Weblogs - or 'blogs' - are not just for Internet pundits. They're valuable tools that IT managers can use to improve company communications internally and externally
When Australian intrnet research and strategies consultancy Caslon Analytics did a "rough-and-ready" survey of top 500 corporate contacts last year, asking them to predict their likely uptake of Weblogs, the result was an overwhelming "not known here".
"Our sense is that uptake of enterprise blogging by major Australian organizations is not going to increase significantly in the near future," says Caslon director Bruce Arnold.
Some organizations had a significant investment in groupware and were loath to experiment with a new "fix" unless there were proven benefits and low risks, Arnold says. The absence of examples of best practice inhibited some. Others were still suffering a hangover after their latest bout of knowledge management or were being hard-headed about sweating resources. Still others simply were worried about questions such as disclosure. Most were rightly sceptical about claims that "the blog on your intranet is a clubhouse . . . a tree house for your people, where everyone can join in" and were prone to reject calls to "give everyone in [the] firm ways to speak online in public".
Yet while caution about Weblogs (aka blogs) and their cousin the wiki (wikis are made up of a collection of hyperlinked documents that can be collectively edited using a browser) is undoubtedly an admirable virtue, there are signs that organizations that have approached the blogging phenomenon in a spirit of "carpe diem" may be on to something, and that those first adopters could be building a new vehicle for competitive edge. As blogs are publicly available Web journals or Web sites of an individual or indeed of a business, blogs and "bloggers" are now being seen as potentially powerful tools.
Cutter Consortium senior consultant Stowe Boyd, for instance, sees blogs, online communities and other collaboration technologies as "social tools" that can be applied for maximum benefit in the enterprise.
"At the most abstract and general level, the goal of BI [business intelligence] solutions is to increase certain metrics that are linked to enterprise success: to increase sales, streamline product planning, accelerate responsiveness, create deeper customer relations, decrease costs and the like," Boyd writes. "The principles that motivate social tools and the specific technologies that underlie them are possibly the best opportunity today for a significant additional jump in enterprise effectiveness, more so than any next-generation improvements in conventional enterprise applications."
Mathew Bailey, Web marketing director for The Karcher Group, a US-based Internet marketing agency, is confident easy-to-use blogging software will increase the number of online magazines and content providers, with complete sites designed with the technology, or adaptations of it. More applications, such as word processing, messaging and e-mail, will incorporate blogging technology into their functionality, he says.
"Companies interested in improving their rankings will turn to blogging technology. There will be a trend in customers and employees using the technology to spread the word about organizations they feel wronged them. In turn, companies will discover ways to target markets through the use of endorsements, using the blogs as a form of viral marketing," Bailey says.
And Adam Ostrow, a blogging enthusiast and co-founder of Mindsay.com, a provider of community-based blogging services, says blogs can provide incredible value because they represent a much more active means of publishing information on a Web site. An organization can use a blog to create a much more compelling and "sticky" Web site by empowering staff members to publish online and publish frequently.
"In doing so you leverage their wealth of information and you can create a forum that can attract a large reader base and gives those readers a great incentive to actually go back to the site," he says.
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