to understand the messages.

  4. I can vaguely see how I could use Twitter in the enterprise… currently, it’s broadening my horizons, but I can imagine it doing much more –

    for example, when I’m looking for text to describe “our” capabilities to do something, I can look in a repository, or I can broadcast email colleagues “Hey, who’s worked on an opportunity with a European outsource…”; I’ll get answers but it clogs up mail…

    Twitter wouldn’t do that, but how interested in the rest of the world in me not knowing how to describe multilingual config management?

    … and my tweet would be visible to all.

    I can use it to point people to what I’m interested in, or what I’m doing… I can even use url masking to point to stuff that I only want corporate colleagues to see… are suits happy for me to tweet in public about *exactly* what I’m doing? No.

    The usability is increasing – I just need more colleagues using it…

Let me know what you think