Blogs refine enterprise focus

Building on the success of Weblogs for personal Web publishing, enterprises are starting to tap into blogs to streamline specific business processes such as intelligence gathering or to augment traditional content-and knowledge-management technologies.

Free or low-cost personal tools from pioneering software companies such as UserLand Software Inc., Pyra Labs Inc., Moveable Type Inc., and others have fueled the thriving Weblog personal publishing movement since its emergence in the late 1990s.

While many freeware vendors also offer fee-based software and services for corporate users, a newer crop of vendors is stepping up to extend Weblogs to specific business processes such as corporate intelligence gathering and market research.

These enterprise-specific blogs from companies including Traction Software Inc., Tech Dirt, and Trellix Corp. use the same core user-friendly Web publishing approach with added features to regulate access control and security and to bolster functions such as search.

Using time and topic as organizational themes, Weblogs allow users to easily collect and publish information to the Web from e-mail, Web sites, Microsoft Corp. Office documents, and other sources. In addition, Weblogs typically use XML to embed links from a variety of information sources.

Traction Software last month introduced enterprise Weblog technology targeted at the competitive intelligence and market research industries. Traction C.I. (competitive intelligence) is designed to help facilitate research processes common to marketing and competitive intelligence gathering, such as collecting, organizing, sharing, linking, and retrieving strategic information from multiple sources.

Weblogs offer enterprises an alternative to e-mail or traditional content management by providing easy-to-use publishing tools that create a unified repository of shared information for quick dissemination, according to Tim Simonson, CEO of Traction Software in Providence, R.I.

“[Weblogs] take highly unstructured, fragmented information and put structure around and send it out to users through the Internet,” Simonson said.

Traction Software’s TeamPage Enterprise Weblog software includes a permissioning structure that moderates access to content, rich search capabilities, archives, and bidirectional linking to show relationships between ideas.

Moreover, Weblogs can be used as a way to augment traditional enterprise collaboration tools that provide file-level document management, whiteboards, e-mail, and online meeting spaces, Simonson said.

Minneapolis, Minn.-based software developer Notiva Corp. uses Traction Weblog software for a variety of efforts, such as project management, competitive intelligence, intranet search, and knowledge management, according to Tim Dawson, lead technical architect at Notiva.

In addition, Notiva’s development team uses the Weblog software as a common knowledge management tool that can be used to convey changes to an application or new information that would be helpful to product development.

Meanwhile, Foster City, Calif.-based Techdirt offers outsourced competitive intelligence services delivered via its Weblog software, including searching, aggregation, and artificial intelligence components. A blog is a good delivery format for corporate intelligence data because “it summarizes important points and puts the information into a system that archives it as well,” said Mike Masnick, president of Techdirt.

Also last month, Weblog tools vendor Trellix was acquired by Web hosting provider Interland Inc., which plans to use Trellix’s Web publishing technologies to target the small- to mid-sized business market.