Roman, group preresident of systems and technology at Bell Canada,
knows how to play a blog. An enterprise blog, that is. And he has
taught his employees to play a blog so well that they often have “jam”
sessions—an internal blog forum where groups of employees discuss new
products and work to streamline efficiencies at the $18 billion telecom.
Except, Bell Canada’s garage is virtual and lives on the corporate
intranet. The primary instrument, a lightweight enterprise blogging
tool, lets coworkers blog about topics from figuring out ways to cut
energy costs to conceiving new products for Bell Canada, whose
distributed workforce stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
understands an ugly secret that IT departments all over North America
don’t want to admit: E-mail, used by itself, doesn’t cut it anymore for
project management and interoffice communication. People get lost in
“CC storms” of reply-all e-mails that overwhelm users trying to
collaborate on new business opportunities.
If you’re just now
preparing to take the blog plunge, changing decades of work habits for
a generation of information workers tethered to e-mail won’t be easy.
Blogs also remain a tough sell for traditional IT leaders who value a
command-and-control, top-down hierarchy when it comes to their
infrastructure. “Traditional enterprise solutions were designed to keep
IT happy,” says Suw Charman, a social software consultant who helps
companies understand the use of blogs and wikis in business. “They’re
not usually designed with any thought to the user, like a blog is.”
implementation success, say analysts and practitioners like Roman who
have championed the technology, you’ll need enterprise-worthy blogging
tools and test group members who become believers and ideally will
evangelize the technology. If successful, blogs could be the first
critical building block in a group of Web-based applications to help
spawn horizontal collaboration across the enterprise.
Clearing the Reputation Hurdle
still suffer a reputation problem within enterprises, analysts say.
“People are hung up on this concept of the blog as a diary and as an
external marketing medium,” says Charman. “There are actually very
practical uses for blogs internally.”
In the beginning of a blog
effort, Bell Canada’s Roman says, companies should consider avoiding
the word blog altogether and use a euphemism.
important to address security and compliance issues from the start,
Roman notes. Bell Canada addressed those concerns by building the blog
behind the corporate firewall. Remote workers can access it only
through the corporate intranet using a virtual private network (VPN).
blogs are typically most useful when many users participate, analysts
and practitioners say you’re better off to start small. Blogs work well
when they catch on virally, and you need to introduce the idea to the
right test group, who will then evangelise the idea to the rest of the
Curing the E-mail Addicts
way to wean employees from e-mail communications: Don’t fight it
entirely. The sister technology to a blog, Real Simple Syndication
(RSS), can help. At Bell Canada, when a manager decides to start a blog
jam, he or she uses an RSS feed to push an invite message to the
desired participants’ e-mail inboxes. In the e-mail, employees can
click on a link that leads them to the jam session. The message also
says they have 48 hours to comment on the topic, making it harder for
them to throw the invite aside.
Tag It or Bag It
employees to use blog-editing tools isn’t hard, since they essentially
look like a lightweight word processor. Instead, the challenge comes in
reminding them to tag their posts with keywords that will help with
later search and discovery needs.
Tags can be formed in ways
that best suit your organisation. “You can have a tag associated with a
person, a sales team, a region or a product,” says Yankee Group’s
Edwards. “Establishing a proper taxonomy is important for these tools
to be effective. It gives you a smarter search engine. Without it, you
No’s Not a Good Answer
if companies don’t adopt blogging technologies for the enterprise,
line-of-business heads are just a credit-card purchase away from a
nitty-gritty implementation of a blog isn’t all that hard. Neither is
navigating the selection of tools. In fact, line-of-business leaders
who want to start a blogging effort without getting IT involved at all
need only a credit card and a Web browser to deploy a hosted blogging
service to their staff.
For companies taking the more proactive
approach to enterprise blogging, says Jonathan Edwards, a Yankee Group
analyst, pure-play blogging vendors like Six Apart make a natural
starting point. Blogging is bread and butter for these vendors, and
they’ve made their livelihood in the past few years building
enterprise-grade blogs and related tools with simple user interfaces,
data integration and strong security. Also wwring in this group:
Blogtronix, a platform that integrates blogs with wikis, RSS,
communities, analytics and corporate social networking, and Jive
Software’s Clearspace suite, which includes blogs, discussion and wiki
For customers who don’t want a hosted solution because of
compliance concerns regarding business communications, some of these
vendors also offer on-premises solutions.
It’s just a matter of
time, Edwards says, before traditional vendors like Microsoft and IBM
capitalise on their blog capabilities by pairing them with a suite of
Web 2.0 applications. “IT wants a more integrated communications and
collaboration suite,” he says. Today, IBM offers a blog function in its
Lotus Connections suite of Web 2.0 inspired technologies, and
Microsoft’s Sharepoint contains a
Edwards warns against your ruling out the blogging specialists right
now, since they’ve held the keys to innovation and have developed