IT drafted to babysit blogs

I don't have time to read Weblogs. There, I said it. I'm not saying the blogosphere's emperor has no clothes. I'm just trying to be realistic about how much time I can spend in life reading other people's musings.

According to the latest Jupiter Research study, however, I may be bucking an unstoppable trend. Nearly 70 percent of all large companies will have deployed a Weblog authoring system by the end of this year, the report found. Many of them are trying to leverage Weblogs to generate word-of-mouth marketing opportunities. And I imagine the spin doctors in PR are taking blogs for a whirl as well.

The immediate upshot, says Jupiter, is that IT needs to "figure out how to leverage existing Web content management best practices and functionality to decrease total cost of ownership, promote unified branding, and increase site security." These best practices include workflow, single-source content repositories, security and permissions, and content auditing and analytics.

But on another level, I wonder whether there's a bigger picture that IT should be thinking about. Will blogs get woven into products and services as a two-way customer-facing communication channel? Should they therefore be integrated with CRM systems? Where do podcasts fit into this? Will there be a battle for control of the blog-o-structure among the PR, market research, product management, and legal departments? And does IT really want to get in the middle of that fight, or just outsource it and get out of the way?

Upgrade Cycles Revisited: A couple weeks ago I wrote a farewell to Gates in which I complained that Microsoft still seems wedded to four-year release cycles -- questionable in an era when Web-based functionality improves continuously and seamlessly. An alert reader in Pennsylvania (I'll call him Bob) challenged me on this by e-mail, basically saying that four-year cycles suit him just fine.

"With resources stretched thin, can most IT shops afford to upgrade software every year or less?" Bob asked. "We have a hard enough time keeping up with patches, let alone upgrades. I still have the bulk of my enterprise on Office 2000, and we're only now looking at upgrading to 2003."

Well, Bob, that's just the point. If software vendors acted more like Internet service providers you wouldn't have to worry about patches or minor upgrades -- they would just happen, and happen in such a well-thought-out way that they wouldn't break the rest of your environment or send your users scrambling to call the help desk. Maybe I'm smoking dope here, but is it too much to ask that software could become standardized enough, and loosely coupled enough, that you could just get upgrades on tap?

If end-users have been clamoring for a better UI for Office (as I've heard they have), couldn't Microsoft have just provided that as a skin? Why should I as a user have to wait until 2009 to get an innovation that happens in 2005?

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