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5 Things Twitter Can Teach IT About Collaboration

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In July of 2006, a social media phenomenon burst on the communications scene that has fundamentally changed how social interactions are taking place around the world. Embraced by hundreds of millions of users since its inception, it has reduced everything from cataclysmic events to the best place to buy coffee to a mere 140 characters, even as the medium continues to experience exponential growth.

With the innocuous name of “Twitter®,” its “tweets” have revolutionized how we interact through its instant accessibility from every level of the social landscape. Did you like the way your favorite team played this morning? Tweet them your approval! Did a volcano erupt in the South Pacific, and the islanders need help? You will know about it as soon as it happens, and watch it unfold in real time. If this instant information exchange is so effective in the consumer-oriented world of social media, why can’t IT profit from its lessons? How can the adoption of a similar model benefit them?

Generally speaking, IT is compartmentalized into a number of disparate departments which, by their very makeup, suffer from an isolated “silo mentality” — technical support, database administration, Microsoft® support, network group, and so on. Insulated from each other, these groups don’t always collaborate and share important information in a timely manner. What’s primarily lacking is an integrated method of mass communications to break down this barrier, making all of its users more productive and efficient. There are important lessons about improved IT communications that can be learned from the Twitter concept of mass collaboration without dismissing more traditional IT communication methods. Rather, it should be used as inspiration for adopting more modern, efficient forms of communication.

The lessons we’ve learned from Twitter can help us implement a consistent system of engagement that permits a more cohesive flow of information. What elements of Twitter are applicable to a collaborative IT information environment, and how should they be applied? What is it about Twitter that makes it so successful as a method of communication? Whether your IT team uses Twitter or not, here are the five things we love about the Twitter platform that you should strive to implement within your own method of communication and collaboration:

Tweet this: IT can learn from #Twitter and use instant information to combat silo mentality.

1. A Living Record

First and foremost, Twitter is both open and collaborative. Twitter is not exclusive; anyone can be part of any conversation. No invitation required. Twitter allows everyone to come together to share their points of view in the same system, page and feed without exclusion. It is a harmonious integration of both similar and disparate inputs in an uninterrupted flow, encouraging all opinions and viewpoints.

2. Personalized Content

Twitter does not judge or discriminate. It does not police whether the information you post is valuable, trivial or purely for entertainment’s sake. However, it does allow users to personalize the content they view through the use of filters. While someone may post information about an important Microsoft® upgrade or a new software fix, another user may let you know about the great, new steak sandwich they just had at the local deli. It is you who decides who, what and when something is relevant to you, employing your own filters within a vast landscape of information.

3. Less Content, More Substance

Of special importance to its model is that Twitter both encourages and enforces brevity. Less is more. By limiting all posts to a mere 140 characters, it requires users to keep all conversation short and to the point. This abridged method of communications challenges users to communicate in a more efficient manner, limiting how much can be conveyed in a single message. While this can be challenging on some situations, when used appropriately, this disciplined approach to communication means users spend less time trying to decipher the essence of any given message, saving time and increasing relevance.

4. Off-Line Conversations

There is a time and place both for brief and in-depth communications. The Twitter model can be used for either, depending on what the situation warrants. Although short, clear, concise conversations are the hallmark of the Twitter model, the medium can also accommodate more lengthy discourse through direct messaging if more complex or detailed communication is necessary.

5. Mobile- and Browser-Agnostic

One of Twitter’s most important attributes is its user friendliness. Accessible from desktops, laptops, tablets and cell phones, it is the ideal communications outlet. Not only is it mobile friendly, but, equally important, it is browser friendly, browser agnostic and instantly accessible from any Internet browser, anytime, anywhere. It is the penultimate mobile companion. Unfortunately, brevity and cohesive mass communication channels are not always synonymous with present-day IT department protocol. ITSM solutions are generally the system of record for IT, as they are ideal for accumulating specific data and making it available vis-à-vis various metrics and specialized reports.

Tweet this: IT can take inspiration from #Twitter’s modern approach to improve collaboration across departments.

The problem with ITSM tools frequently lies in their construct; they are formal, structured and inwardly-focused. Twitter and similar models, on the other hand, are all about engagement, interaction and ease of communications. They understand the value of unstructured communications and encourage conversation. With all of the choices available today, it is important to be efficient by choosing one or more standard “systems of engagement” that, ideally, integrate with your single “system of record,” allowing IT to facilitate valuable, unstructured conversations, when appropriate, to pull context and utilize that information to improve productivity. With all of its communication bells and whistles, Twitter might just be the ideal model after which to pattern your IT communications systems.


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