Enterprise blogging

Rod Boothby has some useful comments on a list of the top 10 management fears associated with enterprise adoption of web 2.0 technologies.  Here are my comments on Rod’s comments!  in blue

Enterprise Web 2.0 Technological Barriers

1. How can I be certain that the information that is gathered and shared behind the firewall stays behind the firewall?

Blogging is part of the communication continuum – Instant Messaging, Email and Blogs. Your employees currently follow a policy to keep some information only “behind the firewall” when using IM and Email. They will need to follow the same rules when it comes to using and sharing information they find with your Enterprise Web 2.0 tools.

I agree with the key point,  but I also think its worthwhile questioning the amount of information that we keep behind the firewall, posting outside the firewall makes it much easier for customers and potential customers to interact with you and also helps build a community with other companies/individuals trying to solve the same problem.  Rod’s blog is an example how how hopefully his company has benefited from the discussion around the use of blogs in the enterprise.  If Rod had only blogged about enterprise blogging behind the firewall I would suspect that his thinking would have been less refined.

2. How do I control who has access to particular levels of information and databases?

Set up a simple 3 layer system. Everyone, Department Only, Project Team. For specific project blogs, set a default access level, and then make exceptions on an article by article basis.

Enterprise blogging tools like WordPress MU can dynamically re-draw pages depending on the viewers access control.

Setting up the read access lists is also fairly easy. The user experience looks like addressing an email.

Again I agree, but it’s worth mentioning that its not just about controlling access, but also about making sure that the people who NEED access actually get subscriptions pushed to them.  For example a Programme Manager needed to be auto-subscribed to the blogs of all of the projects in the programme,  a project manager to all the staff on his project and all his peers within a programme etc.

3. How do I protect the integrity of the information from malicious tampering by disgruntled employees or managers?

You use the wisdom of the crowd combined with audit trails and roll-back features. For example, say you are using Social Text as an enterprise Wiki to document policies and procedures. If an angry employee changed one of the policies, Social Text would keep track of who changed it, what changes they made and when. The group (aka the wise crowd) would be relied upon to catch the error. The employee could then be held accountable for their actions.

It should be noted that most companies have this problem today, but it is actually much more serious. There is no access control over most policy and procedure documents. The docs just sit there on a shared drive, available for hundreds of people to anonymously edit.

And, in today’s environment, there is an even greater risk: without the enhanced search and cross-linking features of blogs and wikis, most employees have trouble getting the information they need when they need it. The result is a high chance for mistakes because people are not familiar with the policies.

I have seen many companies start off worrying about this issue, only to find its very minor and that the mechanisms built into blogs and wiki’s easily provide self governance within the enterprise.

4. How can I be sure that information is being “tagged” properly for efficient retrieval later?

Social tagging works.

Just as the government does not have to enforce a proper price for beer or any other good or service in an open market economy, the knowledge management department does not have to enforce a rigid standard for how things are tagged. People will tag things as they want, and eventually, cultural standards will arrive. See Stu Downes Folksonomy in the enterprise for more proof.

Yes,  in fact as Stu states as the number of people who tag increases above 50 you quickly cease producing unique tags, and 50 people in a community is a viable number in most enterprises

Also, remember that things are not tagged on the open Internet, at least not according to any centrally planned taxonomy, and yet you can still find exactly what you are looking for. You use Google.

After you deploy your Enterprise Web 2.0 solutions, if you are still having trouble finding what you need, buy a Google Mini. The Google Mini doesn’t work all that well in Web 1.0 Intranets, but with all the additional cross-linking that will automatically happen in enterprise blogs and wikis, Google Mini should work just fine.

5. What kind of training do employees need before they can effectively use the technology?

Some employees will need no training. Generally, these will be younger employees and the 5 to 10% who already have a personal blog.

I have recently seen some research that suggests that people in the 35-45 age group tend to be pretty early adopters of many of these technologies. Within an enterprise – as distinct from an academic – context you often find that its this age group rather than the 25-35 group who are the blog and IM users.

Other employees will need fairly extensive training.

Enterprise Web 2.0 Cultural Barriers

6. How can I monitor the system to make certain that what individuals are saying and sharing reflects company policy?

This is less of an issue if you are dealing with Internal only deployments of Enterprise Web 2.0.

Today, you have to deal with this issue when if comes to emails, voicemails, phone calls, instant messages, etc.

The one advantage to Web 2.0 is that if someone puts up something offensive in a Blog, you can take it down. Once an email is sent, if can be forwarded on to millions.

This is also a cultural issue, many companies who allow blogging recognise that whilst there is a risk associated with employees not following company policy, that the benefit of allowing company policy to evolve in response to the opinions of their workforce, customers, suppliers and other interested parties can be very valuable.  Certainly within an enterprise this discussion and debate is even more valuable in a company that is culturally ready for it.

7. What are the legal dangers in saving and sharing so much loosely supervised input?

In some instances, there are serious legal dangers. In a consulting firm, if you promise the client to only share client information with the project team, that information better not be shared with the whole firm.

The best way to address this issue, is to develop a one-page set of rules for employees. Simple guidelines on what they should and what they should not post. The guidelines should be blunt, easy to read, and feel almost like Enterprise Web 2.0 commandments.

Thou shall not flame thy colleagues.

If the legal department helps with crafting the guidelines, along with input from HR, you should be able to minimize the implications of this risk. Note also, that this is a danger in today’s environment. Except you have little to no ability to see who read what on the company’s shared drive. The result is no accountability in today’s systems.

I’m no lawyer but I would imagine that the issues are already addressed in most companies IT acceptable usage policies for email and intranet use.

8. How do I distinguish “productive” use of the technology from horsing around?

How do you distinguish between productive use of email and horsing around? Or even worse, how do you distinguish between productive use of email, and CC’ing to CYA internal spam where co-workers fill each other’s inboxes with stuff they only ends up wasting time. “Just in case you might need to know about this in six months, let me re-cap today’s meeting”. That stuff can now be put on the blog or into the wiki, and found when it is needed.

Same comment as above,  this issue should already be addressed in an acceptable usage policy for IT.

9. How do I “manage” the gathering and disseminating of so much unstructured information?

This is like the tagging issue. There are tools out there, such as RSS that help.

However, I also believe that it is important, in the enterprise setting, to impose a little structure. Instead of having blogs, for example, have purpose specific blogs:

  • People Work Sites can be a combo of resumes, current projects, contact info and personal blog
  • Project Work Sites can list the client, include to-do lists, related docs, include updates, and have links to the people working on the project.

The right list of Work Site types (or purpose specific enterprise blogs) depends on the company, and like everything else, will probably evolve over time.

Hmm,  I think special purpose blogs are useful in an enterprise context, however think that an individuals contribution is best represented by an individual blog, individuals who need blogs would tend to be leaders and subject matter experts.  I also think the project blogs, programme blogs, department blogs etc are very useful, but they complement and don’t replace individual blogs.  Take as an example a project manager,  she might maintain a project blog, but her personal blog would have different content, maybe with some overlap.

10. How do I know if I’m getting my money’s worth out of the investment in technology?

What investment? This stuff is so cheap, you will hardly be able to notice the expense.

With customizations, hardware costs, integration costs and deployment costs, you are looking at less that $50,000 for an enterprise blogging system for thousands of users.

I agree, cheap.  I would start off though promoting the idea of blogs to people who will set a good example, subject matter experts, leaders, project managers etc and then let them encourage others by their example.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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