What a difference a few Weblogs can make. In January, I wrote about the importance of leveraging the inherent simplicity in technologies such as RSS for enterprise information-sharing, and I mentioned a particular effort I had in mind: experimenting with a simple intranet Weblog. Mentioning a future effort in my column tends to solidify my own commitment, so we set up an internal Weblog system driven by Movable Type. Then, in response to a later column, I got quite a bit of reader e-mail asking me for more details on our use of Weblogs because that anecdote just scratched the surface. Consider this installment a closer peek behind the scenes here at InfoWorld.
Our internal use of Weblogs has greatly accelerated, and we’re beginning to see more tangible benefits as we’ve begun to reach a critical mass of internal contributors. At the end of March, my team held an off-site retreat and created a rolling six-month plan for IT initiatives at InfoWorld, which we posted to a Weblog available to all employees. For each month in the plan, we created a checklist of projects we would be working on and noted which ones would be completed in that month. We also scheduled what we call “fire drills” — our internal term for the intentional failure of a specific key system to test fail-over capabilities in the event of
an unexpected outage of that system. Posting this plan on a Weblog made three key things happen. First, it forced the team to strategically organize its IT initiatives into a coherent roadmap fit for broader internal consumption. Next, it created a sense of accountability for these initiatives within the IT team because we had collectively agreed on the initiatives and documented the process. Finally, posting our plan for the entire company to see helped foster a sense of accountability to our non-IT colleagues within the company.
Since then, my team has been using the blog-driven IT roadmap in weekly staff meetings as a platform to discuss the initiatives we have completed and to look ahead to new ones. Our meetings no longer have agendas or redundant handouts, because we don’t need them. Of course, some items have dropped off our master plan altogether, and new ones have been added, but the important point is that our master plan is always updated and readily available on our intranet, and any changes are distributed via RSS to anyone who wants to see them. Aside from the public Weblog, we maintain our own Weblog for more technical documentation, which has raised our level of internal documentation by several orders of magnitude already.
Our internal use of Weblogs doesn’t stop there. Software Engineer Kevin Varley has created “Varley’s Project Notes,” his own Weblog to keep notes on his development projects. Kevin makes inventive use of the comment functionality available in Movable Type. After outlining coding and debugging tasks in posts with titles such as “Taxonomy Terror,” Kevin uses the comments feature to make additional notes about how his initial assumptions ultimately played out.
Weblogs are not just for the hard-core techies. Our editorial staff recently started its own Weblog to share updated style guides, edit calendars, and other tools of the trade. I’m looking forward to seeing what unexpected points of leverage they achieve with their Weblog. It’s amazing how a system so simple and easy can produce such profound results.