mm199: Blogging — NSFW? The plot thickens…

November 19, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Recently we tackled the topic of blogging in the corporate environment in a two part post. In the first, the singular tale of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods (which, MUDGE is not too proud to repeat, stubbed its organic tofu), and his wayward blogging ways that ran afoul of the Federal Trade Commission, and later, his board of directors.

The next post explored the subject from the point of view of IBM, an organization of 375,000 global employees that enthusiastically embraces blogging among an entire portfolio of Web 2.0 tools. Indeed, their Lotus division has released the set of applications called Lotus Connections to spread the collaboration gospel to a bemused corporate world.

Now, Computerworld (source of the Whole Foods story) has reopened the issue with a pair of related articles.

computerworld

Mark Boxer wanted to talk to his employees about the top issues at work.

So the president and CEO of operations, technology and government services at WellPoint Inc. sent out weekly e-mails under the header “Thoughts for a Friday” and encouraged his workers to e-mail back.

But while Boxer sought open communication with his employees, there was a problem with his system: He was reaching thousands of workers at the Indianapolis-based health benefits company. The e-mail approach to keeping up the conversation was cumbersome.
Boxer figured there had to be a better way for communicating on such a large scale, so in June 2007 he tried blogging.

The results have been positive. “It’s been a very effective way for building a community,” Boxer says. “It’s a unifying force.”

Of course, as corporations, the concept of blogging needs adjustment…

But companies aren’t replicating the free-flowing exchange that has been a hallmark of the broader blogosphere. Rather, companies are trying to harness that freedom and conform it to business needs, with forward-thinking companies using strategic planning and formal policies to shape the use of blogs and other Web 2.0 tools to drive more communication and collaboration among workers.

Corporate blogging is a minefield that needs to be negotiated with care. So it’s no wonder that the research quoted in the CW story shows that nearly half of the executives surveyed (companies with more than 500 employees) have not embraced this technology, and most of those see no reason to do so.

Those promoting the technology see them as up to date tools of collaboration. The balky executives see blogs as sloppy, undisciplined amateur communication.

The story provides some anecdotal evidence that blogs might provide a substitute for the water-cooler conversation that a typical ginormous corporation’s global footprint makes impossible.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Corporate blogging: Does it really work?

As Computerworld is a trade publication, a related story tackles the topic from the viewpoint of IT executives.

There’s no question that blogs are multiplying in cyberspace. Now they’re infiltrating businesses, too, even if the IT departments haven’t sanctioned their implementations.

“I’ve definitely seen the problem with unsanctioned blogs finding their way into enterprises. It’s happening more than IT would like to believe,” says Oliver Young, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. “Executives realize it’s a losing battle to lock it down, so they’re bringing in official solutions. It’s not everybody, but there are plenty of IT shops that realize this is coming whether they like it or not.”

The movement of blogs from a primarily social technology to a business tool is happening fast. As a result, IT workers are developing best practices for implementing, managing and maintaining this technology. At the same time, corporate IT departments, executive sponsors and the business units that want blogs are trying to build business cases, craft user policies and estimate costs — and even returns on investments — even though there’s not yet a lot of data to define success.

One needs to be suspicious of this element of the story, since it relates blogging infrastructure to that of email, in a way that minimizes the time and attention that email systems cost IT departments.

Blogging technology, like e-mail systems, doesn’t require heavy maintenance. “IT will obviously operate the machinery behind blogs just [as it does] the machinery behind e-mail, but it’s a relatively minimal effort,” Valdes says.

I can think of several managers, and more than 40 grunts in the trenches working near me who might take exception to the characterization of email as requiring minimal maintenance!

And even the company whose anecdote seemed so positive in the first story, has some reservations about whether and how to roll out blogs to everyone.

And that shouldn’t surprise one. Research scientists are highly educated and understand more than most the value of “thinking out loud.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

IT wrestles with workplace blogging

Anyone remember the Keebler cookie commercials? That’s where people believe in elves, not cookie-baking factories.

Corporate email doesn’t get done by elves, people, nor will corporate blogging.

So that may be a clue: like email, blogs seem simple. But, ask John Mackey — the potential for blogs to make life complicated is what is surprisingly simple.

But the vendors are out there, not least of them IBM, with Lotus Connections, as referenced in the second of our previous stories.

The cost of entry for blogging seems incredibly low. Indeed, I have been blogging (not for business, but to share this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© as an avocation) for several months now, and have paid not a sou to WordPress (who certainly deserves our constant appreciation! I bought a wonderfully red tee shirt!), or Microsoft for Windows Live Writer, or Picnik for their free on-line image processing, etc.

Of course, there is quite a significant, if always undervalued cost: my personal time.

Create a blog for business use, keep it relevant and timely — where exactly would the time for that effort come from?

MUDGE is all for corporate collaboration. Too many of us work in our silos, with little idea of what the guy three rows over is up to, much less the woman an ocean away. But maybe they’re doing things that I can find interesting, and perhaps useful. But how will I ever know?

But whatever the answer is, it probably isn’t a corporate blog in my employer’s part of the world. There, a corporate blog seems as likely as Western culture taking the plunge: trading a groom’s tuxedo for cut-offs and a Hawaiian shirt.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE