Enterprise Microblogging for Advanced Knowledge
Sharing: The References@BT Case Study
(Siemens Switzerland Ltd., Building Technologies Division, Zug, Switzerland
(Institute Digital, Joanneum Research, Graz, Austria
Abstract: Siemens is well known for ambitious efforts in knowledge management, providing a
series of innovative tools and applications within the intranet. References@BT is such a web-
based application with currently more than 7,300 registered users from more than 70 countries.
Its goal is to support the sharing of knowledge, experiences and best-practices globally within
the Building Technologies division. Launched in 2005, References@BT features structured
knowledge references, discussion forums, and a basic social networking service. In response to
use demand, a new microblogging service, tightly integrated into References@BT, was
implemented in March 2009. More than 500 authors have created around 2,600 microblog
postings since then. Following a brief introduction into the community platform
References@BT, we comprehensively describe the motivation, experiences and advantages for
an organization in providing internal microblogging services. We provide detailed microblog
usage statistics, analyzing the top ten users regarding postings and followers as well as the top
ten topics. In doing so, we aim to shed light on microblogging usage and adoption within a
globally distributed organization.
Keywords: Microblogging, Enterprise Microblogging, Knowledge Management, Knowledge
Sharing, Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Social Media
Categories: M.0, M.6
Web 2.0 [O’Reilly, 2005; O’Reilly, 2007] has evolved as the new dynamic user-
focused web, equipped with social features by default. It has empowered people to
become the main creators of web content by providing a wide range of easily
applicable social technology: A plethora of popular Web 2.0 platforms including
Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, etc. were built
upon such technology and the principle of user-generated content. Web 2.0 platforms
such as these have steadily lowered the barrier for sharing knowledge on the web.
Besides the well-known classic weblogs, which may be used to express a human
voice on the web [Nardi et al, 2004; Rosenbloom, 2004], microblogging has become
increasingly fascinating for the blogging community, especially since early 2008.
This trend is driven mainly by the huge success of the most popular microblogging
service, Twitter (twitter.com). In the context of blogging, the word ‘micro’ refers
Journal of Universal Computer Science, vol. 17, no. 4 (2011), 532-547
submitted: 30/10/10, accepted: 15/2/11, appeared: 28/2/11 © J.UCS
specifically to the limited size of such blog posts. Twitter for instance allows
broadcasted messages to be no longer than 140 characters.
Microblogging enabled a new form of lightweight communication, where users
share and broadcast very small chunks of information about themselves, their
activities, their thoughts, or anything else of interest to them. Compared to traditional
weblogs, Twitter offers a slightly different functionality. Twitter messages may be
public or private (using the ‘DM’ command), can be republished by anybody (with
the ‘RT’ command), directed to one ore more persons (using the ‘@’ symbol), and
dedicated to one or more topics (by providing ‘hash-tags’, the ‘#’ symbol).
Being a rather new phenomenon, little academic research has yet been conducted
on microblogging. [Naaman et al, 2010] have explored the characteristics of social
activity and patterns of communication by analyzing the content of postings on
Twitter. They found out that the majority of users are self-focused, while a much
smaller set of users is really driven by sharing information. [Java et al, 2007] studied
the topological and geographical properties of Twitter’s social network. They have
identified different types of user intentions and analyzed the microblogging
community structure to learn how and why people use Twitter. Recently, micro-
blogging has also being investigated to determine its possible contribution to the
educational/scientific domain, facilitating mobile learning [Ebner and Schiefner,
2008], improving technology-enhanced learning [Costa et al, 2008], or supporting
social networking in scientific conferences [Ebner and Reinhardt, 2009].
Past experience has shown that Web 2.0 applications and technologies, including
weblogs, wikis and social networking services, will find their way into enterprises
sooner or later [Efimova and Grudin, 2008; Koch and Richter, 2008; Stocker et al,
2008; Stocker and Tochtermann, 2009], and we expect the same to happen with
Microblogging is capable of offering various benefits for individual knowledge
workers and their organizations when deployed in the enterprise [Ehrlich and Shami,
2010]. With regard to the Technology Acceptance Model presented by [Davis, 1989],
microblogging’s ‘built in’ simplicity will have a positive effect on user acceptance.
Moreover, the limited size of microblog postings will keep the individual information
overload to a minimum and may encourage increased participation, compared to other
Web 2.0 applications.
Although we feel that there is still a lack of empirical studies about the adoption
of microblogging in enterprises, some research covering the organizational context
has already been published. [Günther et al, 2009] have investigated new constructs,
including privacy concerns, communication benefits, perceptions regarding signal-to-
noise-ratio, as well as codification efforts for technology acceptance of microblogging
systems in the workplace. [Böhringer and Richter, 2009] have provided valuable
insights from an early adopter who implemented his own microblogging system. They
are among the first researchers to actively discuss the upcoming topic of ‘enterprise
microblogging’ in a broader context. The case investigated by [Riemer and Richter,
2010] revealed that microblogging in a corporate context can be very different from
what is known from microblogging on the web. By applying genre analysis to blog
posts, they found out that the communication is highly targeted, providing awareness
information for colleagues and coordinating team matters [Riemer et al, 2010].
Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
Facilition of knowledge sharing represents one of the major challenges of
knowledge management research and is a vital component of knowledge management
processes [Strohmaier et al, 2007]. Encouraged by the huge potential for transfer,
sharing and acquisition of personal knowledge and experiences, the Siemens Building
Technologies division decided to implement a microblogging service, tightly
integrated in its existing knowledge management application, References@BT. In this
paper, we explore the conceptualization, implementation and utilization of this
service, in particular discussing seamless integration into the existing knowledge
management infrastructure. In doing so, we discuss enterprise microblogging in the
context of existing web-based services within the corporate intranet vying for the
attention of knowledge workers.
Our paper is structured as follows: In Chapter 2, we discuss the selected research
method – case study research. Chapter 3 covers the Siemens tradition of actively
facilitating knowledge management and argues for the implementation of a
knowledge management infrastructure within the Siemens Building Technologies
division. Chapter 4 outlines the knowledge management application and discusses the
integration of the microblogging service. A more detailed description of the
microblogging service can be found in Chapter 5. Chapter 6 provides a lot of
quantitative data on microblogging usage and qualitative data on microblogging
success. Finally, we conclude our paper with Chapter 7 and summarize our perceived
challenges for enterprise microblogging.
2 Research Design
Our paper focuses on research into Enterprise 2.0, a term coined by Andrew McAfee
[McAfee, 2006] describing the adoption of social software within corporate intranets.
We investigate a currently established microblogging service within one division of a
multinational enterprise – Siemens – tightly integrated in its vital knowledge
management infrastructure. Our research scope is defined as follows: We describe the
need for a new service within the organization, elaborate on how microblogging was
selected and launched, and show how it has evolved since then. In doing so, we
discuss the role of the responsible manager (the community manager) and describe
how the new service is perceived and accepted among the employees.
We chose case study research as our preferred research strategy, investigating a
single case of enterprise microblogging, providing a comprehensive and descriptive
single-case study in our paper. According to [Yin, 1984], “a case study is an empirical
inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real life context,
especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly
evident”. As we intend to study foremost the surrounding conditions of the
phenomenon, we expect to generate valuable findings when using case study research.
We thoroughly studied different sources of evidence, including an investigation of
artefacts (References@BT, microblogging service), a survey of several power users
and a study of quantitative usage data. One noteworthy limitation of our findings
results from our selected research strategy, as single-case studies provide only limited
utility for generalization [Yin, 1984].
534 Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
3 A Brief History of Knowledge Management at Siemens
Siemens divides its operations into three sectors: Industry, Energy and Healthcare,
with 405,000 employees located around the globe (as of September 2010). Developed
products range from simple electronic controls to fully automated factories; from the
invention of the dynamo to the world's most efficient gas turbines; and from the first
internal views of the human body to full-body 3D scans. The three sectors generated
an annual turnover of €34.9 bn., €25.5 bn., and €12.4 bn., respectively, in fiscal 2010.
The cross-sector businesses account for €4.2 bn. of its revenues. The company values
are responsibility, excellence and innovation. To deliver these values, Siemens spends
heavily on R&D: €3.8 bn. in fiscal 2010. As of September 2010, Siemens has 30,100
R&D employees in over 30 countries, and more than 58,000 active patents [Siemens,
Siemens is a pioneer in the exploitation of knowledge management (KM)
systems. Since the early 1990s, it has responded to deregulation and technology
development with a bold culture shift towards the development of IT-based (and since
1999, web-based) KM systems [Müller et al, 2004]. In the last 15 years, KM at
Siemens has experienced various stages of development, from content transfer
(explicit knowledge) to capability transfer (tacit knowledge), as well as acting as a
social networking mechanism. This process not only includes the deployment and the
provision of KM applications, it also requires the creation of a new form of
collaboration – away from the paradigm of “knowledge is power” toward a culture of
trust and support across geographical, organizational and hierarchical borders.
The Building Technologies (BT) division has been the entity for the former
Siemens Building Technologies (SBT) group since January 1, 2008. SBT was
founded on October 1, 1998 as a result of integrating the former Elektrowatt group's
industrial sector units into the building technologies activities of Siemens. Thus, the
competencies of the former companies Cerberus, Landis & Staefa and Siemens were
consolidated into one organization. Today, the BT division is headquartered in Zug,
Switzerland, and consists of five business units: Building Automation (BAU), Control
Products and Systems (CPS), Fire Safety and Security Products (FS), Low Voltage
Distribution (LV), and Security Solutions (SES). In September 2010, BT’s workforce
included approximately 42,000 employees located in many countries around the
Each business unit operates in a highly competitive market environment and sells
products, systems, customized solutions and services through a decentralized
organization. Because the BT division has been significantly challenged on price by
its competitors, several strategic initiatives have been defined and implemented to
reach the Siemens business targets. Concerning the growth of sales and profitability,
one of the focus areas was to enable the global sales force to learn from successfully
implemented projects and solutions. To facilitate this knowledge transfer, the SES
division management decided in 2004 to develop and introduce a web-based intranet
application which contains customer projects and solution concepts in order to
replicate or reuse these business-related best practices. The focus of this new
application was planned to be worldwide networking of all SES employees.
Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
4 References@BT – an Overview
Since 2005, References@BT has been available as a web-based knowledge
management platform within the Siemens intranet. As explained in the previous
chapter, References@BT was initially planned and developed only for use within
SES, i.e. on a single business unit level. Due to the requirements of and positive
feedback from other business units, the platform’s target group was extended from a
single business unit to the whole division within the first year of operation.
At a glance, References@BT ...
• is a web platform for the global exchange of business-related knowledge,
experiences and best practices,
• is a social networking tool that networks colleagues and encourages them to
communicate with each other,
• is intended for in-house use and is thus only available within the Siemens
• views its users as a global community of people supporting each other
(currently more than 7,300 registered members located in more than 70
Since the very beginning, References@BT was not planned and designed for
capturing the full range of ‘company knowledge’ and thus becoming an ’omniscient’
tool [Müller, 2007a]. Moreover References@BT aims to network colleagues across
geographical, hierarchical and organizational boundaries and encourages them to
communicate with each other [Müller, 2007b]. Bringing the two parties – one is
urgently needing and the other is able to provide the same piece of knowledge –
together quickly is one of the main purposes of References@BT. Therefore, it is not
essential to provide fully documented contributions released by a central editorial
team. Even if the contributions are not coordinated and harmonized and might lack a
perfect grammatical style, it is sometimes more important to provide 80% of a certain
set of information immediately than to have 100% of the information several days or
References@BT supports all project phases according to the project management
process of Siemens BT, i.e. finding reference projects, replicable solutions, service
opportunities and experienced experts who can provide support for urgent issues. It
received multifaceted input from project managers, such as success stories,
information on ongoing projects, finalized projects and service business. In
combination with MS SharePoint, References@BT is being integrated into the
development process for solution packages, allowing international teams to easily
work together across continents and time zones [Müller et al, 2009].
Besides several subscription and social networking features (e.g. following each
other, providing personal information), References@BT allows its users to publish
their own contributions and make them quickly and globally available to all
colleagues. The usability of References@BT is simple and intuitive, the result of
many users’ requirements by consequent implementation of user feedbacks.
In References@BT, three different content types allow for user-friendly
contribution and sharing of knowledge and experiences adapted to the current
situation and to the kind and amount of information:
536 Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
• Knowledge References (available within References@BT since March
2005) are structured information objects containing several data fields of
different types. Knowledge references are used to cover customer projects,
solution/service concepts, business excellence cases, or ‘Lessons Learned’.
A set of metadata, which are independent of each other (e.g. discipline,
vertical market, country, year of completion, etc.), allow multi-dimensional
search queries, e.g., a list of all “customer projects with access control,
executed in financial institutions in Austria and completed in 2006 or later”.
All possible search queries can be subscribed to via e-mail or RSS feeds.
Furthermore, any reader can post so-called ‘feedback’ on a knowledge
reference, which is immediately displayed below the contribution. A
feedback item consists of an attribute (the type of feedback), a textual
comment and an optional rating displayed with 0 to 5 stars. The respective
average rating is displayed at the top of each knowledge reference and within
any search result list.
• Forum Postings (available within References@BT since March 2006) are
messages which are grouped according to topic within discussion forums or
blackboards. References@BT offers several such forums for defined
technological or functional topics. It is possible to subscribe to postings in
certain forums via e-mail or RSS feed. Within the special ‘Urgent Requests’
forum, all users have the opportunity to ask any kind of business-related
question and any new community member has a notification alert
automatically set to it.
• Microblog Postings (available within References@BT since March 2009)
are short, personal messages which are displayed in reverse chronological
order. This content type was specifically implemented to stimulate
community participation, as these postings are small in size and thus able to
limit information overload when discussing project-oriented topics. A
detailed description of this content type is given in Chapter 5 below.
Ideally, users of References@BT should be motivated intrinsically. This happens
by gaining an immediate benefit from their contributions, through immediate
feedback from colleagues, easy and fun usability, certain social networking features,
etc. To quickly increase the number of contributions, rewards were given out as part
of a competition (within a limited monitoring period, such as four months). During
this period, users could collect points, so-called ‘RefCoins’, for posting certain
contributions, such as responding to ‘Urgent Requests’, responding to discussion
topics, writing blog postings and publishing new knowledge references. The top 10-
15 users with the highest ‘RefCoins’ balance were rewarded. These awards included
material prizes as well as non-financial measures such as certificates handed out by
the CEO and nominations in internal media.
Currently users participate in References@BT on a purely voluntary basis, which
is the chosen strategy. However, to strengthen the knowledge-sharing culture, active
participation in KM systems and communities could be an integral part of working
processes, business target agreements and/or HR-based staff incentive systems in the
Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
Since its launch in 2005, References@BT has been intensively used by a wide
range of employees within Siemens. Currently, References@BT has more than 7,300
active users being located in more than 70 countries. As of December 1, 2010, the
database contains 2,201 knowledge references from 625 individual authors and 5,107
discussion forum postings from 1,427 individual authors.
5 References@BT Microblog
Prior to the implementation of the References@BT microblog, the following
phenomenon was observed: Since end of 2008, several hundred Siemens employees
joined a community on Yammer (yammer.com), which provides corporate
microblogging on the Web, allowing for closed user groups according to a members’
e-mail domain. This effort showed that there was and still is a strong need for having
a microblogging solution for the staff. To avoid publishing and discussing internal
content on an externally hosted site, the development of an in-house microblogging
application within the company’s firewall was treated at a top priority – not only from
the perspective of IT security.
The References@BT microblog differs from other well-known microblogging
services in various aspects:
• In contrast to Twitter, but similar to Yammer, microblog postings in
References@BT are not restricted to only 140 characters.
• As it is in Yammer, References@BT allows direct replies to any microblog
posting and to display the resulting hierarchical structure of nested replies as
a so-called ‘topic’ (see Figure 1 below).
• Every initial microblog posting must necessarily be provided with one or
more tags, which (according to the concept of a ‘folksonomy’ [Mathes,
2004]) are not predefined and can be arbitrarily chosen. This applies as an
option for replies. Since the References@BT microblog is not limited to any
predefined conversation topics, these tags enable the whole microblog to be
filtered for similar content.
• Mentioning colleagues is possible, but due to a different data format a
summarized view of all those mentions (as in Twitter) is not supported.
By selectively ‘following’ certain colleagues and/or choosing certain tags only,
any user can easily classify and filter the postings according to relevant and
interesting content. Any selection can be subscribed to by e-mail or RSS feed,
ensuring that only relevant information reaches the information recipients.
In the beginning, there was some fear of negative or useless postings and of
intentional abuse, due to the fact that every user (i.e. every Siemens employee with
intranet access) is able to write and publish own content. Since anonymous
contributions are not possible in References@BT and all contributions clearly show
the full name and location of the author, there hasn’t been any intentional abuse since
References@BT came into being.
The following Figure 1 is a screenshot of References@BT illustrating the
integrated microblogging service, and one microblogging topic in particular.
538 Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
Figure 1: A topic within the References@BT microblog
Though the microblogging service was tightly integrated into References@BT, a
series of actions were taken to raise the awareness amongst the employees:
• Soon after its implementation, all registered community members in
References@BT were informed about this new feature and requested to write
own microblog postings. As introductory measures for promoting the
microblog, users were asked to post text comments during a user survey
(which resulted in about 150 postings) and to write and share individual
Season’s Greetings shortly before Christmas (which resulted in about 80
• Certain postings, filtered according to defined tags, are dynamically
displayed on ordinary intranet pages. For example, the latest blog postings
related to fire safety are shown on the intranet homepage of the FS business
Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
unit. This significantly helps to spread the idea of providing user-generated
content and to motivate intranet users to write own postings spontaneously.
• References@BT allows postings containing a certain hashtag from several
microblogging providers to be imported (Twitter, Yammer, Socialcast). This
has also helped to significantly increase the content quantity without the need
for double posting by the contributors.
• One of the success factors is the strict identification of users, an identity
management feature known from social networking services [Koch and
Richter, 2008]. Displaying an author’s image adds a very personal touch to
• Like Twitter and Yammer, References@BT allows users to ‘follow’ other
community members. Microblog postings from all colleagues, whom
everyone is following, are summarized and sent as e-mail to the follower
once a day. A special RSS feed containing these postings is provided as well.
The majority of the References@BT microblog postings are related to the BT
business and to business-relevant information. Many postings contain useful hints,
interesting news or links to web pages, information about fairs or conferences, etc.
There are several postings discussing issues relating to knowledge management and
Web 2.0 within Siemens. Postings with strictly private content are only rarely posted.
6 Microblogging Usage and Success
Besides providing information on References@BT from the perspective of the
manager responsible for operation and development of this application, we provide
further sources of evidence on the aspects of system usage (quantitative data) and
system success (qualitative data).
6.1 Microblogging Usage
First, we introduce quantitative operational figures: Table 1 and Figure 2 present the
microblogging service’s user statistics, illustrating the number of postings, different
authors and following relationships per month.
In total, 2,609 microblog postings have been created by 565 different authors
within 21 months, i.e. since the launch of the microblogging service. The average
number of new postings per month is 124 and rising. This insight raises two
interesting research questions: What is the ratio between microblogging users,
registered community members and the total number of potential users (employees),
and what does this ratio tell about the success of the service?
Within the Siemens’ Building Technologies Divison, 7.7% of the registered
members of References@BT publish microblog posts i.e. about 1.3% of all
employees. From our perspective not every community member has to create
postings, but at least those who have relevant information to communicate. The value
of enterprise microblogging not only results from the number of publishers, but in fact
also from the number of readers.
540 Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
Month Jan 10 Feb 10 Mar 10 Apr 10 May 10 Jun 10 Jul 10 Aug 10 Sep 10 Okt.10
New Postings 101 101 102 88 90 158 159 163 204 275
Different Authors 243134393337584063109
Following Relationships 68 60 108 48 45 67 53 2988 731 346
Month Mar 09 Apr 09 May 09 Jun 09 Jul 09 Aug 09 Sep 09 Okt 09 Nov 09 Dez 09
New Postings 38 48 63 55 81 44 292 129 122 155
Different Authors 1522212735211894340101
Following Relationships 26 10 28 7 31 29 51 53 133 77
Table 1: Usage statistics of the References@BT microblog
New Post ings Different Authors
Figure 2: Usage statistics of the References@BT microblog
The number of new postings has two noticeable peaks in September and
December 2009. This is a result of the introduction measures described in the
previous Chapter 5. The fact that the number of new postings remains at a
significantly higher level after the first introduction measure in September 2009 can
be interpreted as a success. These introduction measures were basically aimed at
motivating additional employees to explore the microblogging service.
The peak of new following relationships in August 2010 is a result of a
promotional e-mail, which was sent to every References@BT community member.
This e-mail suggested certain colleagues working at the same location as the e-mail
recipient as potential followers. This measure was aimed at raising the
interconnectedness of employees.
Table 2 presents the top ten ranking of the most active users regarding postings,
the top ten users regarding followers, and the most commonly assigned topics. The
table shows that most of the postings contain information that is business-relevant and
partially linked to business units. The remaining posts are about knowledge
management, References@BT, an international team event and TechnoWeb [Heiss
and Jankowsky, 2001], which is another Siemens-internal community platform. The
numbers illustrate that so far three users have created more than 100 posts and also
three users are followed by more than 50 colleagues.
Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
Table 2: Top ten users and topics
An analysis of the top ten users regarding the aspects number of posts and
number of following relationships generated an interesting result: Only two top ten
users having the most followers are also top ten users regarding the number of
microblog postings. This shows that the majority of users having many followers
gained their followers by intensively following others, but not by contributing
microblog postings. This phenomenon can be observed in Twitter, too.
A comparison between the most active microblog users and the most active
authors of knowledge references and forum postings generated another interesting
result: The top ten microbloggers never or only very sporadically create knowledge
references and forum postings. Conversely, power authors of knowledge references
and forum postings are usually not very active within the microblog.
6.2 Microblogging Success
To find out more about qualitative success factors, we surveyed eight frequent users
of the microblog on success-relevant aspects derived from the Technology
Acceptance Model [Davis, 1989] and the Information System Success Model [Delone
and McLean, 1992]. The use of these two popular models enabled us to quickly
identify core aspects for our user study: perceived usefulness, ease of use, individual
benefits and organizational benefits, asking four questions:
• What are the three main reasons why you adopt the new microblogging tool
in daily business? (perceived usefulness)
• What do you particularly like when using the tool? What can be improved?
(perceived ease of use)
• What are the three main benefits you have gained from using this tool in your
work? (perceived individual benefits)
• What do you think is the main benefit for an organization in owning such a
microblogging tool? (perceived organizational benefits)
Perceived usefulness dealt with the ease of sharing information (5 statements),
the additional channel of promoting events (2 statements), the opportunities of
networking with others (2 statements), a suitable tool for improving writing skills (2
statements), a way to follow experts (1 statement), a way of identifying current trends
Top ten topics
(number of postings) Postings
219 HaKe 53 References@BT 263
HaKe 132 ThMa 43 FS (abbr. Business Unit "Fire Safety and Security Products") 229
nSc 26 SES (abbr. Business Unit "Security Solutions") 180
SiHo 77 LuBa 24 PLN (abbr. "Product Lifecycle News") 159
TeTe 64 SuSt 24 Walk to Santiago (an international team event) 128
nBü 56 TiWa 24 LV (abbr. Business Unit "Low Voltage Distribution") 126
TaBe 54 KaCo 22 TechnoWeb (another Siemens-internal Community Platform) 98
RaRa 49 MaHa 22 United States 82
nTh 20 Knowledge Management 78
nMa 36 ThSc 19 Access Control 70
Top ten users
(number of posts)
Top ten users
542 Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
(1 statement), and the awareness of the latest news (1 statement). The following three
user statements present perceived usefulness:
• “The microblogging tool helps us understand and become aware of the latest
news in terms of product releases, features, market enhancements, etc. in the
BT division. For an employee working in the Industry Sector, it is very
important to network with other fellow employees working in other sectors,
too. It is also important for them to understand the ongoing changes, projects
delivered, business challenges, etc. in other sectors. This will benefit us in
terms of knowledge, help us understand some of the best-practices used in
BT, and network with others.”
• “For a technical communicator/technical writer, it is very important to keep
in contact with other groups/sectors working in the documentation business
and to keep up to date on the standards/quality procedures used in other
sectors. This would help leverage and improve their documentation
standards, document quality, document processes, etc. by keeping in line
with what is happening across other teams globally. Blog postings on this
tool help bring teams working in a global environment closer together.”
• “Blogging, of course helps in terms of improvement towards writing skills. It
helps me keep my writing skills up-to-date. Taking a topic and sharing
views/comments about them definitely leads to gathering collective
information. The information collected can be reused further in the form of
best practice or methodology that can be implemented in their respective
Perceived ease of use dealt with technological aspects, which employees
especially like, including grouping of blogs with certain tags, the possibility of adding
HTML links to microblog posts, the possibility of importing blog posts from
externally hosted microblogging services, the possibility of forwarding blog topics or
profile pages facilitating networking in general. However, employees also mentioned
possible technical improvements as the following statement describes:
• “We need to look at Web 2.0 aspects and try to improve this tool to be
inclined towards Web 2.0 standards. Since the number of blog entries is
increasing, it is good to group all the blogs with their respective blog group
Perceived individual benefits dealt with assistance in getting the right contacts
(5 statements), assistance in getting the right information (2 statements) and expert
knowledge (2 statements), enlarging the personal network (1 statement), learning
from followers (1 statement), and gaining an edge on information (1 statement). The
following three statements present interesting insights into perceived individual
• “One of the major benefits had to do with information regarding BACnet. As
our platform was using this protocol, the microblogging tool helped me get
the right contacts working on this protocol and to receive more information
about this protocol that helped me with my documentation work.”
• “I found materials (documents, links) and people I would not have come
across as easily through a web search or other means of communication.”
Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
• “From the work point of view, this tool has helped me get information
regarding the documentation standards, processes, quality procedures and
editing standards used by other teams globally.”
Perceived organizational benefits dealt with improving the flow of information
due to the microblogging service (4 statements), enabling worldwide networking
(4 statements), promoting knowledge management practices and learning
(1 statement), reducing the overall workload (1 statement), and the diffusion of rich
experiences leading to more innovative thinking and better products (1 statement).
The following two statements present interesting insights into perceived
• “Finding other people in the organization that might have the skills or
knowledge you require for a particular problem is often very hard.
Microblogging provides the ability to find and exchange knowledge with
other people in the organization and thus enables very quickly best-practice
sharing and avoids ‘reinventing the wheel’. It also reduces the workload
compared to e-mail communication, since as a user I can search the activities
that seem worthwhile instead of sifting through stuff pushed at me, which
requires time to scan and assess its usefulness.”
• “This tool will help the organization drive knowledge management practices,
key learning activities and enable networking with teams worldwide. The
rich amount of experience possessed by each of the employees should be
driven towards innovative thinking. Knowledge sharing activities within the
organization help each other and also help the organization benefit, while
developing new products and solutions. There needs to be a central
repository to track such knowledge activities, research activities and
innovations happening within the organization. This tool will help us share
these activities leading towards an effective information management
Perceived Usefulness Perceived individual
benefits Perceived organizational
Sharing information visible
to all users
Improving user’s own
Following internal experts
Transparency on interesting
Search for relevant contacts
Search for relevant
Easy access to expert
Expanding user’s own social
Learning from followers
Gaining an informational
Improved flow of
Support for worldwide
Useful discussions about
experiences, leading to
innovative thinking and
Table 3: Perceived usefulness, individual, and organizational benefits
544 Mueller J., Stocker A.: Enterprise Microblogging ...
7 Conclusions and Future Work
Our case study revealed that the References@BT microblog was accepted by the user
community right from the beginning. Providing the feasibility to publish
user-generated content both easily and – what is even more important in daily
business – quickly is a huge success factor. For an organization, a frequently used
microblog offers the benefit of faster knowledge sharing and improved networking.
Furthermore, internal Web 2.0 applications avoid the shift of employees towards
external platforms hosted by internet providers. As more people, so-called ‘digital
natives’, who are familiar with social media move into companies, the challenge of
“how to generally motivate the staff to participate in Web 2.0” will gradually move
toward “how to provide Web 2.0 tools that best support our business processes”.
Our future research in enterprise microblogging will additionally cover the
perspective of those resistant to microblogging. We intend to learn from them,
especially where perceived obstacles are concerned. Gathering their knowledge and
motivation will enable us to continuously improve References@BT. Second, our
future research will be dedicated to measuring the benefits of Web 2.0 applications on
the intranet and broadcasting them to senior management.
When adopting Web 2.0 applications on the intranet, a lot of questions are raised
– especially by the management. One question always deals with the business value
of a new service and how to measure it. Measuring benefits has been a major topic in
information systems and knowledge management research for more than two decades
now, and there is still no satisfactory answer. In this paper we provided both detailed
usage statistics and data from a preliminary user survey. We think that a twofold or
threefold approach may be a valuable way to suggest that senior management explore
the potential of a new service: collecting usage statistics, conducting user surveys and
identifying best-practices (ideally covering stories about time/cost savings during
projects and additional business opportunities).
Given a particular usage statistic only, we are not able to say what a perfect ratio
of active bloggers, registered community members and total employees should be in a
particular case. Enterprise microblogging services (Enterprise 2.0 tools in general)
usually do not dictate a certain kind of usage behavior among employees, compared
to other business software (e.g. SAP). Hence, predicting a business value is very
challenging. Generally, users are given much freedom to create their own usage
practices, which does not happen overnight. An effective adoption of microblogging
takes time as employees will need that time to explore a new service to finally
leverage its potential. Some users may stop early on or even never begin to explore
the service at all, as they perceive such exploration a waste of time. Yet exploration
can be effectively stimulated by dedicated community building, similar to those
carried out at the Siemens Building Technologies division.
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