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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