Blogging in the Enterprise

Ellen Simonetti received an unexpected call from her employer, Delta, telling her that her manager needed to “talk” to her. Ellen found out that her employer was firing her for posing “inappropriate” pictures on her blog. Despite her clean performance record, she was given no warning and terminated. For something she thought was harmless it spilled into her professional life and adversely effected her.

It’s stories like this that has given corporations a bad taste for the idea of blogging. It is seen as something that adds no real business value and instead detracts the employee from getting “real work” done or even worse smearing the image of the organization. After all, people on MySpace blog but no one “professional” does this. What do we then do with these new ECM solutions, including SharePoint 2007, that include blogging modules? Do we ignore them? Is it really that bad?

I have actually become quite convicted that blogging by employees can add immense value to companies in terms of knowledge management.

The Case for Blogging

What’s interesting about this is that most corporate executives/managers don’t seem to recognize that when they search on the Internet often times what they’re looking for is found on blogs. These can be answers to questions, similarly-minded individuals to collaborate with, and much more. Google has realized this and has even created a specialized search just through blog content. There is much to be learned.

Peter Kollock has published a fantastic article entitled “The Economies of Online Cooperation” where outlines the three major reasons why individuals participate in knowledge exchange. One of which, anticipated reciprocity, is a great example of how blogs do just that.

If each person shares freely, the groups as a whole is better off, having access to information and advice that no single person might match. […] If the possibility of future reciprocation is the motivation driving an individual’s contribution, then the likelihood of providing public goods will be increased to the extent individuals are likely to interact with each other in the future and to the extent that there is some way to keep track of past actions (for example, by making sure contributions are seen by the group as a whole or by providing archives of past actions and contributions).

This is exactly why people blog. There is a perceived reciprocity in providing this information. The second motivation, increased reputation, is also important. These two factors explain why people blog on issues other than their dogs. Here is a summation of reasons for allowing blogging in the enterprise.

  • Employees will want to share information if they receive credit
  • Employees will want to share information if their professional/personal reputation can be increased (leading to a subject matter expert label)
  • Employees will want to share information if there is a perceived future benefit for doing so

These are powerful motivations. Surely it is enough to consider the opportunity for dramatic knowledge transfer.

Arguments Against Blogging in the Enterprise

“My employees will publish something contrary to our principles thereby tarnishing our image.”

This is a problem not with blogs or any other medium for knowledge exchange. If users cannot exercise restraint in this regard then it is a people problem and not one with blogs or other related methods. When an employee knows they will be held accountable for content they are less likely to do something detrimental to their careers. Further, you can enable only intranet-based blogs which allow the content to be only shared internally and also indexed for users to search against that information.

“Our employee productivity will decrease.”

This is also a problem not with blogs but people. Imagine if one of your employees has a valuable “lesson learned” in a critical business process. By enabling them to write about their experience the content can be disseminated to other employees to avoid eventual productivity decrease. I believe a strong argument can be made that by disabling blogging in the enterprise that that will cause potential productivity loss.

Final Points

By enabling blogging in the enterprise on topics related to the business you have actually enabled powerful knowledge transfer and retention. It will also facilitate strong community, dialogue, and increased business productivity. Don’t make the mistake of not using tools to their potential and quenching potential areas of knowledge transfer. By properly training and enabling your employees you will find you will maximize your ROI in your ECM solution.