Blogging in the Corporate World recently had an article discussing blogging in the corporate world. I recently discussed the use of blogs and wikis inside the enterprise, this entry will focus on blogs that are exposed to outside world.

As James McGovern has lamented in the past, and Brandon Satrom recently, there really aren’t a lot of enterprise architects working in typical corporate IT blogging. By typical corporate IT, I mean at companies whose primary business is not technology. I don’t know if this carries over to other roles within IT, but I suspect it does. So, is this is a bad thing? A good thing? Some companies may have formal policies regarding blogging, some may not. It can be a complicated issue, however, I do think that there is one basic factor that comes into play, and that is trust. For the purpose of this conversation, I’m going to restrict it to where people are blogging about the domain in which they work. So, if you’re an enterprise architect, this is relevant if you want to blog about enterprise architecture. If you want to blog about your favorite TV show, less of this discussion applies.

From the perspective of the blogger, what are the reasons you’d want to blog? For me personally, my blog served two purposes. First and foremost, there are constantly ideas that go fleeting through my brain, and I wanted to use blogging as a way to record my thoughts. Secondly, I wanted to share those thoughts with others and see what conversation came out of it. If others found it valuable, that’s great, however, I don’t go around trying to look for topics that I know may have high market value. This may not be the case for others. Some may go out trying to capture the spotlight as a primary goal. There are those that argue that everyone who blogs is seeking the spotlight, but I don’t believe that to be the case. One thing that is true, however, is that if you blog, you are building a brand, whether you planned to or not. This is where things can get complicated.

Most companies are usually very sensitive about how they are perceived in their respective marketplace, regardless of whether they have a formal branding or marketing initiative or not. The real danger comes when someone can make an association between you and a company, and as a result, make associations between the two. Take the current situation with Michael Vick. While the NFL and Atlanta Falcons had no control over his off the field activities, there are now significant problems with not only his personal brand, but the brand of the NFL and the Atlanta Falcons. While the blogosphere isn’t usually under the same level of scrutiny as professional athletes, the impacts can be very similar. As an employee of a company, you have to realize that as a privately held (even if publicly traded) institution, you must abide by their rules, even if it is activities that you are doing with your own equipment, and on your own time. I’m not a lawyer, but most organizations do have some form of personal conduct policy that can apply. If you’re not officially blogging for your company, it’s best to try to keep the worlds as separate as possible.

For me, I looked upon my topics like a water cooler conversation. If I felt that I could discuss a subject at a local user group meeting, or over lunch with colleagues at a conference, or even on a discussion group (keep in mind that Google can typically find all of those discussion group postings…), then those topics would be okay for a blog. Specifics about the internals of a company were (and still are) strictly off limits. I personally believe that we can learn a lot from our colleagues at other enterprises, and there’s far more we can share without comprising any competitive advantage, than there is at risk. For example, take a blog on something like service versioning. There really shouldn’t be any concern about competitive advantage when discussing something like this, something every enterprise will have to deal with, etc.

It is unlikely that your company has a policy that makes these things clear cut. It’s especially difficult when the company may come back with the question, “What’s in it for us?” It’s hard to put value on something like blogging and it will ultimately come down from trust. If you’re going to blog, get quoted in a magazine, speak at a conference, etc. there has to be a level of trust. The company has to trust that you will represent the company well, even if you’re only speaking about them in generalities. The fact is, you are part of that company and will be perceived as a representative of that company. If you’re a shock jock at night, that doesn’t bode well if someone finds out that your day job is with a very conservative company. Even if there’s no mention anywhere in your blog of the company you work for, it’s not very hard to figure it out. For example, I know where James McGovern works, even though you won’t find it on his blog.

The short of this is that there has to be a level of trust, and probably more so on the side of your employer, which is an unfortunate fact of our culture today. As I’ve mentioned, there’s a certain fear of airing your dirty laundry. As anyone who has worked in multiple enterprises know, there are plenty of things that need improvement, and many of them probably have nothing to do with competitive advantage. A little bit of transparency and a little bit of open discussion can go a long way in building trust. That being said, you’re better off focusing on building trust inside the enterprise first. If you want to open up a conversation on a topic, why not open it up inside the enterprise first and let your colleagues have a crack at it, even if it may not be their responsibility? Good productive communication will build trust, which in turn, will make the company more likely to trust that people know what can not be communicated to the outside world and what can.

7 Responses to “Blogging in the Corporate World”

  • Your article is well timed. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being percieved negatively in light of my blog, both within my company and outside it. I’ve also had the positive experience of being viewed as a trusted advisor. Both are the effects of creating a personal brand.

    I do wonder if creating an internal blog is a truly useful task. I blog for many of the same reasons that you do: to get my ideas down and generate good ideas in conversations. I learn by blogging.

    Before blogging, I used newsgroups. Even before I had a dial-up internet connection, I used compuserve to share ideas and get feedback.

    The people who respond to a blog are not common. They are communicators. They like to share and learn. They account for less than 10% of the popluation.

    Within an enterprise, there are very few enterprise architects or people that can help an EA solve a problem. It’s just not a common skill.

    So if communicating is rare and EA is rare, then finding other people, within your own organization, that can both communicate and be useful to an EA, is pointless. This is even more true if the enterprise is not technology focuses or very large. I am fortunate that way.

    On the other hand, through my blog, my messages will be viewed about 500,000 times in the coming year. For all those views, I get hundreds of useful responses. For me, that is worth it.

    Through blogging, I have probably places a roadblock into my career that will be difficult to overcome. I face that and admit it and work to overcome it, without losing the blogosphere as a major source of inspiration.

    It is what it is.

  • […] Should corporate bloggers go "internal only?" Todd Biske asks a good question about corporate blogging: how do you build sufficient trust to allow for corporate blogging?  It’s a good read.  Working for a technology company that is very large allows me a level of freedom not seen by my typical peer.  It is one reason I love working for Microsoft.  Innovation has a place here. Not every Enterprise Architect can write a blog.  As an EA, I know a lot about company policy, strategy, and direction.  I tell none of that to folks outside the company.  On the other hand, most of the other folks who know the same information do not have a blog: Directors, General Managers, etc.  In most companies, having someone know what I know, and still trusting them not to spill the beans in a blog, requires a level of trust that would be difficult to reconcile.  Microsoft has trusted me and I take that trust seriously. On the other hand, it is useful to be very open about Enterprise Architecture in general.  I want to improve the craft of Enterprise Architecture through sharing and discussing good ideas.  I want to nudge our industry in particular directions through tools, techniques, and good ideas. I can do a lot of that through working with my friends and collegues inside the amazing Microsoft machine.  On the other hand, I find it valuable to water down the Microsoft kool-aid by taking advice, sharing ideas, and being generally collaborative with folks who work on other platforms and share other concerns. It’s a fine line.  Many companies are not comfortable allowing their practitioners to walk it. I can do nothing about that except to provide a counterpoint: EAs can be trusted to share without screwing up.  I hope it helps. Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 7:30 AM by NickMalik Filed under: Community […]

  • If I am forced into unemployment for more longer time, due to my EA opinions made during my engagements, then I think it is time to begin show-casing via case studies, the ills in large organizations. Especially, how EA would have helped in tackling those ills early on and subsequently entire community importantly those at the lower denomination would have benefited the most. Insurance industry is certainly a place to begin. Among bloggers, I am sure we have thought leaders who work at such companies to carefully evaluate and validate what we have to say.

  • While I can’t comment on you specifically, since I don’t know you, whether you’re a consultant, a vendor, or an employee, there will always be people who choose not to take advice. Sometimes that’s justified, because they have information you don’t. Sometimes it’s not. Simply put, that’s life. My blog tends to be very pragmatic, because I seldom think things come down to a simple yes/no decision. There is always a variety of forces on any decision, and every organization will place different priorities on those forces. Frustration occurs when people assume everyone thinks the same way they do, when in reality, that is almost never the case.

  • EA is not a passive game and certainly not for those with weak stomach. Sometimes, it also proves a grab for the ‘bourgeois’. Insight incited the working class, and hence was the french revolution. Unfortunately yesterday’s working class have become today’s bourgeois in the corporate. And, EA has come too easy as thought leadership. Too much cogitation.

  • Todd,
    Great post, and very topical indeed.

    While posting views on my employer-sponsored blog, I certainly have to abide by the ‘code of conduct.’ I have also come to observe that people can(and do) associate me with my employer even when I take on a different ‘avatar’ on external forums, thanks to the power of googling (The natural reaction is to google who the @#@%is Mohan Babu?)

    In this respect, I can TRY to build a Chinese Wall between my opinions on my employer’s blog and my personal opinions elsewhere but it is already getting hard to distinguish between the two (though I sometimes place an explicit disclaimer in those entries)

  • Todd,

    Great post. I suppose that being at a non-profit gives me a bit more freedom to blog, as it does to a few co-workers who also blog (though not about EA). That being said, I still attempt to be careful not to speak too often or too directly about my internal work, though I do openly share who I work for.

Leave a Reply


This blog represents my own personal views, and not those of my employer or any third party. Any use of the material in articles, whitepapers, blogs, etc. must be attributed to me alone without any reference to my employer. Use of my employers name is NOT authorized.