Eugene Roman, group president of systems and technology at Bell Canada, knows how to play a blog. An enterprise blog, that is. And he has taught his employees to play a blog so well that they often have "jam" sessions — an internal blog forum where groups of employees discuss new products and work to streamline efficiencies at the $18 billion telecom. "It's like grabbing some instruments and going into a garage," Roman says.
Except Bell Canada's garage is virtual and lives on the corporate intranet. The primary instrument, a lightweight enterprise blogging tool, lets coworkers blog about topics from figuring out ways to cut energy costs to conceiving new products for Bell Canada, whose distributed workforce stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific. (Roman chose Telligent's Community Server 2.0 and did some in-house development for the blog effort.)
Roman's embrace of blogs shows that he understands an ugly secret that IT departments all over North America don't want to admit: e-mail, used by itself, just doesn't cut it anymore for project management and interoffice communication. People get lost in "CC storms" of reply-all e-mails that overwhelm users trying to manage projects or collaborate on new business opportunities. "There's definitely a dark side to e-mail," Roman says. "We've all had it for 20 years, and you'd think we could get it right."
But most companies haven't gotten it right, and recent research indicates they're looking for alternatives. A report earlier this year by consultancy Forrester Research revealed that 54 percent of IT decision makers expressed an interest in blogs. Of the companies that had piloted or implemented blogs, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said they used them for internal communications. Fifty percent said they used blogs for internal knowledge and content management — and these companies are leading the way of the future, analysts say.
If you're just now preparing to take the blog plunge, changing decades of work habits for a generation of information workers tethered to e-mail won't be easy. Blogs also remain a tough sell for traditional IT leaders who value a command-and-control, top-down hierarchy when it comes to their infrastructure. "Traditional enterprise solutions were designed to keep IT happy," says Suw Charman, a social software consultant who helps companies understand the use of blogs and wikis in business. "They're not usually designed with any thought to the user, like a blog is."
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