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How to launch a successful departmental blog

posted Apr 18, 2012, 12:31 AM by Francois Tricot   [ updated Apr 18, 2012, 12:56 AM ]
As an advocate of digital collaboration, I thought it was easy to install a "digital collaboration attitude" in my team. We have the tools, we have the projects, we need to work in teams, collaborate, communicate. Then why not link all this with a departemental blog : @THE IT BLOG.

It happened to be harder than expected. Anyhow it is blooming now. This is the story.

The blog was started in september 2009. We initially created a google site named "IT", for the corporate IT department and created this blog page on it. Up to 25 potential contributors, members of Ceva corporate IT.

At the same time, we saw a huge number of creation of Google Sites for projects. People in the company were starting to create collaboration spaces and filling them. So I was convinced it would be an easy job.

Immediately after the launch, a couple of team members started to create regular posts, we had 21 posts in September, 9 in October, 4 in November. ;-(
2010 and first quarter of 2011 continued on these small numbers. 35 articles in 2009, 57 in 2010. We did not crack the code to make it successful.

As in many places, from time to time, when asking team members their feedback on what works well / what need to be improved in the department, some were pointing out that communication could be improved. But those who said that have never written a blog post (to tell the team that they started a new project, went live on another one, or wanted to share interesting industry news). Paradox.

Now @THE IT BLOG has got 400+ articles and the rate is an average 1.5 posts per day.

What happened ?

Telling constantly to people : "hey, you've done a nice job here, you should write a post on  @THE IT BLOG" was certainly not enough.

So we decided to include a new objective in the personal objectives of most people in the team. Communication is key, we expect that every individual in the team communicates on @THE IT BLOG at least once a month.

Incentives. Individual objectives were set in March. But again, we did not see a huge increase in the rate of posting and sharing.  :-(

So we told everybody, during a department meeting, that this was a serious objective. That it was more than easy to measure and that we would not forget it when calculating bonuses. We showed the statistics. Follow the money.

That was a good move.
Team members went to their keyboards and started to share. Some more than others, some less than others, it happened to be a great success.

Finally, we dedicated some time at our latest department meeting to distribute some awards to team members. The most funny post, the most useful post, the member who published the most number of articles, etc...

The latest post subjects are the following :
  • SAP take on SAS and IBM in predictive analysis
  • Firefox 3.6 end of support
  • Ouganda audit of our facilities
  • JD Edwards white paper : upgrade or rip and replace your ERP
  • 3 Friday 13 in 2012
  • 12 new file formats for Google Viewer
  • A new interface for Google+
  • A new SMS/email reminder service on our product web sites
  • A new intranet for SOP and Forms just open
  • Stopping the SAN bay
As you see, it is about IT, with some fun posts sometimes. We do not set-up restrictions and never deleted an article. Trust.
We recently added a newsletter to have the latests articles automatically sent to team members and included the blog statistics in terms of #posts/week in the main blog page.

My point of view
Sharing in a project is natural. Project team members have to collaborate and communicate to achieve their project goals.
You don't have to tell people : these are the tools, they are easy to use, I expect you to communicate and share. It happens naturally.

But sharing in a community of practice (people doing the same job) is not obvious. It's not easy.
Establishing an internal communication and collaboration media within a department requires some animation, some incentives, some management techniques to make it happen.

So if you consider doing the same in your department, don't think it's going to be easy because people already use the collaboration tools for their projects. Some management input is required to mke it successful.

Incentives, Animation, Accessibility, Trust, Safety are required to make it a success.

Writing an article and sharing it with our colleagues is not an easy thing for everybody. There is a fear that people will judge you. When clicking on "NEW POST", people may feel uncorfortable about writing and sharing.
But the team is not here to evaluate everyone writing skills. So writing the first article is somehow difficult.
But if management pushes hard to have most people writing their first article, then the first barrier is broken. And then people enjoy it and spend 10 minutes each week to communicate digitally.