Internal Blogs—Your Next Communication Tool?
Don’t cringe at the word "blog." A private, internal blog may be an effective means to improve shop communication and retain important information.
I’m not particularly fond of the word blog (short for Web log). And not all blogs add value to the Web-exploring experience. Some offer keen insight about certain topics, yet others simply serve as an e-soapbox enabling their owners to spout opinions and cite "facts" related to politics, pop culture and plenty of other stuff.
Put aside any preconceived notions you have about blogs for a moment and focus on how they function. Basic, intuitive (and in some cases free) computer software and a bit of server space allow a blog writer to compile information in one location ad infinitum. Users can then access the blog with any Web browser and search the blog’s body of knowledge via keywords.
Now, slap a password-protected firewall on the front end so that only select people—not all Web surfers—can access it. What you have then is a simple, inexpensive means to privately share information, in addition to a digital repository for that information—an internal blog.
Large businesses, including IBM, Microsoft, and Northwestern Mutual, use internal blogs. Why shouldn’t a shop?
Internal blogs can facilitate both intra and interdepartmental communication. Members of a particular team (designers, CAM programmers and QA inspectors, for example) can collect and share advice, ideas and intel about their disciplines. Similarly, internal blogs can improve communication between departments that are collaborating on a manufacturing project. In particular, they can be an effective way to bridge the gap that commonly separates designers and manufacturing engineers. They can also serve as project journals so that key project information is not lost or hidden in someone’s hard drive or e-mail account upon project completion.
Beyond an initial "You want me to blog?" response you might receive, you might also encounter other challenges implementing this type of communication medium. Some people may be so used to quickly firing off e-mails that they don’t stop and think that the information they are sending merits a blog entry. Firm guidelines would have to be set to identify appropriate blog-entry etiquette. You don’t want your blogs to serve as convenient platforms for employee ranting or complaining.
I’m not suggesting that an internal blog is the holy grail of effective shop communication. And blogging isn’t useful for every shop. However, if you think it might prove helpful in your situation, Andrea Albl, our Web guru, has compiled some tips for setting up internal blogs. Find a link to that article in the Learn More box located at the top-right of this page. The article link is found under "Editor Picks."
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