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Update on Blogs as PM Tools – Tales from the Front Lines

We seem to be going through a second wave of focus (hype?) in the popular technology press, on the idea of using blogs as an important project management tool. The topic made the cover of CIO Magazine this week – Lynch made a number of interesting observations – interesting because I don’t necessarily see the same things in practice:

  • The Reputation Hurdle: While I agree that blogs aren’t fully understood by everyone, the folks that need to use them pick up on the concept very quickly. The beneficiaries of project-focused blogs are the folks participating directly on the project, plus other teams that are dependent on the resources or results involved. We still need to present project status to the management level using tried-and-true PowerPoints.
  • Start Small: The biggest reason to start small, and allow the popularity of PM blogs to spread virally, is that you don’t have to devote time and energy to develop training material. Folks see how blogs work, eliminating e-mail threads that clutter up their inboxes, and they just get their neighbor to show them how it works. The real power in gras-roots process improvement like this: you don’t have to invest in formal training. Time-pressed IT departments typically don’t have time to develop
    fancy training material – and they usually not good at it.
  • Curing the eMail Addicts: Lynch opens up a very interesting door when he connects importance of RSS to the relevance of blogs. I’ve had a couple of conversations now with folks who can only see blogs as yet another website I need to visit, more information overload to deal with. eMail is a mission-critical system for many companies, partially because people have learned to use it as an information aggregator. Only when folks see an RSS client in action do they really understand what’s going on;
    the blog/website is nothing, but collecting feeds from the 50 projects you want to keep tabs on, and seeing timely updates about them all in one place – that’s powerful, and that’s when they really “get it”.

A Key Observation

We’ve been using the MS SharePoint template for a couple of different projects (single efforts) and programs (groups of projects in support of a strategic initiative). We’ve also had an IT wiki in place for almost two years now. It’s fascinating to note how different the rate of adoption for these two technologies has been; getting content added to the wiki is sometimes like pulling teeth, but the blogs are taking off in some areas. Even in small teams that sit within 20 feet of each other; postings, comments
and responses are plentiful.

After talking with some of these folks, I’ve realized that using a blog and responding to a post is just like eMail – it’s just stored in a database, accessed using the browser, and conveniently linked to the project. The wiki, on the other hand, is Yet Another piece of formal documentation – and who likes to do that?

More and Better Thoughts

I had a few posts on this topic last year, but Dennis McDonald has been consistently posting a bunch of interesting content in this area:

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