I’m pleased to announce the arrival of the first Dark Blogs case study, examining the use of Traction’s TeamPage enterprise weblog software for a competitive intelligence project within a large European pharmaceutical group. The case study examines the reasons why blogs where chosen, project planning, implementation, integration with other business systems, editorial process, launch and promotion, training and adoption.

This case study is released as a 28 page PDF (2.3 MB) under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons licence for you to download and distribute.

I’d been thinking over the last six months or so that it is pretty easy for those of us on the outside to make assumptions about how blogs can be used behind the firewall, what implementation and adoption problems exist and how they can be solved. As far as I could see, the only real way to get this information was to do detailed case studies, and this is the first in a series that I am writing.

Once I had agreement from Traction to sponsor their client’s case study, and once I’d had a good think about what sort of questions I wanted to answer, I sent over a short questionnaire to the client to find out what the situation was. I then spent an hour or so on the phone, interviewing the pharma group’s CIO and followed that up by grilling Traction’s Jordan Frank at length to fill in some of the technical gaps.

This case study is based on that data and on subsequent email and phone conversations. I have been as thorough and as objective as possible, but if there are any questions you have, either about information you think is missing or points you’d like clarified, please do leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to address them if I can.

Finally, it’s a bit of a shame that the case study had to be anonymous, but that turned out to be the deal. Companies can be sensitive and secretive sometimes, despite the fact that we would all like them to be open and transparent. It’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Below the break: The Executive Summary.

Executive Summary
Blogs, or weblogs, are websites which allow users to easily post information of any type, with each post categorised by topic, time-stamped and displayed in reverse chronological order. Blogs usually allow readers to leave comments on individual posts, encouraging conversation between blogger and commenter. Permanent links, or ‘permalinks’, allow readers to bookmark individual posts within the blog.

Blogs are being increasingly used in business instead of large, unwieldy content or knowledge management systems, for enabling business processes and engendering communication, but few examples of real-world usage have been made available to executives interested in assessing the suitability of blogs for their own projects.

This case study examines how a European pharmaceutical group used Traction Software’s TeamPage (www.tractionsoftware.com) enterprise weblog software to create a competitive intelligence (CI) knowledge base to replace previous platforms such as Lotus Notes databases and static websites.

The CIO chose Traction TeamPage for a number of reasons:

• the format was ideal for the type of competitive intelligence material they were collating
• it was easy to implement and could be tightly integrated with existing business systems, such as the LDAP corporate directory, Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office
• it supports unlimited, individually permissioned blogs within a single, integrated installation
• it supports user permissions across reading, authoring, editing and commenting functions on a blog by blog basis
• the publishing process allows for collaborative editing
• it was easy to use and required minimal training, thus lowering the bar for adoption
• it was low cost to buy, deploy and manage

The CIO put together a small team which began examining the CI problem in late 2002, beginning development with Traction Software in 2004 and soft launching that autumn. They decided that, due to the nature of the material being published, an editorial committee was needed to ensure content had been validated before publication. They created a clear publishing process, with a private editorial blog to which readers could submit potential content via email or a web form. This content would then be assessed by a member of the editorial committee and posted to the appropriate blog. This semi-open publishing process is balanced by a fully open commenting system which allows any reader to post comments on any article.

The blogs were promoted via word of mouth, coverage in the company’s internal magazine and viral marketing, with the CIO and his team mentioning the project in any presentations they gave. The initial user group was drawn from a pool of employees already active in the competitive intelligence field. Users were introduced to the software in informal face-to-face meetings where they could explore it at their own pace. Formal training procedures were deemed unnecessary due to the simplicity of the user interface.

Traction TeamPage has had a very good reception from users, who found it to be easy to surf and navigate. The project as a whole has also been received very well, with feedback from users indicating that they find the content relevant and valuable. Although the jury is still out, early reaction is very encouraging.

The CIO is now examining the possibility of increasing the number of blogs from the six currently in place, for use in more project-based work across the group. He is working with Traction Software on enhancements to the current system including further integration with third party applications. His experience with blogging has been overwhelmingly positive, and the company are keen to see the project grow.

For the rest of the report, please downlod the PDF (2.3 MB).

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