Thursday, February 08, 2007

Internal blogs as project tracking tools

I'm reading "The Corporate Blogging Book" by Debbie Weil. She talks about two different types of blogs -- internal (Intranet-type) and external (public access) -- and she mentions how some big name companies use internal blogs for all sorts of purposes: knowledge/information sharing, email replacement, and, the thing that caught my attention, project management. Apparently IBM is big on all these things when it comes to internal blogs.

So I had a mini-revelation: an internal blog is a very good tool for tracking time you spend on various projects. Take the example of a hosting company -- it can set up an internal blog and have categories corresponding to various projects/customers; employees can jot down a summary of what they worked on each day, and put it in the appropriate category. After a while, a timeline of work done on particular projects emerges. Because posts are automatically dated, it's easy to see what you were working on 3 weeks or 3 months ago. And each blog post can contain links to more detailed howtos that are kept in a wiki which serves as a knowledge base. Blogs and wikis make entering information a snap, as opposed to more complicated project management/tracking tools. Blogs and wikis are also searchable, so finding information is easy. To me, this is a lean/agile way of keeping track of your work.

Anyway, maybe this is an obvious use of blogs, but to me it's new, and of course I'm going to implement it :-)


mde said...

Hi Grig --
This idea is a bit obvious *to me* but not to most -- I've been tracking status (month-based pages) on a MoinMoin wiki in my company for about a year. It was great to be able to just point my team to my wiki area to show what I'm working on. (I also track just about every aspect of work on a wiki.) The problem I've faced is getting others to adopt the idea. So far I'm basically the only person using it, despite having set up wikis for a dozen different teams (and evangelizing). I even get the impression that most co-workers have never used a feed reader!

Thanks for the book link. Your idea is great, and *the* way to track progress IMO. They'll catch on eventually, I'm sure, whether next month or next decade.

Grig Gheorghiu said...

mde -- thanks for the comment. I have been using wikis too for a couple of years now, but a big difference between a wiki and a blog is that the blog posts are automatically ordered in a chronological order, and archived per month, so they automatically give you a timeline of your work. A wiki need to manually be organized chronologically. This to me was the mini-revelation :-)


will said...

One of the reasons I started using PyBlosxom was to keep an internal blog at the company I was working at. The blog did a bunch of really great things for me:

1) it acted as a great history of what I was working on when, what I did, what problems I encountered, anything I left unfinished, and things to think about in the future

2) it helped me pull all my thoughts together on the things I was working on and centralize them into one place: code snippets, bug numbers, answers from questions I asked, ... this really is hugely useful.

3) it allowed anyone else in the company to see what I worked on, when I worked on it, what I did, ... checkin comments are cool, but unless you want to write novels, it's hard to add all the relevant context especially when checkins are related to complex intricacies of multiple issues.

4) you have a historical log of what you've done for the company. this helps everyone during review time because it's otherwise hard to keep track of who did what.

Anyhow, I highly recommend keeping an internal blog. I hosted my on my laptop--it doesn't have to be on a corporate-central server.

Grig Gheorghiu said...

Thanks, Will, that's exactly what I had in mind too. Glad to hear it worked so well for you, here's hoping that it will do the same for me and my company :-)


Debbie said...


Delighted to hear you're finding my book useful. I was interested in what your readers said about the difference between blogs and wikis. I think it's true that they're quite different. Interestingly, wikis can be more daunting to use for those who don't want to dabble with code. Blog on!

A4 said...

I think, you will bump into a problem: not everyone like to post in blogs and write/type in general.

But good luck!

Grig Gheorghiu said...

Debbie -- thank you for the comment, it was a big and pleasant surprise to see that you already found my post and commented on it! I agree with you, wikis are sometime harder to set up than blogs, and they require more hand-holding.

I finished the book in the mean time, and I want to congratulate you for a very good job. I found it very useful, and I will recommend it to my co-workers, and I also recommend it here to the readers of my blog.


Grig Gheorghiu said...

A4 -- if people don't want to type/write, then we have a bigger problem than just blogs :-) That means they won't use more complicated project tracking tools either. A blog has a pretty low barrier of entry IMO.

Anonymous said...

is there any site which has this software
where do i will i find such a project tracking tool

Grig Gheorghiu said...

Anonymous -- the point of my post is that you don't need a project tracking tool for the purpose of keeping track of work you spend on internal projects. Any blogging software would do it. Examples are wordpress, movable type, pyblosxom, etc.


Sports Picks said...

Thanks, Will, that's exactly what I had in mind too. Glad to hear it worked so well for you, here's hoping that it will do the same for me and my company