Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Blogging in the Corporate World

Todd Biske comments on blogging in the Corporate World and I would like to extend several of his thoughts regarding use of wiki's...

Being a student of the human aspects of technology, over the last several weeks I have been using my peers in one of my experiments. I have been attempting to understand the notion of how memes work in our environment and concluded that several interesting behaviors exist.

Much of the communication within large enterprises is of the corporate spam type where everyone is CC'd regardless if they need to receive the information. In terms of my experiment, I decided to try several tactics related to sharing security information to measure how long it would take before it started to spread as a meme. For email's where I specified 100% of all participants that needed to know the information in the to field, it didn't spread at all. I later adjusted my technique by sending information only to select individuals and encouraged them to forward to those whom they felt would be interested and the notion of the meme was a lot better.

The former is obviously more efficient in terms of communication and definitely easier on the email infrastructure but the latter had the effect of leveraging two characteristics that are pervasive in enterprisey types. The first characteristic is that folks want to know something that others don't. The mindset of being in the know is pervasive. The second characteristic is that folks respond better to things that they feel have been personalized to them than information that is available to the public at large.

The notion should be in order to be more open, you sometimes need to behave more closed. I would be curious if folks such as Scott Mark, James Tarbell and others who are employed by Fortune enterprises have also observed this.

In the past, I have commented on the fact that within large enterprises my observation that They aren't going to read it also applies to blogs and wiki's within the walls of most enterprises. Most of the movement regarding the push to use wikis in enterprise environments makes the argument regarding efficiency of finding, searching and publishing information while ignoring the consumption aspects.

Enterprise Architects are pretty good in terms of producing comprehensive documentation as many of us spend time tweaking PowerPoint documents for different internal audiences. We do this not because folks can't simply go to the SharePoint and find what they need nor that previous iterations of other documents didn't have the necessarily information, we do this because IT Executive X wants to see it one way while Business Executive Y wants to see it another. In other words, enterprise architects spend a lot of time making things personal.

Before enterprises consider using Wikis they first have to transform their culture and not focus on the publishing aspects nor fall into the trap better known as knowledge management and instead figure out if they can be successful in changing the perspective of those who consume information. Usually, enterprise architects tend to interact with many parties spread throughout the enterprise and at some level are forced to adapt their style to meet the needs of consumers. If your business customers still prefer monolithic Microsoft Word documents sent to them personally via email then Wikis will fail...

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