Sunday, November 8, 2009

Use business strategy to be a better blogger

Are you a blogger? You’re more than that. Just as a journalist is someone who used to ask questions and write down the answers, you have more going on that just the bytes that are published. With all of the relaxing of the physical constraints that kept independent writers from expressing their views, most of which was money, the ability of information to be produced and consumed for almost free is creating a boom of blogger opining. Business is experiencing the same change and has come up with strategies that help them manage the more powerful technology better.

I’ve been a knowledge service off and on for most of my life. In college, I started with a low cost manual typewriter as an arts and entertainment reviewer and columnist, and then became a zine aficionado and editor for a local science fiction periodical where I moved up to an electric typewriter. I kept personal journals with pen and paper which I enjoy reviewing from time to time to see how my thinking has changed. But nothing quite like the immediate indexed and published architecture of the web puts you on the professional map quite as quickly and thoroughly as a writer.

This web architecture has increased the value of us personal publishers that I call knowledge services because they help encourage networking of those ideas more than the "Letters To The Editor" column ever did. All the extra widgets that technology adds to your blog to help readers respond, relate, comment, learn and understand are the basis for how value is being created.

The more you use these extra features to bring that communication of your message to your blog, the more you define yourself as a distinctive blogger with a market edge that others will take notice of. You push out of the pack and run ahead with qualities that others will copy. You are competing in a business that is full of other knowledge services and the strategy is not just to write but to write and become a market leader.

Well, you can become a market leader if you are focused on being a business. Otherwise, you just have a nice personal journal that your Aunt Tillie is proud of you for. But some of us want to have our opinions heard and are using the technology for a goal and not just for entertainment.

Being in business as a knowledge service also applies to any other activity that you may involve yourself in on the web, including your Twitter account, photo management accounts, forums, groups, and all sorts of social networks. Any activity that processes information for consumption on the web as a distribution channel is a knowledge service. It is always a part of a product that is being offered and people know it as the identity of that online person or product which they learn to trust.

In 2005, Hugh MacLeod, in his Gaping Void blog, called this digital shadow a global microbrand which he attributed to business writer Tom Peters’ idea of the personal brand or “Brand You.” Robert Scoble developed the idea of a personal brand also. Hugh said that the global microbrand has existed for a while, long before the internet was invented. It was the well-known author or painter, selling his work all over the world or a small whiskey distillery in Scotland. It could have been a small cheese maker in rural France, whose produce is exported to Paris, London, Tokyo etc. or a violin maker in Italy or a classical guitar maker in Spain or even a small English firm like Holland & Holland making $50,000 shotguns. The common factor here is that they are a new kind of flexible, smart small business and serve a relatively small number of people. Big businesses drool over their profit margins and adaptability. Their customers are knocked out by what they do and how they do it.

IT organizations are experiencing the same issues but at a different scale. But the key processes by which they deliver that value to the customer are the same. Both the individual blogger and the large IT organizations are finding growth and prosperity in using the new tools of the trade. It’s this growth that is creating the challenges for service management to understand and allowing them to take advantage of new opportunities.

The management of the knowledge service is what I want to keep a conversation going about here. The discussion will initially be on just strategy but will progress into all phases of service management and use concepts from the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to understand what the best business solution is. ITIL is a great collection of modern business techniques for folks encountering technology and wanting to get it under control.

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