Wikis in the Enterprise

The internet is abuzz with discussions and posts about the great effectiveness of wikis. Where, social networks and blogs might unearth concerns of information security, wikis provide a powerful way to collectively create, edit, showcase, collaborate and build on the tacit knowledge of the Enterprise. For the uninitiated, wikis are defined by Cunningham in a post by Nathan Matias as the simplest online database that could possibly work”; his article elaborates on some of the salient features of wikis and the reasons for their popularity. Perhaps the most popular example of a Wiki, is Wikipedia, itself. From Wikipedia Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference websites, attracting nearly 78 million visitors monthly as of January 2010. There are more than 91,000 active contributors working on more than 16,000,000 articles in more than 270 languages.” Therefore, it is not difficult to imagine the possibilities for wiki adoption within the enterprise, if they are successfully implemented.

Though a majority of wiki solutions are basically open source, there are 4 main enterprise wiki solution providers that provide support through the implementation lifecycle with ongoing maintenance support, as reviewed in an article by Ron AndersonAtlassian Software Systems, CustomerVision, JotSpot and Socialtext. Below are the results from his research at the Real-World Labs®, at Syracuse University:

Now, I’ve used Confluence (version, unknown), an Atlassian Software Systems product; it is the enterprise wiki deployment of choice at Sabre Holdings Inc., where I worked until 2008. As a Subject Matter Expert – I have authored several product feature documents and have – therefore – been responsible for maintaining the wiki ensuring that product documentation stays up-to-date. The Sabre-Confluence deployment was a strictly internal wiki, and while the document distribution went through several quality iterations before sharing with customers, the interface was not exactly the most intuitive around, which certainly affected productivity. I have – on more than one occasion – lost current versions of documents that I had been working on for days; support for multiple file types (past the usual .doc, .pdf, .jpg, .png, .gif and a few others) was lacking. Beyond these basic issues, the wiki was still the primary source of information for business analysts, SME’s, and project teams and I can safely say that – at the time – product teams were better informed, transparent and more productive through the use of the Confluence wiki.

Another Enterprise Wiki platform of repute of the BizWiki solution by CustomerVision, as reported in an article by Michael Hickins. Perhaps one of the most useful features of this product is that “It also allows users to get authoritative information using an ‘Ask the Expert’ function.” Steven Ollenburg, president and CEO of MWABank, a regional bank based in Illinois, as quoted in the article, explains that “Financial services entities need quick, clear and concise responsiveness to electronic customer inquiries; these cannot take days to be responded to, nor can they build up into a project.” Ollenburg also mentioned that “MWABank has generated “extremely noticeable” cost savings from the use of BizWiki”.

Jotspot, which was acquired by Google in late 2006, reappeared on the market as the better known Google Sites service, part of Google Apps, after a long integration effort to align the service with Google’s Enterprise architecture.

An interesting use of the service by a law firm was recently reported by Anchoris; Anthony, the firm’s IT manger is quoted as saying “We wanted to create extranets for our clients instead to help us collaborate more easily and efficiently with them.” Through a highly effective deployment of the Google Sites solution and its use as a wiki, the firm has witnessed a significant change to their business processes.

“The feedback we have had is that the extranet is very easy to learn and use and that it is a real time saver.”

“The security provided by Google Sites means we can easily yet securely share podcasts relating specifically to a client’s business, as well as create and share podcasts of some of our generic training.”

The case study for this google sites deployment is available here.

There are several driving factors for the increase in wiki adoption within the Enterprise; the most notable of these is knowledge management. If you are looking at wiki adoption in your organisation, here are some great tips for wiki adoption by Sherif Mansour:

  1. Pick a good Wiki
  2. Let your Wiki ‘virally’ grow
  3. Find and empower ‘Wiki Champions’ in each team
  4. Start off as open as possible, worry about guidelines later
  5. Refer people to the Wiki where you can
  6. Bottom up, not top down
  7. Training should not be more than one hour demo

References

Anchoris. 2010. Law firm delivers better service to clients using Google Sites. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://www.ancoris.com/company/case-studies/case-studies-cloud-web-email/law-firm-google-sites.html

Anderson, R. 2006. Review: Wikis In The Enterprise. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://www.networkcomputing.com/unified-communications-voip/review-wikis-in-the-enterprise.php

Hickins, M. 2006. Social Networking Comes to the Enterprise. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article.php/3601356/Social-Networking-Comes-to-the-Enterprise.htm

Mansour, S. 2008. Seven wiki adoption techniques for the enterprise. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://blog.sherifmansour.com/?p=200

Matias, N. 2003. What is a Wiki? Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://articles.sitepoint.com/article/what-is-a-wiki

Wikipedia. 2010. Wikipedia:About. Retrieved September 13, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About

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About Shri Ram
Senior Project Manager with 8 years of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) and business management experience in the private sector with key emphasis on program management, strategic project management, account management, vendor management and best-in-class product development utilizing PMBOK/PRINCE2/Agile Project Management Methodologies.

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