Online collaboration has become a top priority in organizations today as they struggle share information that is contained within a wide range of applications, directories, desktops and people’s minds. According to a recent report, many of these organizations are looking to the wiki to resolve their collaboration issues due to its ability to support unstructured information using a more bottom up approach to information sharing. But the wiki may not be living up to all the hype and sales pitches from the technology vendors. There are a number of challenges to implementing and supporting wiki-style collaboration and some best practices that you need to consider before moving forward with your wiki implementation. The recent research report by independent analyst firm J. Boye discusses the Wiki in the Enterprise: A challenging new way of working. The report is based on interviews with over 30 organizations in North Europe, Asia and North America and several social media experts. It discusses some of the effects of wikis in the enterprise and offers a number of best practices to consider as you move forward with your own implementation.

The Truth about Using Wikis

In the report, organizations implemented wikis for a number of reasons including: * Develop ownership of information * Share knowledge locked inside the head of the “experts” * Easy way to share and find information * Store information that is asked often * Cheaper to train to use then, say, an enterprise content management system * Cheaper than a CMS The reality that some of these organizations had to face was that it wasn’t all roses and wine. Using a wiki represents a new way of working and thinking that some organizations aren’t prepared for. For example, the purpose of a wiki is for everyone to contribute their knowledge to be viewed and shared by others. But if an organization is not geared toward openness, that is, they tend to encourage internal competition and often criticize each other’s work, then employees are not going to open to giving away their expert knowledge or having people critique the work they do. This is just one example discussed in the report. Others include the technical challenges of working with a relatively immature technology, the potential for information to get lost in ungoverned information architecture, or worse, the growth of information silos, governance and search issues.

Best Practices for Enterprise Wikis

Regardless of the challenges and realities of using wikis for enterprise collaboration, they can still add value if implemented and supported appropriately. The report outlines a number of best practices that include: * Ensure the organization values unstructured information and is more open to the contributions employees will make. * Understanding the most appropriate uses of a wiki and setting expectations properly on the amount of time and effort required to contribute and maintain it. * Approaches to getting adoption * Clearly defined content creation guidelines Also included in the report is a checklist for wiki product selection and implementation project and some basic guidelines for wiki content.
“Wikis often grow out of hand very quickly and consequently many employees simply ignore them. Enterprises also face the risk of an explosive information growth far beyond their capacity to manage that information”, said analyst and MD, Janus Boye. “If you don’t create guidelines and processes for managing the wiki, the gap between information and capacity is a risk to the enterprise as it translates into the right information not being found and the potential creation of redundant information.”
The report is a fast read which is great in a time where there’s so much to read and learn about the new collaboration tools and technologies. You will get a clear understanding of the challenges and realities of what a wiki can and can’t do to help share information and collaborate. The best practices are vital to any organization who thinks a wiki is the answer to their prayers. The 22 page research document, aimed at non-technical managers, can be purchased online from the J. Boye website for a modest price of EUR 135. If you are thinking of implementing a wiki in your organization, this may be one paper you need to read first.