Living on the web
Over recent weeks I’ve been asking myself why we “hide” so much behind the firewall. In my company for example we have recently setup or planned wiki’s, blogs, expert location systems, social tagging etc – all private. The immediate reaction is that this is a good idea, this is confidential information, but on reflection I’m not so sure.
It seems to me that all this stuff behind the firewall is just a sub-optimal version of what’s on the Internet, lets take a few examples:
- We have a wiki which is intended to be a knowledge base on collaboration. Clearly this knowledge base isn’t going to compete with the information that’s already available on the web. In fact with less than 100 users it’s not likely to get a lot of attention. If we put that same effort into an Internet accessible wiki, that’s layered on top of existing knowledge in wikipedia etc then this would get a lot more content and critique, be more accessible even for our own employees and certainly our customers and generally enhance our reputation. Now there may be small snippets of information that are confidential, but generally this will relate only to costs and partnerships. Most confidential information is rarely of greater competitive advantage than reputation and visibility are.
- We have an expert location system, its sophisticated but no where near as easy to use and useful as LinkedIn would be. If everyone was on LinkedIn we would see a lot of advantages – our customers would find it much easier to work with is, as would suppliers and partners and we would have a way for our employees to invest in building their reputations in a way that continues to be relevant if they leave, which means they would put more effort into it! Of course it would be slightly easier for competitors to harvest information and recruiters, but it’s pretty easy for them to do that now anyway just from personal use of linkedin and blogs and of course from people they have recruited.
So my general point is that perhaps our default choice should be to make things public and to use systems that leverage the network effects of the Internet, rather than to default to private systems. I’m sure there are challenges which ever approach we take, but it’s an interesting thought to debate.