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The Virtues of Chitchat

The Virtues of Chitchat

Drawing distinctions between authorized internal blogs versus ones that are merely allowed or tolerated can't be easy. I'd be comfortable making a case that companies are completely entitled to ban individual blogs as surely as they ban inappropriate personal e-mails

A modest proposal for using blogs to keep IT teams and management up to date on implementation.

My fortune 500 friends are always forwarding their more Dilbert-esque corporate e-mails to inspire me. Such missives are typically hysterical. (My favourite is the one that informs IT people that there's a freeze on hiring and salaries, and that the company is exploring outsourcing options and expects their help in managing the process.) But as a change of pace, one enterprising Fortune 100 buddy took the liberty of sending me a clever and provocative internal corporate blog.

This blogger had quite the tale to tell. He was one of the IT minions supervising the installation of a rather large and unwieldy global ERP system replete with Bangalorean outsourcing and Big Four consulting hordes. His blog - with links to internal sites that, alas, I couldn't access - described what aspects of the rollout were going well and which ones were horror shows in the making. It was a good read; I learned a lot.

But I couldn't help thinking: What kind of company actually allows an unauthorized, unedited blog about one of its most sensitive projects? While transparency and openness behind the firewall may be a wonderful thing, I don't know how thrilled I'd be about ERP blogs if I were CIO.

Curious, I pinged a few of those Fortune 500 friends. To my astonishment, I discovered that while internal IT blogs may not be commonplace, they're not exactly rare. Though utterly unscientific, my informal queries found several major companies allowing blogs to coordinate and annotate project status information. At least one global IT consultancy has a rather witty blogger - I can't find out if it's approved or not - whose work is apparently required reading for his associates. The blog's hotlinks to internal reports, presentations and client reviews are reportedly first-rate.

Another internal blog at a huge financial services company can't possibly be authorized. But apparently, its mix of critical comments is seen as more constructive than not. I'm told that the CIO is an occasional reader and has informed subordinates that it serves as a reality check - for now.

Drawing distinctions between authorized internal blogs versus ones that are merely allowed or tolerated can't be easy. I'd be comfortable making a case that companies are completely entitled to ban individual blogs as surely as they ban inappropriate personal e-mails.

That said, the blogging phenomenon has intriguingly useful implications for IT. I have to ask myself: Why wouldn't it make sense for an IT project manager to post a blog - or "plog" (project log) - to keep her team and its constituents up to date on project issues and concerns? Is it inherently inappropriate for an individual to post constructive observations about a project's progress? IT organizations that can effectively use blogs as managerial tools (or communication resources) are probably development environments that take both people and their ideas seriously.

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