IT360 Conference: Blogging & Social Software in the Corporate Environment

I'm crunching on the finishing touches to my slides today, getting ready for my talk at the IT360° Conference here in Toronto tomorrow morning. Looks like I'm on right after Wikinomics co-author, Don Tapscott - kind of a tough act to follow.

I'm looking forward to this event, though. It should be a good chance to talk about blogging and other social software goodies to an audience unlike the usual echo chamber of ardent blogophiles I often find myself in front of.

Don't get me wrong: I still enjoy attending the heavily bloggy conferences, seminars, and camps. Who doesn't want to mix and mingle with friends and fellow travellers? But it's also possible to have rather too much of the old Kool-Aid Gang (Kool-Aid and the Gang?).

Again, there's nothing entirely wrong about preaching to the converted - indulging in bloggy "inside baseball” with a bunch of fellow fanatics, all back-slapping and high-fiving each other like crazy. But I remember something I wrote waaay back on the original Cluetrain email list, back when the movement was just a website; the book a mere twinkle in the authors' collective eyes:

This message wants to MOVE - and it is doing, but mainly from one already "clued" individual to the next badass, net-savvy, already hyperlinked dude.

That's why it's good to break out of the clubby, incestuous circles of the blogosphere every now and then, and get out in front of audiences who haven't already got a complete set of Seth Godin bedlinen. What's the point of being a social software evangelist, if you're only ever evangelizing to your buddies?

The audience for the IT360° event should be a good mix of IT professionals, corporate network managers, and hardcore techies. So it's not that I'm expecting them to be completely unaware of the rise of social software - far from it. But I'm hoping to use this talk as an opportunity to look at the democratizing impact of social software from their perspective, if possible. Looking at how blogging, wikis and other, similar technologies are shifting the way content gets created and published in corporate environments, and what the impact is for the role of the corporate IT pro.

Working with the conference producer on the plan for this session, we came up with the title: "The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum". A tad extreme, perhaps, but I heard that precise sentiment expressed by a friend who is a corporate IT manager just a few months ago. He used to have the company's web group tucked in as part of his org chart, with their webmaster reporting directly into him. The only content that ever got produced online passed across his desk before reaching the outside world.

His company's marketing department had recently decided to look at implementing some blogs inside the firewall. The intention, according to his marketing VP, was to enhance internal communications and show how "leading edge" they were.

Taking an appropriately inclusive approach, they chose to bring their IT Chief and one of his team members into the discussions early on.

Aglow with evangelical zeal, the marketing VP announced: "we're launching an internal blogging project, and we want to be sure we have your support". At this point, the more junior member of the IT staff in attendance piped up:

"An official one, you mean."

Marketing Veep: "Pardon?"

IT Guy: "An official one. You're launching an official blogging project."

Marketing Veep: "Sure. Er...yes. So, we want to talk you through our plans, and..."

IT Chief (interrupting): "Hang on," (turning to junior IT Guy) "What are we missing?"

IT Guy: "Oh, I just meant this would be an official blog to add to the six internal ones running on Drupal we already have."

Marketing Veep & IT Chief (in unison): "WHAT?!"

IT Guy: "Yeah, and two of your product managers have external blogs too."

Marketing Veep: (faints)

This story didn't surprise me in the least, by the way. I'm sure the same scenario is continuing to unfold the wide world over.

Question is, if you're an IT pro, what are you supposed to do about it? That's what I'm going to try to get into in tomorrow's session.