Treading softly with blogs in organizations

Site Redesign.

Wherever I go, CIO’s and other business leaders tell me they are in the process of a “Web site redesign.” Site redesign is a good thing but it may obfuscate more important issues. The motivation behind site redesign is typically a desire to increase traffic, make things easier to find, provide better organization of information, or improve the visual attractiveness of the site. These are all good things to do but my experience has been that the reason the traffic is less than desired is not because of the design of the site. It is not the look and feel, nor is it the lack of sophisticated information retrieval. I believe that the most important drivers of traffic are the availability of on demand, integrated, useful transactions and, secondly, the availability of access to expertise. (read more)

[via John Patrick’s weblog]

Some interesting commentary from John Patrick about corporate websites, both public and intranets. He has some very on point observations about the opportunity that blogs present as part of knowledge sharing inside companies.

Blogging is revolutionizing how information gets published and shared. A good blogger loves to communicate and uses blogging tools to write a “column” full of links to experts and sources of information. The blogger may or may not be the expert in a particular area but if not she knows who the expert is and acts as an intermediary and translator, thereby leveraging the available knowledge and expertise. A good enterprise blogger knows everything going on in a particular domain — the key people, the key projects, the key resources, etc. Blogging is not an index of information or a database — it is a living breathing dynamic “diary” of the blogger’s conscious. A blog can include comments from readers, moderated discussion, or an open discussion forum but for enterprise purposes, the simpler the better. The idea is not to reproduce the “bulletin boards” and “news groups” of the past. Blogging is more of a way to get to the experts than to have a free-for-all discussion group.

[via John Patrick’s weblog]

As many have observed with Marketing driving external websites and HR driving most intranets you’re not likely to have people who grasp the impact of dynamic content and voice. You’re also not likely to find the sorts of people comfortable with giving up control to allow the company’s voice to emerge from the harmony of its individuals’ voices.

CXO Bloggers , such as those tracked by Jon Udell, will help legitimize blogging as a knowledge sharing tool. So too will the use of blogs in IT and Project Management settings as Frank Patrick, Phil Windley, and Jonathan Peterson have recently been discussing. Some of their key observations:

Sharing of learnings, surprises and mistakes, is what collaboration for successful project work requires — not just within a particular team, but across programs and portfolios that might benefit. The first is about exploiting immediate opportunities. The latter is about assuring the future does not have to depend on relearning the same lessons [Frank Patrick]

Ex-CIO Phil Windley offers lots of insight into the challenges and potential of blogs in IT management and clearly recognizes the organizational challenges of getting blogs to take root:

One of the things I’ve noticed is that blogging requires an abundance mentality. I’ve also noted that blogs encourage a culture of candor. How do you develop a culture that supports sharing? Are the cultural properties that support blogging the same ones that support building a first rate IT organization

Peterson also has a series of excellent observations about blogs in project management, well summarized by Frank Patrick. One tidbit that I find intriguing is that “the beauty of RSS is the potential for extensibility to a ‘good enough’ level which still leverages all the tools and code that has already been created.” [Jonathan Peterson]

Buried in this is the subtle promise of blogs and RSS aggregation as a tool for knowledge sharing in organizations. The simplicity of the tools allows them to be gently grafted on to existing processes and practices with minimal disruption. The challenge is to let this simplicity work its course. The tempation will be to over-design, over-engineer, and over-control. Resisting that temptation will depend on a strong sensitivity to the dynamics of organizations. We do live in interesting times for helping organizations and knowledge workers make better use of knowledge.