How one company collaborates using wikis, blogs

CORT BUSINESS SERVICES has adopted wikis and blogs to help foster internal collaboration across different departments and to manage the workflow for its e-commerce site, which rents out home and office furniture and helps companies relocate employees to new locations.

The company has about 2,500 employees spread out across 180 locations. The highly distributed nature of its workforce made it a perfect candidate for a social software suite, notes Lee Thomas, vice president of information technology and product development. “We’re a decentralized company,” he says. “It’s hard to know who is impacted by every decision we make. We need the proper people to stay in the loop regarding relevant information, and stay out of the loop when it isn’t relevant.”

Thomas says most internal communications and project management had previously been done over e-mail, which had its pitfalls.

Thomas himself makes effective use of the new tools. As a department head, he frequently had to write e-mails updating his team on operational issues and LOB heads on ongoing IT projects. Since adopting the social software platform, those parties are kept up to date by subscribing to his blog, where he lays it all out. “I’m getting out of the status report business,” he says.

Jonathan Edwards, an analyst with Yankee Group who studies Web 2.0 in the enterprise, says many companies have begun to see the value in bringing these types of technologies into the workplace because teams can use them in any way they see fit. “The beauty of these tools is their flexibility,” Edwards says. “They are being used for project management, internal collaboration, and to build customer, partner and developer communities. [Social software] vendors have been blown away with the creativity of their clients.”

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