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3/4/2005
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Look Who's Blogging

How five executives got blog religion and are using it to their professional and personal advantage.

Phil Windley
Tip #1: Use your clout


Phil Windley, former CIO of Utah -- Photo by Lance Clayton

Phil Windley,
former CIO of Utah

Photo by Lance Clayton
Most technology execs might well shrink in terror at the idea of writing a blog. Liability, competitive secrets, management-worker friction--the potential pitfalls are numerous. Then there's Phil Windley, former CIO of Utah.

About four years ago, Windley started a blog to create a conversation between himself and the 900 state IT workers scattered like truck stops around the state. Out of those 900 employees, only five of them reported to Windley. The rest reported to other state-agency heads who followed the CIO's lead at their discretion. Windley doesn't come across as an empire builder, nor is he the contented figurehead type. He saw blogging as a way to persuade and influence the IT bureaucracy, making operations more coherent and cost-effective.

"I offered to pay for blog-software licenses for any state employee," Windley recalls. "About 40 took me up on that and started blogging. It was an interesting experiment." One result: People in different departments, each of which has its own unique computer infrastructure, began sharing experiences using IT products, reducing wheel-reinvention.

But not all of Windley's ideas were favorably received. He believed that state IT operations would run better if policy-making at the top were more transparent. From his perch, Windley wanted to foster a center-to-edge community of technology professionals through his blog. But some state policy makers wouldn't allow certain state-agency activities to be covered in real time. "We were going through a gut-wrenching reorganization-planning process in the spring of 2002," Windley recalls. That process, he says, would have benefited from more transparency. "But everyone would've been extremely nervous with me writing about the process as it was ongoing."

Blog excerpt: Dec. 1, 2004
"I blog to be part of a community of people whom I respect; I want to understand their thinking, and I want them to understand mine. I blog to be part of the conversation. I blog to remember. I blog to refine my thinking. I blog because I don't think I really understand something until I write about it."
— Phil Windley


Windley also used his blog to raise flags about upcoming technology changes so staff didn't feel bushwhacked. Eventually, though, the CIO was told to keep a lid on such news.

Now a professor of computer science at Brigham Young University, Windley is an unreconstructed free-blogger. Says Windley, "If someone were to give me that opportunity again--not that I'd want it--I'd be more transparent."

Photo by Lance Clayton


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