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So you're saying that blogging is one way to help them do more with less?

Yeah, exactly right—in the IT department and across the whole company. It is true for the CIO. It's also true for everybody who works for the CIO. Go all the way down to the developers, and they're in the same boat. They don't have enough time to do what they're being asked to do, and they don't always have the answers to the questions they need to solve the problem they're working on.

One technical guy at IBM whom I've known for many years, a distinguished engineer, told me that blogs are now his No. 1 source of technical information. That was about a year ago that he told me that, and I was taken aback. That's a pretty profound statement. If you're a CIO, you can look at blogging as a disruptive pain in the neck that's just for kids or egomaniacs who want to write about their hobbies. Or you can say, wait a minute, this is a new channel and a new form of communication that can improve productivity within IT and across the whole company and we should be very open-minded in the way we look at this. I'm sure every CIO would agree that IM has become a key channel of communication in the corporation and has reduced phone calls and has allowed people to get answers to their questions immediately and move on to the next thing.

There's no question that IM has increased the productivity of every company that's using it. I believe blogging will be the same way. And I suspect that blogging is already happening, in most major companies today, even though the CIO may not have ever heard of it. Run a search across the intranet and look for XML blog files. You'll find them.

Today, employees have their intranets, but the intranet is the data dumpster. Everything is there but you can't find what you want. Much of the content is old and no longer relevant. What employees want is a current view on a topic. They want to find what the experts are thinking so they can leverage that experience. Corporate blogs will become the source. Companies will also use blogging to share their news and views with their customers and suppliers. IBM already has nearly 100 blog feeds of ibm.com news unique to countries around the world. IBM is embracing blogging in various ways, including participating in the development and evolution of the standards for blogging to ensure that it can continue to flourish for all.

Why should CIOs see this as part of their management strategy?

The goal is to improve the leveraging of the expertise within the department and across the corporation. If a company has 10,000 people, and if they can be only 1 percent more effective, that's 100 people. And that's a lot of money. It's a productivity play.

You could call it knowledge management, but that's sort of a hackneyed term, and a lot of people, as soon as they hear KM, they immediately tune out. Actually, I think KM is going to come back again. It never left, it really is important. It's just never been able to work very effectively. Some people have said it was overhyped, but I say it was underdelivered. Nobody argued with the potential of it, it's just that it didn't really happen. Why? For the most part, it was based on the idea of imposed collaboration: Making it work required centralized control over the knowledge and the sharing of it. It's a good theory, but it simply hasn't worked. A lot of companies made people fill out skills profiles, on the theory that when someone, say, needs help with a Linux server installation, they can go into the KM database and find out who the experts are in the company. The problem was that the best experts wouldn't cooperate and considered it beneath them, and at the other extreme, people who worried about getting laid off would be happy to expose their skills, which may or may not be that great.

So where does blogging fit in? It's a way to energize the expertise from the bottom—in other words, to allow people who want to share, who are good at sharing, who know who the experts are, who talk to the experts or who may, in fact, be one of those experts, to participate more fully. We all know somebody in our organization who knows everything that's going on. "Just ask Sally. She'll know." There's always a Sally, and those are the people who become the bloggers. And such people write a blog about, say, customer relationship management, and they're taking the time to find the experts and the links to leverage, to magnify what they're writing about. And from those links people can be led to information and see things in a context they might not have considered before.

People won't go to the company intranet to search for information. Instead, they'll look in blogs see what people they trust and respect have to say. The company intranet simply doesn't have that kind of credibility, nor ever will at many companies. Further, blogs aren't old, like an HTML document that's been there since 1997. Instead, blogs are very likely to be something that interests [the blogger] greatly. Bloggers are writing all the time about what's current in various contexts and subject categories. Blogs are off-the-cuff, candid, real—and now.

There's another thing about blogs that's a little subtle. We all know people who are gifted in their written communications but who wouldn't get up on stage even if you put a gun to their heads. But now we have this new channel, and people who can write but who can't give a speech are getting judged on ideas rather than on Q-ratings.

This article was originally published on 11-01-2003
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