Risks of Internal Employee Blogs

Posted by Brett Young | Friday, November 7, 2008 | , | 0 comments »

In my last post I listed nine benefits of internal employee blogs. In addition to the potential benefits, internal employee blogs may pose some risks, including the following:

  • Potential disclosure of false, personal, sensitive, or embarrassing information that could put the company at risk – Assuming these blogs are only accessible inside the firewall, this risk is somewhat decreased. However, when you give every person the ability to publish content that could be accessed by every other person in the company, there is good chance that someone will eventually post content that should not have been published. The biggest deterrent to intentional abuse is to ensure that the name of the author is always clearly visible. The lack of anonymity assists most people in making the right decision. Additionally, a strictly enforced policy with real penalties is a good practice. Many companies today have adopted the simple policy of "don't do anything stupid. And, "if you do, you will be fired." Then they follow through on that threat quickly and decisively.
  • Difficult or impossible to monitor or control blog content – The old model of having a corporate gatekeeper edit and approve any content that it published to a large audience cannot support the scale required by social networking technologies. It remains to be seen if automated, rules-based content scanners will be able to flag and perhaps quarantine risky content. Making authorship explicit and having an enforced policy should sufficiently mitigate this risk.
  • Loss of productivity – Of course the big fear from many managers is the potential loss of productivity. Are people going to stop doing their "real job" in favor of posting to their blog? It's unlikely. This sounds like the worry that employees would abuse telephone or internet access. Most companies at least seen clear to allow every employee to have access to these technologies. In reality, only a small percentage of employees will consistently write to their personal blog anyway. Of those, an even smaller percentage will develop a following beyond their immediate team. In the end, every person's performance should be measured against quantifiable job objectives. Effective performance and compensation systems will help ensure that people do what is in the best interest of the company.
  • Increased support costs – With any new application there are ongoing support costs. That is also true for internal employee blogs. In addition to looking for a solution that is supportable and robust, consider the offsetting benefits and base your decision on the total value of the technology, not just the cost. In my current company we plan to leverage the blogging functionality built into Sharepoint (MOSS 2007), which should keep the support costs in check. When you compare the relatively low cost of internal employee blogs with the potential benefits outlined in my previous post, the decision should be clear.
  • Content will become stale – With any content repository, one of the greatest risks is that the content will lose its value over time. It is difficult to automate the process of assessing content value on any basis other than age. We assume that the older the content is, the greater the potential is for being stale. While that may be true, it is equally true that some content is stale within hours and other content retains its value for years. This risk should be considered as part of an overarching content and records management strategy. Of all the risks, this one may be the most difficult to mitigate adequately. To date, the most common approach is to accept this risk or enforce a draconian retention rule to the entire repository instead of basing retention on the content itself.

While there are some risks related to internal employee blogs, most of them can be successfully mitigated with an effective risk management strategy. Can you think anything I missed?

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