Blogs build business appeal

Running a personal Weblog may be the latest craze sweeping the Internet, however, business IT is beginning to warm to the idea of a simple, organized way of online collaboration.

Director of Sydney-based online project management solution Maarten Tentij said blogs are no longer just a personal thing.

"We use notes that can be attached to pieces of work that get reviewed by the project manager," Tentij said. "The blog functionality allows the project manager to view all issues reported by all the project's participants on a daily basis."

A blog engine was developed specifically for but Tentij said many public blogging applications influenced its design.

"A blog is a good way to consolidate information and a great way to communicate," he said. "People are trying to free up their inboxes; posting information on a blog is a great way of sharing it. Like e-mail, it allows people to communicate in a written format but it is organized in a useful way."

Tentij said blogs can be used for any work that requires a group of people to interact. For example, contract management and support forums are possible applications of the technology. As such, he is now looking to start a blog for his sales people to facilitate better discussion among them and ultimately improve selling.

"People tend not to categorize e-mail in a useful way, whereas blogs are categorized by a particular topic," he said.

IBM Australia's engagement manager for emerging technologies, Brad Kasell, said blogging has given IBM a chance to connect a little more and put a personal face on the company.

"Look at General Motors in the US. You'd think it would be last organization to be blogging, but people on the production line are blogging good information about the company," Kasell said.

Kasell believes blogs and wikis - Web-based content systems that can be edited by anyone - are fuelling team innovation. But like any emerging technology it will be a challenge to integrate blogs into existing business processes. IBM has about 3000 staff bloggers.

Sun Microsystems is also a blog-friendly company with some 1000 employee blogs, seven of which are local.

Laurie Wong, Sun's Australia and New Zealand software business manager, said blogs will be used less as a collaboration tool but more as a communications medium for ideas both inside and outside an organization.

"Blogs will be used for sources of information that lead to decisions and links to other information," Wong said. "It's really helpful for communicating with co-workers."

Wong said if management and staff comment in an open way, the organization gains competitive advantage.

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