Together with Jay Williams (who, incidentally, I have now worked with for three years and only seen in person once – I didn’t know what he looked like until April this year) I did a Concours Group CIO Staff Meeting on collaborative systems yesterday. One of the parts was a discussion of blogs and wikis in the corporate space – what can they be used for and how do you manage them? Some thoughts:
- To make shared self-publishing work within a corporation, you need a purpose (why are you doing it, aside from self-expression) and a shared set of norms and values. According to this article in Business Week, Microsoft now has let loose blogging within the company (made visible through Channel 9), but (at least as far as I can see) with no stated purpose and the only rule being “don’t be stupid”. Where is the purpose, and, though that may not be visible on the outside, where is the space for development of shared understanding of what is OK and what is not?
- Blogging and wikis (incidentally, the latter I think will be most important in the short run) is emerging as tools for corporate use very much like the Web did in 1994: As something that is first done for academic reasons, then by individuals, then by corporations. In the process, a number of expensive knowledge management and content management tools will disappear.
- The chief problem for IT shops will not be the technology (that is trivial, especially since much of the management is taken care of through simple forms of version control) but the softer parts of the equation: How do you establish a culture for sharing and for making your (half-baked) ideas visible? Unless IS has a voice (and I have seen a number of IS departments hiring communications people lately) it will have little power to manage the use of the tools. Shared spaces are managed through norms rather than rules, and the usual remedies of user access restrictions and various meta-data based automated rules will be counter-productive.