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Corporate wiki strategies

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In this week’s post, i will be introducing some corporate wiki strategies. Wikipedia comes to mind when people hear the word wiki but there are multiple ways to utilize a wiki within an organization that are very different from the conventional Wikipedia. Corporate wikis are more aligned to the day-to-day activities, demands, and goals in a working environment.

Thousands of organizations ranging from Microsoft to FBI use wikis to harness the collective intelligence of their employees, providing them with a platform to electronically converge and collaborate on work-related matters from planning of meetings and documenting best practices to innovating new ideas about new products and business processes.

Some things that an organisation can do with a corporate wiki:

  • Build knowledge repositories (e.g. employee’s handbook, Q & A)
  • Document business processes
  • Project management
  • Meeting agendas/minutes
  • Brainstorming for ideas

Barriers to adoption

The disruptive nature of wikis can make managers squeamish, especially in organisations with very hierarchical management styles (top-down culture). The management’s unease are all about employees’ solving problems among themselves instead of waiting to be told what to do therefore hierarchical cultures limits the effectiveness of wikis. Managerial climates may need to adjust themselves in order for organizations to fully take advantage of the technology.

If every employee is afraid to modify a page on a wiki that was written or edited by management staff, it defeats the purpose of having a wiki in the first place. Corporate wikis work best when the management encourages everyone in the company to put ideas forward in good faith.

Of course, employees still need to recognize that the management makes the final decisions at the end of the day. That being said, if the CEO gets his facts wrong on a wiki, in an ideal world, you would want the employee who spotted it to respectfully and carefully fix it.

Corporate wikis in action

There are many success stories revolving organisations using wikis to good effect. IBMSAP, and Sony Ericsson use wikis as part of their developer networks. Other companies such as Pixar, Carbon Five, and Red Ant use wikis to collaborate with clients and manage production of major projects. Take Pixar as an example,  they used a wiki to manage new computerized animation tools for the studio’s planned 2008 release of a film called “WALL-E.”

Intelpedia was developed in 2005 by Intel engineer Josh Bancroft with the purpose to aid his co-workers making company information quick and easy to access.  By April 2008, the wiki had approximately 25,000 pages with 100 million page hits. Roughly 500 changes are made to the wiki each day and more than 8,700 people have made contributions to it. This is what he had to say:

‘In the four-plus years that Intelpedia has been up and running, I have had exactly zero reported instances of an unwanted edit — of someone spamming or vandalizing or doing something inappropriate.’

He added:

“By necessity, a lot of sensitive information needs to be controlled,”

Josh his colleagues also formed a voluntary group, the Intelpedia Distributed Editors to “garden” contributions by newcomers.

Sydney based web company RedAnt built their work structure around a wiki platform called confluence.  The wiki was used as a main collaboration hub between employees and customers. Ben Still, managing director of RedAnt said:

“Say, for instance, we’ve created a design and need to show it to our client. First, a designer makes a page, attaches an image, and they’re done with their part. But then I might look at it and realize that it needs a bit more explanation, or a link to a wire frame diagram to give context.

One of our developers might have also mocked up how a menu works, and so they stick in a link to that. Our client might email the link around, and then add some comments on the page.

This kind of collaborative workflow is one of our strengths, and it is really important for us to be able to add these various types of content easily.”

Final thoughts

So what does it take to implement a great wiki? It is important to factor in issues that comes with the management style of your organisation. Looking at some of the examples above who were successful with their own wikis, it is easy to see why it had worked for them.

Intel regulates the content of the wiki on a consistent basis and this provides managers the assurance they need.  A social media policy should be put in place. By allowing a controlled level of autonomy to employees, they are able to express themselves and innovate without crossing the line.

Often wikis work best if the bosses stay at arm’s length. I’ve been very hands-off at Wikipedia, particularly when it comes to detailed editing conflicts. From the beginning, I didn’t want people to feel they had to agree with me or that the wiki should reflect my political opinions.

Also, by staying above the fray, I get people’s attention when I do weigh in on something. As a leader, you should participate, but gingerly. – Jimmy Whales

And now, i present my 5 corporate wiki strategies:

  • Have a ranking system where respected editors (e.g. wiki champion) can help manage the wiki
  • Create clear wiki guidelines and policies.
  • Choose a wiki that is intuitive with high usability because the happiness of your users — who ultimately drive the success or failure of a wiki since it’s a tool that harbors collective intelligence — depends on it.
  • Authenticate users – There shouldn’t be any anonymity when it comes to who edits it. Activity on the wiki needs to be transparent, clear and traceable.
  • Access levels – Some wikis should only be accessed, read and edited by a group of executives while other more public wikis can be modified by any employee.

6 responses »

  1. Thanks for the great post Jerome!
    It was very insightful, particularly your mention of how top-down hierarchal organisations might have an impact upon the successful implementation of a wiki within a business environment.
    I wrote a similiar post regarding Corporate Wiki’s, please check it out!

    • Thanks! Back to my post, i personally feel that there is no point in having a wiki if innovation is being restricted. Of course, employees should observe the social media policies in place but upper managements should encourage and reward good contributions!

  2. I like your five strategies for organisations to use wikis properly. Companies failing to manage their wikis should follow these steps to make wikis become their helpers instead of trouble makers. I am looking forward to reading more about how you put these strategies into your case study. Great post!

  3. Your strategies are all extremely solid, and I definitely agree that authentication is a must. Users will feel a greater sense of responsibility if their name is attached to their posts. This especially holds true if we are talking about the IGC. The congress will be attended by professionals from around the world, each specialising in their own particular area of expertise – if you read a wiki post from one of these members in their own area of expertise, it may have more weight as an authoritative source of information.

    Very interesting post!

    • Spot on mate! Ambiguity of the content is one of the negative points that comes with a Wiki because the readers are not sure if the sources are absolutely right. Authentication will solve this problem.


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