Twitter in the Enterprise

What's the next stage in collaboration software? How can enterprises use social media technologies to harness people, ideas & expertise in far-flung divisions for bottom-line impact?

Over the years, software vendors have enhanced enterprise communication & collaboration through email, instant messaging, VOIP, file sharing, web meetings, etc. Blogging, wiki's, micro-blogging, have now been added to the mix.

Now, it's very easy for me to connect with a colleague in China. All I do is look her up, email her, instant message her or call her via my laptop. This obviously enhances productivity & lowers costs. However, there are few tools that help me identify the right colleague to contact.

If I am working on a problem or a new product idea, there are probably hundreds of others at a company, with experience, expertise, and/or interest in the subject.

This is a messy process currently - I ask a few colleagues for recommendations. My experience is that this is less than optimal. While it would be impossible to commune with hundreds of thousands of colleagues around the world, the few many of us in organizations end up talking to, are too few.

How do I tap into this distributed network of employees? How do I bring people, ideas & expertise together to impact new product development? How can technology make it easier to harness the wisdom of the crowds within an enterprise? And how does an enterprise reward the results of this larger-scale collaboration - how much for me & how much for my colleagues in far-flung parts of the company?

Software applications are very good at enabling communications & individual productivity. Technologies such as Microsoft SharePoint, LiveMeeting, Unified Communications are all excellent.

But how do you harness the wisdom of thought in your company? And how do you enable true collaboration - sharing of ideas & information, in order to make something better - a new product, a new process, etc.? How do you distribute the rewards fairly? How "many" is optimal - should you collaborate with thousands, hundreds, or tens of your colleagues - Does Pareto's Law apply? How do you separate noise from signal?

Is this sort of large-scale collaboration possible? Is it even optimal? Or are our current ways good enough?

For example, msot of us generally collaborae with a small team of people. Through "word-of-mouth" we may be introduced to a few additional experts - perhaps in far-flung parts of the company. Would it help to have more crowd-sourced input? How can consumer social media technologies facilitate this? How do you separate noise from signal?

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