"Using Blogs to Manage Projects" from CIO Magazine

By Richard Walton on 17 Mar 2008, 03:13 PM

Tags: blogs , blogtronix , email , enterprise , cio , bell canada

More and more companies are recognizing the value and benefits which blogs add to group communications in the enterprise.  An informative article just published in the March 2008 issue of CIO Magazine illustrates the use of blogs as a project management tool at Bell Canada.  An important consideration in the effective use of blogs within an organization besides the intrinsic value of the blog itself, are the related technologies which add so much value to the blog.  Tools like RSS, tags, categories, content moderation, corporate compliance engines, notifications and alerts, ratings, real-time and orderly commenting, are extremely important additions.

What makes all of these valuable tools work so well together in the Blogtronix Platform, is the ability to control content delivery.  This means you can create an unlimited number of groups (or communities), both public and private, control who can enter the groups, and fine tune the ability within these groups as to who can read content, write content and comment on content, through extensive rights and permissioning control.

Heres the article from CIO Magazine:

March 2008
Using blogs to manage projects

Too many enterprise users get lost in storms of reply-all e-mails while trying to manage projects or collaborate. Blogs make a better answer.

C G Lynch

Eugene 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.

Roman 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.”

For 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

Blogs 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.

It’s also 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).

Start Small

While 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 enterprise.

Curing the E-mail Addicts

One 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

Teaching 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 will fail.”

No’s Not a Good Answer

Remember, if companies don’t adopt blogging technologies for the enterprise, line-of-business heads are just a credit-card purchase away from a hosted offering.

Blogging Toolbox

The 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 tools.

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
blog template.

That said, Edwards warns against your ruling out the blogging specialists right now, since they’ve held the keys to innovation and have developed user-friendly interfaces.

To see the original article and related links:  "Using Blogs to Manage Projects" - CIO Magazine