This occasionally crops up in our discussions with companies investigating Enterprise 2.0 technologies. In some corporations BLOG is four letter word conjuring up images of sociopathic rantings, and way too much time being devoted to cat pictures and reviews of LOST.

If you ask me, this paranoia boils down to fear of the unknown or maybe it’s about lack or respect and lack of trust in employees to do the right things with the tools they have to work with. When you think about it, if you were inclined, you could do more damage to a company’s reputation and morale with email and confidential attachments sent to the wrong people than you can with a secure internal blog post.

I’m not sure what drives this perception about blogs and I’m not the only one who has experienced this fear from corporate management. Six Apart’s Anil Dash makes getting beyond fear of blogs a key message in his evangelism. The Burton Group’s Mike Gotta has seen it and heard it too.  His take away is that companies need examples of how blogs can be used effectively to solve business and communication challenges.

I’m republishing the highlights from his post “Getting Over Fear of Blogs and including the list of blogging applications that make sense for business environments.

You can read Mike’s complete post on Collaborative Thinking.

Mike takes it from here:

Regarding Web 2.0 and social software, I find that people are often captivated by the use of these concepts and tools in the consumer market. While some technologists are skeptical, there are also a growing number of people that are wondering how such practices and technologies could be applied internally and whether such use could bring about some degree of business transformation ??? especially in terms of leveraging worker know-how and collective insight.

The tone and emotion levels however get quite passionate however, when the topic of blogs comes up. There does seem to be agreement that public-facing blogs can have real business value from the perspective of marketing, PR, customer intimacy and community-outreach. That perspective however does not seem to transfer broadly when the conversation shifts to possible internal adoption of blogs. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear a range of opinions that could be represented by the following statements:

  • Risk-related: ???We???re afraid of what people will say.???
  • Productivity-related: ???We don???t want people wasting their time.???

Performance-related: ???We don???t see the business value.???

The conversation often swings back to the Internet and how blogs are used as a public soapbox to express personal opinions and how bloggers add fuel to emotionally-charged debates on topics many organizations view as a workplace distraction (e.g., politics, sports, entertainment, religion, breaking news, etc.). A good number of people I???ve talked to feel that blogs introduce risk (e.g., hostile workplace), negatively impacts productivity and hinders overall performance of business processes.

I think part of the problem is due to a lack of examples of how blogs can be applied to solve the types of business challenges organizations face on a daily basis.

Internal Communication

There are many situations where organizations need to broadcast information to its workforce without the need for that information to be pushed to its workers in an intrusive manner (e.g., e-mail).

  • A Human Resources department can leverage blog technology to continually keep employees updates on various benefit plans, awareness of enrollment dates, etc.
  • CXO-level management can leverage blogs to informally communicate company issues related to markets, economics and its competition.
  • Organizations can use blogs to communicate information to employees on the various community-outreach and social programs in need of volunteers.

Program / Project Management

Program management offices (PMO) and project management teams often establish operating environments where information may not always be captured and disseminated in a timely manner. The structure of these organizing bodies may challenge its ability to quickly respond, making it difficult to communicate credible and relevant information.

  • A PMO blog could provide a journal of activities, issues and future actions that could be valuable not only to workers within the PMO but to those monitoring and tracking the PMO elsewhere in the organization
  • A group blog for developers and quality assurance teams could act as a clearinghouse to voice design concerns, for developers to record and report findings or to capture/disseminate software build and fix notifications discovered during development or testing cycles (e.g., shift notes)
  • PMO and project teams create a variety of guidelines, procedures and other types of documentation. While wikis are good vehicles for the collaborative work on the content itself, blogs can provide a platform for individuals to provide deeper personal commentary.

Community-building

Organizations have struggled to find common off-the-shelf tools that allow for the capture, dissemination and augmentation of information while also enabling broad participation and community interaction. Facilitating open communication is a key aspect for organizations interested in sharing know-how and creating effective community-building environments (e.g., knowledge management).

  • Research organizations have long valued the importance of personal journals and lab notebooks to catalog observations and record insight. Blogs within such an environment not only are of benefit to those within such communities but enable others to ???look over the shoulders??? of those engaged in such activities.
  • Government organizations can use blog systems to enable first responders to share insight and lessons-learned from on-the-job experiences
  • Specialists in many different professions (e.g., utilization management nurses, fraud investigators, security experts, underwriters, engineers) can use blogs to more easily communicate methods and practices relevant to their work activities

Business process

A multitude of business activities include capture of unstructured information as part of processing a particular task. Many applications do not naturally handle the type of free-form commentary and annotation users would like to add to a transaction or append to a case file. There are other situations where applications need to deal with conversational information that are not well-supported by traditional application models (e.g., issue tracking, exception handling, problem resolution).

  • A competitive intelligence process is often dependent on capturing field observations, rumors and collating information detected from various news sources. Blog systems can provide the platform the collecting and vetting this type of market monitoring, analysis, and opportunity/threat assessment.
  • Certain support processes require workers to capture notes as part of their remote activity (e.g., field repair). Offline authoring tools (e.g., Microsoft Windows Live Writer)
    could be used to compose analysis on a worker???s laptop and then upload to a group blog when network connectivity is available. In other situations, certain work activities might include capture of notes into operational logs. Blog technology can enable capture of task-related notes inline with performance of that operational process.

OK, I’m back.

We use the same tools and techniques internally.

  • Our CEO as a blog to share the big picture with Attensa employees
  • Our marketing and development teams use secure blogs to keep each group informed on project status, customer wins and the buzz surrounding Attensa
  • Our sales and marketing people share competitive insights on a secure blog.
  • We’ve set up a secure blog with our PR and SEO teams to share strategies, metrics and status reports.

Analytics on the Attensa Feed Server gives insight into how this information flows through the organization and helps assess and identify the most effective channels for communicating specific information

Attensa tools make publishing to these internal blogs incredibly easy. I used one of the republishing tools in Attensa for Outlook to share Mike’s post this morning. I scanned the headlines from his blog in the River of News. The title “Getting Over Fear of blogs” caught my eye. I hit the Attensa publish icon which launched Windows Live Writer and pre-populates a new  blog post with the all of the copy, links and images – all nicely formatted. I just select the blog I want to publish to from a list. I can easily edit and add context, categories, tags and then republish the post with a click. These tools make it incredibly easy to share these thoughts with everyone subscribing to the blog.