Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ Category

Is Twitter the Cloud Bus?

ToddPoken.jpg

Courtesy of Michael Coté, I received a Poken in the mail as one of the lucky listeners to his IT Management and RIA Weekly podcasts. I had to explain to my oldest daughter (and my wife), what a Poken is, and how it’s utterly useless until I run into someone else in St. Louis who happens to have one or go to some conference where someone might have one. Oh well. My oldest daughter was also disappointed that I didn’t get the panda one when she saw it on the website. So, if you happen to own a Poken, and plan on being in St. Louis anytime soon, or if you’re going to be attending a conference that I will be at (sorry, nothing planned in the near future), send me a tweet and we can actually test out this Poken thing.

Speaking of the RIA Weekly podcast, thanks to Ryan Stewart and Coté for the shout-out in episode #46 about my post on RIAs and Portals that was inspired by a past RIA Weekly podcast. More important than the shout-out, however, was the discussion they had with Jeff Haynie of Appcelerator. The three of them got into a conversation about the role of SOA on the desktop, which was very interesting. It was nice to hear someone thinking about things like inter-application communication on the desktop, since the integration has been so focused on the server side for many years. What really got me thinking was Coté’s comment that you can’t build an RIA these days without including a Twitter client inside of it. At first, I was thinking about the need for a standard way for inter-application communication in the RIA world. Way back when, Microsoft and Apple were duking it out over competing ways of getting desktop apps to communicate with each other (remember OpenDoc and OLE?). Now that the pendulum is swinging back toward the world of rich UI’s, it won’t surprise me at all if the conversation around inter-application communication for desktop apps comes up again. What’s needed? Just a simple message bus to create a communication pathway.

In reality, it’s actually several message buses. An application can leverage an internal bus for communication with its own components, a desktop/VM-based bus for communication with other apps on the same host, another bus for communication within a local networking domain, and then possibly a bus in the clouds for communication across domains. Combining this with Coté’s comment made me think, “Why not Twitter?” As Coté suggested, many applications are embedding Twitter clients in them. The direct messaging capability allows point-to-point communication, and the public tweets can act as a general pub-sub event bus. In fact, this is already occurring today. Today, Andrew McAfee tweeted about productivity tools on the iPhone (and elsewhere), and a suggestion was made about Remember The Milk, a web-based GTD program with an iPhone client, and a very open integration model which includes the ability to listen to tweets on Twitter that allow you to add new tasks. There’s a lightweight protocol to follow within the tweet, but for basic stuff, it’s as simple as “d rtm buy tickets in 2 days”. Therefore, if someone is using RTM for task management, some other system can send a tweet to RTM to assign a talk to a Twitter user. The friend/follower structure of Twitter provides a rudimentary security model, but all-in-all, it seems to work with a very low barrier to entry. That’s just cool. Based on this example, I think it’s entirely possible that we’ll start seeing cloud-based applications that rely on Twitter as the messaging bus for communication.

RIAs and Portals

In a RIA Weekly podcast, Michael Coté and Ryan Stewart had a brief conversation on the role of RIAs in portals. They didn’t go into much details on it, but it was enough to get me noodling on the subject.

In the past, I’ve commented on the role of widgets/gadgets ala Apple’s Dashboard and Vista’s Sidebar and how I felt there was some significant potential there. To date, I haven’t seen any “killer app” on the Mac side (I have no idea about Vista given that I don’t use it at home or at work). One thing that I found curious, however, was that when I went looking for a decent Twitter client for the Mac, there was no shortage of dashboard widgets, but actually very few desktop apps. I wound up choosing Twirl initially, and am now using TweetDeck. Both of these are Adobe AIR applications.

So what does this have to do with portals? Well, my own view is that your desktop is a portal. A portal should contain easy access to all of things you need to do to do your job. The problem with desktops today, however, is that the typical application is so bloated, that the startup/quit process is very unproductive, and if you leave them open all the time, you need dual monitors (or a really big monitor) and a boatload of memory (even though most isn’t getting used). For this reason, I still really like the idea of these small, single-purpose widgets that do one thing really well. The problem with it right now, however, is that Dashboard and Sidebar fall into the out-of-sight/out-of-mind category. I want my Twitter client in a visible portion of my desktop at all times, or at least with the ability to post a visual notification somewhere. If I leverage a Dashboard widget, it’s invisible to me unless I hit a function key. It’s out-of-band by intent. There are things that belong there. That being said, the organizational features of Dashboard could easily be applied to the desktop, as well. If I had a bunch of lightweight widgets that I used to do the bulk of my work always available on my desktop, that would be great. It had better perform better than the current set of applications that I have set to start at login, however.

Where does RIA fit in? I don’t know that I’d need portability from my desktop in a browser-based portal environment. I’m sure there a people out there that do everything they need to do on a daily basis via Firefox and a whole bunch of plugins. I’ve never tried it, nor do I have any interest in doing so, but for people in that camp, common technology between a desktop portal and a browser-based portal could be a good thing for them. For me, my primary interest is simply getting a set of lightweight tools for 80% of my day-to-day tasks that aren’t so bloated with stuff I don’t need. I thought a bit about portability of my desktop environment across machines (i.e. the same TweetDeck columns at work and at home), but I think that’s more dependent on these widgets storing data in the cloud than it is on storing the definition of my desktop in the cloud somewhere, but that might be of interest, as well.

The gist of all of this is that I do believe there are big opportunities out there to make our interaction with our information systems more efficient. Can RIAs play a role? Absolutely, but only if we focus on keeping them very lightweight, and very usable.

Personal Brands and Corporate Blogging

Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research on Social Computing, has a very interesting post titled, “How Companies Respond to the Risks of Personal Brands.” As a corporate practitioner with a public blog and a decent enough following to claim a “personal brand,” I thought I’d share my thoughts on this topic.

Jeremiah stated that his personal brand helped him get his current job, and that was the case for me as well. When I originally started blogging, I was a corporate practitioner, however, I did my best to keep those worlds separate. The blog did help me enter the world of consulting, where I knew it wouldn’t be an issue since the company’s CEO blogged, but then when I went back to the corporate world, it was very interesting having this very public view of my thoughts. Like Jeremiah, I think my blog played a key role in me getting my current position. I also hoped that I would be able to continue my public blogging and made sure I discussed this during the interview process.

Jeremiah went on to call out the potential risks to a company, however. He listed three risks:

Risk 1: The personal brand is a cost to the company: Why let employees build their own brand on the dime of the company or leveraging the brand of the employer?
Risk 2: The now popular employee is likely to get poached: Perhaps a common concern I hear is that competitors can easily identify the stars, and hire away these folks along with their market reputation and google juice.
Risk 3: Employee exits leaving a chasm to fill: In the modern workforce, we hear less of lifetime employees seeking pension than we do of job migrants, or career gypsies that move from company to company every few years. As a result, after they’ve built up trust with the market using social tools, they leave the company, and a gap is left that the brand can’t fill.

In my case, I drew some lines in the sand to make sure that risk #1 would not be an issue. I don’t blog from work or even using my work laptop if I have it at home or on the road. I will record ideas for blogs on my iPhone when I run across something in my RSS reader, but I follow those RSS feeds for work purposes. As for getting “poached,” it may be true that someone with a very public persona may get more calls from headhunters. Perhaps I don’t work my network well, but I get a lot more cold calls from headhunters due to talking at Gartner than I do from my blog. Personally, I think blogging may incrementally add a few more cold calls, but LinkedIn has made candidates so readily available, I don’t see this as a big deal. The real mitigator for this risk, however, is the fact that I’m very happy with my current position, and the culture of the company fits both what I want to do as my day job, as well as allowing me to maintain my personal brand. To me, that’s the best scenario. It’s a win for me, and it’s a win for the company. I believe that my blogging helps attract great candidates to my employer. The only reason this works is because there’s a mutual understanding and respect, and a cultural match. It would be a mismatch if a company hired me based on my blog, but then wanted me to stop all outward communication. There may be a time where public blogging isn’t that important to me, but for now it is, and finding a company that is supportive of it is the way to go.

I’ve always tried to be conservative with what I discuss. Regardless of whether you avoid mentioning your company’s name on your public blog and have disclaimers like I do, it’s still very easy to find out who my employer is. I completely understand that I am a representative of my company, regardless of whether it appears on this blog, and that people will associate me with them. If I screw up here, that can impact my employer. If I do well here, that impacts them too. Discuss this with your employer and establish some ground rules. For example, I avoid talking about vendors except in very general terms. Positive or negative comments can damage vendor relationships. In general, my view has always been to limit my topics to areas that I would be comfortable sharing at a local user group or at a conference, avoiding anything that even comes close to proprietary information or anything that could be company confidential. If you’re working for a consulting firm or a vendor, you may be a bit more free to blog, but keep in mind that you have to preserve the confidentiality of your clients. Even if you make things anonymous, someone can perceive that public posting as something similar to secretly recording a phone call but then bleeping out people’s names. If someone did that to me, I wouldn’t be happy.

So, my advice is to find a company that matches your needs but also one that you can contribute to their success. Think about how important your personal brand is to you, but also think about the importance of job security and stability. Find the right balance, get a win-win situation, and don’t assume anything. Be upfront about your desires, what you’ll do to preserve your integrity and the company’s, and establish some ground rules with your supervisor. If you do this, that personal brand can be a win for you, a win for your employer, and lead to a long and successful career.

We need a CIO and CTO of the USA

In a soon-to-be-released podcast I did with Dana Gardner, Tony Baer, and Jim Kobielus, we briefly discussed the topic of President-Elect Obama’s desire to create a federal CTO position. Some articles are now coming out about this topic, including this one on ZDNet’s Between The Lines blog, this one from Business Week, and this one from the Wall Street Journal. Unlike these articels, I’m not going to pontificate on who might make a good CTO of the USA. Rather, I’m interested in what a CTO of the USA must do, and whether one person is enough.

One of the very early decisions that will help determine the right person for this role is whether the whole take on technology will be inwardly focused or externally focused. Compare this to SOA adoption in an enterprise. Two common questions that must be addressed are, “how do I build services the right way?” and “how do I build the right services?” Both of these questions are important. The first is more inwardly focused, the second is more externally focused. What is the more pressing question for the CTO of the USA? Is more about fixing the way we leverage information technology within the federal government and its multitude of agencies? Or, is this more about how the government makes information technology services available to the constituents?

Interestingly, if we look at President-Elect Obama’s policies in this space, he actually addresses both sides of this, but only one of them references the creation of a CTO position. Both of them are under the header of “Create a Transparent and Connected Democracy.” The first bullet item in this section is “Open Up Government to its Citizens.” Specific actions (not all are listed here) he calls out include:

  • Making government data available online in universally accessible formats to allow citizens to make use of that data to comment, derive value, and take action in their own communities.
  • Establishing pilot programs to open up government decision-making and involve the public in the work of agencies …
  • Lifting the veil from secret deals in Washington with a web site, a search engine, and other web tools…
  • Employing technologies, including blogs, wikis and social networking tools, to modernize internal, cross-agency, and public communication and information sharing to improve government decision-making.

Clearly, this seems all about the external view of the federal government and its interaction with the constituents. Note, however, that there is no mention of the CTO position in this bullet point. Where the CTO is mentioned is in the next bullet point, “Bring Government into the 21st Century.” Here, he calls out:

  • Appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century.
  • The CTO will have a specific focus on transparency… The CTO will also focus on using new technologies to solicit and receive information back from citizens to improve the functioning of democratic government
  • The CTO will … ensure technological interoperability of key government functions.

The bullet items here are much more inwardly focused, with the exception of the “also focus” portion of the second one.

I think these two areas actually each require their own dedicated attention. Interesting, the two articles I mentioned earlier that call out people for the CTO role are all tapping the private sector for people that would seemingly be more appropriate for handling the portions of President-Elect Obama’s policies on opening up government to its citizens, the externally-focused portion. For the role where the CTO position is called out, the important factor here seems to be an ability to implement consistent technologies and interoperable messaging across all of the federal agencies. While you can argue that an outsider may be required to actually get these legacy agencies to change, I would think that someone with strong familiarity with the operation of these federal agencies is going to be critical.

What I think would be the perfect situation would be to have both a federal CIO and a federal CTO. The CIO would likely come from the private sector and be focused on opening up the government to its citizens through the use of information technology. The CTO, on the other hand, would have more experience in the public sector and would be focused on fixing things on the inside to ensure the goals of the CIO and the administration can be met.

One final comment on this. In this blog, Jim Kobelius calls out the need for an “online presidential scorecard.” The fourth process of governance that I define is “measure and feedback,” so I think a scorecard makes great sense, although I also think that this could be a very difficult scorecard to create and make consumable for the average citizen. That sounds like a great task for a federal CIO tasked with opening up government to its citizens. What better way to show transparency than to present a scorecard that shows how the administration is viewing its own efforts toward its goals.

Corporate Facebook Apps

CNet ran this story yesterday on Pizza Hut’s new Facebook application. They generally panned the application, but I, for one, was glad to see a corporation trying to leverage this platform. Think about it. Pizza and college students go hand-in-hand. Facebook was originally designed for college students, so if a pizza company wants to target a key demographic, why not build a Facebook application? If it is simply an embedded version of their web page, as long as it makes it even easier for those college students to order pizza, they’ve accomplished their goal. Don’t get me wrong, if it has poor usability it will fail. But the fact that it simply allowed Facebook users to order pizza and did not include “additional social features … to enhance the experience” isn’t a problem, in my opinion. I do agree that the forced friend notification is bad, but an optional one could be good. Once again, if the target demographic is college students, the intent is to tell friends that “pizza is available at my place, head on over!” All in all, however, it is the goal of Pizza Hut to sell pizza. Let Facebook provide the social aspects, let Pizza Hut provide the pizza.

What really interests me, however, is the notion of Facebook as a platform for reaching desired demographics. Previously, companies tried to “build communities” via their Internet presence. This is problematic because the company’s primary goal is to sell product, not build community. It simply makes sense to leverage these web properties whose primary purpose is to build communities and augment them with apps/widgets/whatever that can fulfill the primary purpose of your company, like selling more pizza. As a result, if you have a demographic that is likely to leverage these online communities, you need to be thinking about your architecture and how you can easily support the new “channel” of online communities like Facebook.

Information in the Enterprise

A thought occurred to me today as I was walking into work. Why is it that the first place I go, and probably most of my coworkers, when I want to find out something is the Google search box in my browser? Why don’t I use the search box on our corporate intranet?

There’s certainly no doubt that there’s a wealth of information out there on the internet. What’s interesting is that one of the reasons I started this blog back almost 3 years ago is I thought there were things I was encountering in my research for work that others might find valuable. It was probably about 6 months after I started blogging that someone at work did a Google search on something SOA or governance related, and up popped my blog in his results. It seems rather silly that a colleague at work had to go out to the public internet to find something that I had to say.

Being an Enterprise Architect, I create my fair share of Visio diagrams, PowerPoint presentations, and Word documents. In this day and age, there’s absolutely no reason that these things can’t be put into something like SharePoint and indexed so there are available via the search box on the intranet page. Unfortunately, not everything I do at work winds up in one of those documents, so I need to apply the same principles I used in creating this blog to what I do at work, and start making some of those discussions available internally, as well. What’s nice about internal blogs is they can be put into your RSS reader right along side external feeds. That won’t happen with search, unfortunately. This is actually one situation where I think it could be useful to have a company-specific version of the major browsers that would first direct searches in the default search box to the internal engine, and then follow that up with general search results from Google or somewhere else.

I encourage all of my readers who work in enterprises to think about how they can make more of their knowledge available to their co-workers through their intranets. If you don’t have internal support for blogging, wikis, and a decent search engine, it may be time to make the investment.

Gartner AADI: Enterprise Mashups

Presenter: Anthony Bradley

This presentation has started out with the unsurprising news that enterprise adoption of mashups is significantly trailing its use in the open Internet. He’s come up with a two-faceted classification model for mashups. The first facet is the integration pattern, which is one or more of the following (these aren’t mutually exclusive):

  • Visualization integration
  • Content integration
  • Gadget page space co-location
  • Gadget page space integration

The second facet is the application type, which can be one of:

  • Personal portal delivery
  • Packaged application extension
  • Location awareness
  • Panoramic awareness
  • Situational awareness

All in all, I’m not sure what value this is bringing. I’ve posted previously on categorizations and taxonomies and how they need to have some purpose behind them. I’m not seeing the purpose behind these classifications. Typically, I’ve used classifications in reference architecture work where I try to map a particular type to particular constraints/patterns on the architecture and design, and I don’t see how these groupings do that.

He now had one slide that talks about the need to architect systems that allow them to be “mashable.” This I agree with, but again, it’s nothing new. We’ve been talking about this since the early days of portals, and you could even argue that it’s been around longer than that. He did present a proposed architecture for some of this at the end that may prove valuable to some attendees. Unfortunately, I don’t think he convinced anyone in the audience that mashups is something they should be thinking about. Personally, I think even the term puts some people off. I’d rather hear about the need to support “integration at the glass.” There’s too much of an association between mashups and just throwing something on a Google Map to make it have broader appeal, in my opinion.

Social Networking and the Enterprise

One of the things I recently started thinking about was the relevance of social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, Plaxo, LinkedIn, etc. have to enterprises. While there are certainly individual usage of these sites, is there a play for the enterprise? Ann All of IT Business Edge, had a post about two weeks ago titled, “Facebook Not So Useful as a Business Tool,” quoting a study from Flowing Data that “just a tiny percentage of Facebook’s 23,160 applications are business-oriented.” In the comments that followed, one reader named Peter stated “businesses should take a serious look at integrating social media in their marketing strategy.”

The more I thought about this, the more I agree with Peter. If your company has individuals as either direct or indirect customers, I’m sure that the marketing department has segmented them into different groups each with their own strategy for how they will be marketed. I don’t know of any enterprise of significant size in the U.S. that doesn’t have an internet presence, and I’m willing to bet that nearly all of their marketing departments see their web sites as more than just a place to get electronic versions of paper documentation or marketing materials. In other words, the web site has gone through three phases.

  1. The Information Web: In this phase, everything revolved around pushing information out to the visitor.
  2. The Transaction Web: In this phase, the communication is bi-directional, predominantly focused on information from the enterprise, and business (i.e. money) coming from the visitor.
  3. The Participatory Web: Here, the emphasis shifts from the individual to the community. It’s not just the enterprise pushing information out, it’s the full ecosystem all of the site visitors and all of the enterprise’s partners.

The big challenge with this third phase comes down to community. When an enterprise tries to own the community, it will probably work very well for established customers, but it may have a hard time bringing in new members. In contrast, a site focused on enabling communities of all sorts, like Facebook or MySpace, is better positioned for community growth. If this is the case, why wouldn’t an enterprise try to involve these sites in their marketing strategies as a growth tool. The point would not be to own the community, but to attract new members to its community. This is no different than the physical world where a company establishes a branch office or a retail location in a community. It has to compete with others, but at the same time, if it is perceived as valuable and meeting the needs of the community, it will survive and thrive. The time is ripe is to think about how your company can build applications and content for these sites to attract new interest.

Here Comes Another Bubble

Courtesy of Brandon Satrom, who I met here at the Gartner Summit, comes this hilarious YouTube video. If you don’t see it below, click here to go to YouTube.

iPhone in the Enterprise

Richard Monson-Haefel announced an upcoming telebriefing from the Burton Group that will ask the question, “Is the iPhone ready for the Enterprise?” I think this is going to be a very interesting discussion, and hopefully Richard will post a summary of the discussion after the fact for those of us that aren’t able to listen. It should be a great conversation, as they’re bringing analysts in from various services for the discussion.

Interestingly, with all of this talk about the iPhone and the enterprise, I actually think we’re asking the wrong question. It’s not about the iPhone, rather, it’s about how connected, mobile devices should be leveraged in the enterprise. Certainly, there are plenty of industries where mobile devices already play a key role. Just look at the technology associated with any company in the logistics industry for examples. The real discussion, however, is for those industries where the use of connected, mobile devices may not be immediately apparent. There are many enterprises that still have desktop machines for all employees and are just beginning to look at whether laptops should be issued, let alone consider something like the iPhone. Therefore, there is potential for a disruption in this space, something that could have a fundamental difference in how we go about our tasks.

The reason this discussion is gaining such momentum now, in my opinion, has everything to do with the full-browser capabilities of the iPhone. While I didn’t own a smartphone before getting an iPhone, I did have some experience with a Blackberry (before they had phone capabilities), and made extensive use of the WAP browser on my old Motorola V360. Email and access from the Blackberry was great, but that’s about it. Now, we’ve got this full web browser that can run a variety of web based applications (although not all, my kids can’t play with Webkinz on it due to no Flash, which is probably a good thing, at least as far as playing Webkinz goes). There’s a whole range of applications out there, as Richard calls out, the real potential is in applications developed specifically for the iPhone. Is this any better than some of the custom apps for one of the other smart phones? I’ve never written a mobile app, and I don’t know what limitations they have when the phone doesn’t have full web capabilities. I can only suspect that the recent hype on this subject is an indicator that only now have the doors really been opened. Connectivity is critical to these devices, otherwise they just become a PDA, which has certainly faded away. The question is whether connectivity + small form factor equals disruption. While I use the iPhone Facebook application, I’d hardly call it disruptive. There’s a killer app out there waiting to be written.

While I’m sure the conversation will focus more on the technical details around the iPhone in the enterprise, hopefully it will expand into the potential for mobile devices in the enterprise, whether it’s through a laptop with WiFi or wireless broadband or an device like the iPhone. Ultimately, this is what will decide whether it gets a place in the enterprise versus just being yet another way of getting to the corporate email and calendar.

Integration at the Desktop, Part 2

In addition to commenting on my blog, Francis Carden, CEO of OpenSpan, also was kind enough to give me a short demo of their product. In my previous post, I introduced the concept of a “Desktop Service Bus” and wondered if the product would behave in this fashion. One of the interesting things I hadn’t thought of, however, is exactly what a desktop service bus should behave like? For that matter, what’s the right model of working with an enterprise service bus? More on that in a second.

Francis did a nice little demonstration for me that showed how custom integrations could be built quickly, first by interrogating existing applications (desktop or web-based) and grabbing possible integration points (virtually any UI element on the screen), and then by using a visual editor to connect up components in a pipeline-like manner. If you’re familiar with server-side application integration technologies, think of this tool as providing an orchestration environment, as well as the ability to build adaptors on the fly through interrogation.

Clearly, this is a step in the right direction. Francis made a great comment to me, which was, “People stopped thinking about this [desktop integration] because they’d long forgotten it was possible.” He’s right about this. With the advent of web-based applications, many people stopped talking about OLE and other desktop application integration techniques. The need hasn’t gone away, however. Again, using the iPhone as an example, many people complain about its lack of cut-and-paste capabilities.

Bringing this back to my concept of a desktop service bus, there clearly is a long way to go. When I see tools like OpenSpan or Apple’s Automator, it’s clear that they’re targeted at when a need to integrate is determined after the fact. You have two systems that no one had thought of integrating previously, but now there is a need to do so. This is no different than integration on the server side, except that you’re much more likely to hear the term “silo” used. When I think about the concept of a desktop service bus, or even an enterprise service bus for that matter, the reason a usage metaphor doesn’t immediately come to mind is that it’s not the way we’ve traditionally done things. When we’re building a new solution, the collection of services available should simply be there. There’s a huge challenge in trying to organize them, but if we can organize all of the classes in the Java API’s and all of the variety of extensions through intelligent code completion, why can’t we do the same with services, whether available through a network interaction or through desktop integration? It will take a while before this becomes the norm, but thankfully, I think the connectivity of the web is actually helping in this regard. Users of sites like Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and the like expect the ability to mash and integrate, whether with their mobile phones, their desktop machines, other web sites, and more. Integration as the norm will be a requirement going forward.

Widgets

Richard Monson-Haefel posted a great piece on his blog on widgets and gadgets (also posted on the Burton Group APS blog here). It serves as a good introduction to them. After a thorough definition, he primarily focuses on their use in a consumer setting. As a followup, I’d like to see him post more on their role in the enterprise. It’s something I’ve commented on, as well as Om Malik. As I’ve stated previously, I really think they have a potential role in workflow-based solutions as a vehicle for providing lightweight interfaces that are single-purpose in nature, that is, they provide an interface for doing exactly the task that needs to be done, nothing more, nothing less. They start up quickly and they go away quickly. Hopefully Richard will take the bait.

Internal Blogs and Wikis

I was listening to an Inflection Point podcast from the Burton Group entitled Enterprise 2.0: Overcoming Fear of Blogs and thought that this was a subject that I hadn’t posted anything about. The topic of the podcast was the use of blogs and wikis internally within the enterprise, rather than enterprise workers blogging to the outside world, which is a different subject.

The interviewer, Mike Gotta, made the comment that blogs within the enterprise need to be purposeful, and that there’s a fear that they will simply be a soap box or a place to rant. To any manager or executive that has a fear about them becoming a place for employees to rant, you’re looking at the wrong issue. If employees feel a need to rant, they’ll be doing it in the hallways, break rooms, and cafeteria. If anything, blogging could bring some of this out in the open and allow something to be done about it. This is where I think there is real value for blogging, wikis, etc. in the enterprise. I recently had a post titled Transparency in Architecture that talked about a need for projects to make their architectural decisions transparent throughout the process (and the same holds true for enterprise architects and their development of reference architectures and strategies). Blogs and wikis create an opportunity to increase the transparency in enterprise efforts. I’ve worked in environments that had a “need to know” policy for legitimate reasons, but for most enterprises, this shouldn’t be the case. When information isn’t shared, it may be a symptom of lack of trust in the enterprise, which can be disastrous for SOA or anything else IT does.

Blogs and wikis are about communication and collaboration. Communication and collaboration help to build up trust. That being said, you do need to be respectful of the roles and responsibilities within the organization. There’s a time and place for debate, and there’s a time and place for adherence to policies. I’ve been in the trenches and had my fair share of times where I didn’t agree with a decision that was made by people above me in the organization. I also understood that it wasn’t my decision to make. In general, however, I believe that things would have been better if there were transparency behind those decisions. That’s important because the principles that guide those decisions wind up influencing the decisions that are made further down the line. If the staff has no visibility to those principles, how can they be expected to make good decisions? The end result of that situation is increased distrust on both sides. It’s not easy to do, because once you expose that information, it leaves you open for debate, which is where mutual trust must come into play. Betrayals of trust either by not disclosing information or by misusing information that was disclosed can be detrimental.

In general, I’m an optimist and I give people the benefit of the doubt. As a result, I’m all for transparency and the use of blogs and wikis in the enterprise. Will blogs and wikis dramatically change the way IT works? Probably not, but it certainly has the potential to improve morale which certainly have a role in improving productivity.

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