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Rod Boothby – How to use Blogs in the Workplace

 Rod does it again. Here’s a solid introduction on putting internal blogs to work.. With our RSS reader integration with Outlook and our development work on Notes and Sametime, why not have the feeds come to you instead of using a web based reader?

“Are you a CEO? Do you want you people to across silos? Do you want your engineers or your designers to know exactly what the sales people are asking them? Or better yet, do you want everyone in your company to have a deep understand of what your clients actually want, need and will pay money for?

Do you want your people to be personally motivated?

Has anything in your company taken off half as aggressively as blogs and social media have taken off in the open Internet?


Now I have a simple question for you. Do you know how to use blogs within your organization to help you get work done? There are plenty of blogs out there that can tell you how to use blogs as a PR and marketing tool to communicate with your clients. But, when people actually think about getting work done within the organization, not a lot has been written.

This post aims to tell you exactly what you need to do to use blogs efficiently within your organization.

Activity Centric Worksites

First, you do not need to buy a multi-million dollar system to get the benefits of Activity Centric Worksites. You can use a regular blogging platform, such as WordPress or MovableType. You will need to hire some consultants to make those consumer systems do the job for you. Total set up cost, in my experience, is $50K to $100K. Or you can spend about the same amount with a pre-built enterprise class system from companies like iUpload, Blogtronix or Traction Software.

The idea behind Activity Centric Worksites is to use blogging tools to facilitate focused business communication. Instead of using a blog as a tool for one person to broadcast their thoughts on ???whatever???, use blogs as a platform to help people within your company communicate about what they are doing for work. To make it easy to frame the conversation, provide structure around simple concepts that make sense for your company.

If you are running a consulting company, you might have following Worksite types:
??? Project Worksites – these are used to exchange information about a specific project
??? Client Worksites – these are used to talk about a specific client
??? People Worksites – these are like internal resumes that show who is working on what
??? Practice Worksites – these are used to communicate amongst a whole team
??? Focus Worksites – the only thing that resembles a consumer blog, these are written by a small group and are like internal e-journals dedicated to specific technical topics


Finding the Right Set of Worksite templates

Depending on what your company does, you are going to need a different list of Worksite templates. Ask yourself what do we talk about here? If you are a software company, you might have whole worksites dedicated to specific modules in the new release of your product. Instead of Practice Worksites, you might have a Release Worksite that coordinates information about each module within the release.

If you are a bank, you might have Clients, Products, Market Overviews, Projects, and People.

Start with Search

Most internet experiences start with someone going to Yahoo, Google, MSN or Baidu. They are all search sites. If you want your people to be productive, your main internal home page shouldn’t be some waste of time portal. It should look like Google, and it should help people find the information they need.


Your People will Need Wizards to Help Create New Worksites

A Worksite is more than just a blog theme. For example, a Project Worksite should include a list of the people working on the project with links back to each person’s People Worksite. The Project Worksite should probably also include a link to the Client Worksite.


To create a copy of a blank Project Worksite, you need to create a simple wizard that walks your employees through the process of creating a new site. You also need a system that has CMS capabilities which help deal with access control, user authentication, backup, audit trails of who read what, and given admin tools to support the re purposing of posts – write once, publish in many places.

Many to Many Communication

There are very few software systems out there that can even define the notion of a Worksite type, let alone give you the frame work to automate the creation of a new one. The only systems I know of today that can do this are iUpload, Blogtronix and Traction Software.

IBM’s Lotus Notes does not have “straight out of the box” support for Activity Centric Blogs – although they do have their own Activity Centric Computing notion. In Hannover, your email inbox is organized into folders that are called activities.

In mid 2006, IBM Lotus CTO Doug Wilson said

Right now, the ???glue??? that associates tasks and objects within an activity remains in the users??? heads. But if we???re able to create and save the thread of an activity, we should also be able to preserve it as a pattern that others can reuse when performing the same or similar activities.”

In Nov of 2006, Domino Blogsphere V3 said

Currently in very early development stages is a new application that doesn’t have an official name yet but it is basically a Blog Manager.

I am currently unaware of any other system that can support true enterprise class blogging that could support “Worksites”. Microsoft’s Sharepoint does not have this functionality.

The issue is one of creating a platform that supports many to many communication, as opposed to most consumer blogging tools, which were originally designed to support one to many communication. There are tools out there that support multiple people authoring one blog, but that isn’t the issue here.

For example, in a Big 4 consulting firm of 100,000, you could easily end up with a huge number of blogs:

100,000 People Worksites
400,000 Project Worksites per year
100,000 Client Worksites
5,000 Practice Worksites
5,000 Focus Worksites


Here are some screenshot examples of what these things could look like. When I created these, I simply called them “Pages” instead of “Worksites”. I term “pages” is confusing, because it makes people think they are looking at one page, not a whole site about a specific work topic.






Why not use a Wiki?

Wikis are a useful tool for collaborating on a document. They become less useful when they are used to communicate about events. For example, Wikipedia is a great encyclopedia. But, when you think about daily events such as updates on the relationship with a client, or the latest events in a project, blogs already have the built in notion of time stamped posts that communicate that information.

This is not to say that a company should never use wikis. Instead, there is a time and place for both wikis and blogs within the Enterprise.

Motivation through Recognition

To get people to contribute, you have to give them a personal reason to use a new system like this. One way is to make sure that people get credit for the good work they do.


Other tips and Tricks

  • Email Integration – Transition in to using the system by making sure that your Worksite system supports an email address for every blog / Worksite. That way, people can just cc the blog instead of CC’ing to CYA. This also gives people an easy way to start to use a big system.
  • Dos and Don’ts – People will recognize that the new system is a powerful reputation management system. Some will be worried that it could damage their reputation as much as help them. Give them some guidance with a firm set of dos and don’ts/
  • Screencasts – The success of YouTube has proven that people LOVE videos. Use videos and screencasts to teach your employees about the new system and get them excited to use it.
  • Use Weekly Email Updates – Blogs do not replace email. They only simply an additional communication tool. To get people excited about a new system, and to make sure they learn how it is being used and where it is succeeding, send out weekly update emails to your user base. Some people will take a long time to switch over to the new system. Weekly emails will keep them in the loop.
  • Forget Dashboard – Use an RSS Reader – If you are a senior executive responsible for a whole cascade of projects, use a tool like Netvibes to monitor each of those projects. Skim the headlines. Click on the posts that seem to need your attention.
  • Enterprise DiggCogenz is an example of a tool that you can use to help your people let each other know about interesting ideas.
  • Folksonomy – Order Emerges from Chaos. And people will standardize on what keywords and tags to use to describe their articles. While it is important to give some structure, such as defining Worksite types, it is not necessary to dictate everything.

Source: How to use Blogs in the Workplace
by Rod Boothby