Untangling Enterprise Wikis

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You will find many enthusiastic voices, echoing the marketing material from vendors and busy conference floors, proclaiming wikis to be the ultimate solution to a wide range of information management problems. These problems include unmotivated editors, poor documentation, the high cost of training, and everything in between.

According to "The 2007 Global Intranet Strategies Survey," a benchmarking analysis published by intranet expert Jane McConnell of NetStrategy/JMC, wikis are the most common and the fastest growing social media tool. The 2008 survey will likely bring more evidence to support this (as of this writing, that was due out October 2008).

In contrast, back at the office you hear worried concerns from within the enterprise that introducing a wiki means letting go of control, chaos in general, and poor information quality.

So how do you know if a wiki will bring positive change to your organization? In this article, we will attempt to untangle enterprise wikis, offer our advice on how to get started, and share some lessons learned from our recent interviews and client engagements.

What a Wiki Can and Cannot Do
In essence, the unique aspect of wikis is the co-creation of content: As a collaborative workspace where users can easily create, edit, and link pages, a wiki presents a bottom-up approach to working with information. In other words, wikis allow for sharing work-in-progress.

From our research for "Wikis in the Enterprise" (April 2008), we found several examples of wikis put to successful use, including these:

  • Encyclopedia, e.g., information resource for new employees 
  • Manuals and guidelines
  • Opening for all to edit on some existing intranet pages 
  • ·Project collaboration, e.g., innovation projects or on daily tasks 
  • Project management for events
  • External communication on specific projects or topics
The co-creation may take place in a well-defined, more regulated manner, as in the encyclopedia model known from Wikipedia, where there is a set model for the type of entries. Co-creation may also take place when sharing notes in project collaboration, where both the structure of the wiki and the type of content are up for discussion.

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