The Twitter Effect on ECM

There is no doubt that Twitter has taken the world by storm. A huge number of people use it from people in the IT industry like myself through to Political Activists and Celebrities. I was starting to consider the impact this has had on the world of ECM and two things struck me.

1. Metadata

Most people who have implemented ECM solutions will know that one of the challenges in an implementation is the level of Metadata which is used to describe the content and the challenge in getting users to complete it. I’ve lost count of the number of times when discussions have gone to the nth level of detail on whether metadata should be Optional or Mandatory and even when the discussion is closed and the solution is implemented you can do some Analysis of Metadata and you’ll find a high percentage of it is of little use.

Now Twitter has introduced the # (hashtag). Nearly all users of Twitter will tag their Tweets with one or two hashtags to help describe their Tweets. Just looking at my Twitter feed now and I can see people like Robbie Savage, Rio Ferdinand and Stephen Fry using hashtags to describe their Tweets.

Hashtags are Metadata, just in a slightly more informal manner. But still they are a way for people to describe their content. People are starting to learn how to use Metadata as they use a Social Media tool. This discipline will soon find a way into the workplace, my company use Yammer internally and hashtags are used here as well. This understanding of the benefits will soon feed its way into the ECM solutions we deploy as more of the users of ECM tools are users of Twitter. This should reduce the challenge we have traditionally faced in the design of the Metadata in these solutions. However it will also introduce a new challenge as the informal manner of hashtags will increase the appetite for similar solutions in ECM deployments and we will need to find a way to harness this appetite.

2. Ease of Use

One of the things behind the success of Twitter is it so easy to use and there are so many different clients which can be used to post this content. People contribute because it is quick and easy and the feedback is immediate. Again this usage will start to feed its way into the working environment, Yammer being one of the most obvious ways in which this is happening. Whilst there will always be a place for documents to be written we will increasingly see that solutions need to be implemented which are in tune with this new way of working. We’ve talked about Mash Ups for a long time as a way of deploying solutions, I predict we will start see Content being produced as Mash Ups more and more as the content is taken from a mix of sources and, typically, in smaller chunks. This content will still need to be managed for a variety of reasons including Compliance and the ECM solutions will need to cater for this.

So whilst Twitter has had some pretty big impacts in recent years on major World events such as the Arab Spring and riots in London I also expect it to have an impact on the way in which ECM solutions are used and the way in which we, as ECM professionals, need to approach the way we deploy them.

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3 thoughts on “The Twitter Effect on ECM

  1. Lee, I agree on the benefits if social communication. But I do not see the direct business benefit if the communicationis are not aligned with processes. it is an even bigger mess than email. Yes, Mashups, content applications and processes will need to allow interaction with Twitter and/or offer twitter like chat, but again it needs to be aligned with business and process goals.

    I posted on the subject here: http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/goal-orientation-in-process-management/

  2. Lee, I agree with your thoughts. Companies need to figure out an effective way to collaborate internally and externally, using ECM as Twitter has done.

    Max, thanks for sharing this great article!

  3. Hashtags whilst an enticing idea, may be challenging in the ECM context. In twitter they definitely work, but this may be due to the combination of the high number of users and high numbers of interactions, which allow successful hashtags to emerge as memes that are widely adopted and recognized. For every successful (or useful) twitter hashtag thousands may languish in disregarded irrelevance. Even in a large ECM installation it may not be possible generate enough interactions for hashtags to succeed in carrying sufficient weight to provide a meaningful benefit. I hope this first reaction opinion is wrong as I find the simple functional elegance of the hashtag really appealing. It would be interesting to see some academic research into the necessary critical mass required for a hashtag to become a useful meme.

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