Seven Strategies for Implementing a Successful Corporate Wiki

Jan. 24, 2008
By 2009, at least 50 percent of organizations will use wikis as important work collaboration tools -- will you be in that number?

Gasoline prices and the goal among many organizations to keep retirement-age workers active and involved are encouraging more employers to offer telecommuting options to employees.

Businesses must enlist technologies that will help workers stay connected while they collaborate on internal projects. One tool to receive greater consideration in 2008 is wiki technology, according to a new study completed by the Society for Information Management's Advanced Practices Council (APC).

A wiki is a writable web that every approved user can edit. Originally designed for online collaboration among loosely affiliated software developers, wiki technology is moving into the mainstream corporate IT infrastructure. Some firms have used wikis since the late 1990s. Moreover, the success of Wikipedia is placing wikis squarely on the CIO's radar screen.

When considering use of wikis, CIOs should keep in mind that in reality, a large number of companies may already have employees using wikis for work purposes without the authority to do so.

Perhaps a better question than whether unsanctioned use of wikis should be tolerated is: "How and what can be done to ensure employees use wikis productively and for the larger good?"

The APC commissioned research this year to help its members plan better for 2008.

It asked:

  • How are wikis used now in corporations?
  • What's the value wikis present?
  • What are the barriers to implementing wikis corporate-wide?
  • What are the best practices for sustaining wikis?

After surveying more than 160 active corporate wiki users, the APC study identified seven strategies to be followed in 2008 to ensure the sustainability and value of a corporate wiki:

  1. Integrate the wiki as one of several important tools in an organization's IT collaboration architecture.
  2. Understand the wiki "rules of conduct" and ensure they are monitored and enforced.
  3. Optimize the use of wikis for collaborative knowledge creation across geographically dispersed employees, and for crossing divisional or functional boundaries, in order to gain insights from people not previously connected.
  4. Assign a champion to each wiki and have that champion observe contributions that people make to the wiki; the champion will help foster employees who adopt the important "shaper" role within the wiki.
  5. Recognize that the most difficult barrier to cross in sustaining a wiki is convincing people to edit others' work; organizations should ask their champion and managers to help with this.
  6. Recognize that a significant value of wikis comes from embedding small software programs into the wiki that structure repetitive behavior. Some include organizing meeting minutes, rolling up project status or scheduling meetings. Ask wiki participants to keep watching for repetitive activity to evolve and enhance wiki technology.
  7. Understand wikis are best used in work cultures that encourage collaboration. Without an appropriate fit with the workplace culture, wiki technology will be of limited value in sharing knowledge, ideas and practices.

The disruptive nature of wiki-based knowledge management may not be appropriate for all organizations. Those with traditional hierarchical information sharing approaches will not "get it."

Some organizations in industries with little turbulence and low information intensiveness will not have much need for wikis. Nevertheless, a large number of organizations can benefit from a wiki approach to knowledge management, whether in small project teams or through an Intranet.

The APC researchers predict many more organizations will start using wikis in 2008, confirming Gartner's earlier predictions (Gartner, 2005) that by 2009, at least 50 percent of organizations will use wikis as important work collaboration tools.

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