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May 13, 2005

Can blogging boost IBM's revenues and reduce layoffs? The computer giant is about to find out as it prepares to launch a massive corporate blog initiative

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

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Early next week IBM will introduce the largest ever corporate blogging initiative in a bid to encourage any of its 130,000 staff to become online evangelists for the company.

The move comes on the heels of IBM's most recent quarterly financial report, which missed Wall Street expectations and led to announced layoffs of 15,000, with more than 13,000 of those lost jobs in Europe. The company hopes blogging could help stem further losses if it can galvanize employees into an army of online evangelists for IBM's products and technologies.

Employees will taught what blogging is, and they will be guided on what is appropriate blogging content. IBM has also set up a wiki, a simple technology that allows groups to collaborate on projects and share knowledge. Wikis are not as sophisticated as IBM's Notes collaborative software, but they are making significant inroads within corporate departments where they sometimes displace the use of the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

The goal is to help improve IBM's competitive position in key IT markets by having more of its tech gurus participating in online communities and discussions.

This type of evangelism through blogging can be extremely effective and potentially reduce advertising and marketing costs—a very large line item for most companies. Such savings could offset job cuts—the traditional way IBM and other tech companies reduce their costs.

The IBM blogging project is being run by Jim Finn, the former chief of communications at Oracle, and now number two in the corporate communications team at IBM. "We've got a lot of experts in their fields and we want to encourage them to become involved in blogging and online discussions," Mr Finn told SiliconValleyWatcher.

Leading the IBM troops into the blogosphere will be IBM's chief strategist, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who will begin writing a blog. He is credited with persuading IBM to become an early advocate for Linux, and to cultivate relationships with the open-source developer community. This resulted in a significant competitive advantage for IBM because it reduced software development costs, and it hurt Microsoft, it's largest competitor.

Mr Wladawsky-Berger will author a blog but Mr Finn says readers might find less on tech and more on baseball — an interest that relates to his Cuban heritage.

IBM's blogging initiative includes the publication of interviews with staff who are already bloggers and are well recognized within their online communities, such as Catherine Helzerman. She says it has been good for her career. "Blogging has provided me with recognition within the company, and outside," says Ms Helzerman.

She said that Robert Scoble, a leading blogger at competitor Microsoft, recently posted a link on his blog Scobleizer to her site, which boosted her readership.

May 13, 2005 05:26 AM

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