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Wikis in the Enterprise

What is a wiki?

Wikis were first introduced in WikiWikiWeb a website designed by Ward Cunningham in 1995. A wiki is the term given to an online document that many people can collaborate on. That is, they can edit, update, delete, add pages/links, change content and so on to wiki pages. The most common and well known wiki is: Wikipedia.

What is an Enterprise wiki?

Infoworld declared 2004 as the Year of the enterprise Wiki, as wikis began to emerge in businesses across the globe. Bascially, a wiki that is used for conducting work in an enterprise is an Enterprise wiki.

What is so great about wikis?

  • Collaboration. Participation. Harnessing collective intelligence (Tim O’Reilly)
  • Wikis provide users with simple and easy to use methods of content creation via a wiki markup language.
  • Linking -> An important part of the SLATES paradigm in Andrew McAfee’s blog, wikis make linking to other wiki pages easy by stripping it down to the bare essentials in the Wiki markup language. Provides an easy ability to forge deep interconnections between data sources.
  • Edits and history of the document is tracked so you can return to previous versions and look at differences between versions.
  • User access control: Wikis can have the power to allow and deny users. Users who are not registered can be disallowed the ability to edit. Registered users will have their username fixed to edits so that these changes can be tracked to particular users.
  • Modern wikis can integrate with other tools such as e-mail, RSS and blogs.

Weaknesses of wikis?

  • Giving many users access relies on their ability to contribute effectively and advantageously.
  • Spamming can be possible when masses of users can contribute anonymously.
  • Control is sacrificed for empowerment, that is managers lose control while users take/get control.

Businesses using wikis?

  • Disney:
    Disney’s Digital Media faction started using a wiki when its team decided they needed a tool that matched their department. They needed speed and collaboration, so they create an internal website without consulting their boss. They just did it. The project was not seen as defiance of their management but rather a tool to enhance their performance and better use the resources of their 150-strong team. Reader here – Online version of the magazine article.
  • Dell:
    Socialtext co-founder discusses how their product helped Dell:

    “The second use case is a participatory knowledge base. So at Dell, for instance, we did a knowledge base for their call center. Their call center handles exceptions. That’s what they do all day long. Answer a call, hear the problem, look for an answer, and then they don’t have the information. Now, [with a wiki], they tap the informal network that exists inside the call center and document the solution. 99 percent of the pages created [on the wiki] and tagged allow the call center to go from 20 clicks to find information to four, substantially decreasing search costs and decreasing the average call time by 10 to 20 percent.” (Source: Discussing the role of enterprise wikis).

  • Yahoo:
  • “…we use TWiki internally to manage documentation and project planning for our products. Our development team includes hundreds of people in various locations all over the world, so web collaboration is VERY important to us. TWiki has changed the way we run meetings, plan releases, document our product and generally communicate with each other. We’re great fans of your work!” (Source: The Yahoo Twiki success page).

  • Others:
    See the Twiki (Wiki product provider) customer list with quotes from users of the software. Customers include: Nokia, Yahoo!, Oracle, Trend Micro, Sony, United States Coast Guard, Allergan, etc.

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14 thoughts on “Wikis in the Enterprise

  1. samloveenterprise on said:

    I like your contents here Ben… The information here is quite useful to me as well as you provided not only about the benefits of Wiki such as how Wiki can be used for business but also some weaknesses it has like spamming and some other good points… Great decriptions here! thanx Ben..

    If you want to know how NASA used Wiki, you can browse through my blog post link here to read about it… Its quite interests me alot…

  2. Great post ben, another disadvantage of wiki’s that are used for information purposes such as wikipedia is also the credibility of the information. A lot of universities and schools don’t recommend wikipedia be used as a source, this issue has been raised in the discussion on one of my posts.

    thanks again ben look forward to checking back soon

    • benmccallum on said:

      Thanks Jamie. I agree, I never use wikipedia as a source but I often find it a very good starting point for research. At the very least it points to a few good sources in the reference lists. Nonetheless you are right and information on any wiki that is editable by untrusthworthy people can be false or lacking. I guess the main thing to keep in mind is to track user edits so they can be traced and maintain versions so they can be reverted to if need be.

      On the other hand, in a workplace environment wikis would also go a long way in correcting false data because multiple minds can edit the work whereas if the person who put it there in the first place submitted the incorrect data as a final document they wouldn’t have had it reviewed.

      Thanks for your thoughts,

  3. nicholas2009 on said:

    Tt is really good evidence for business using WIKI, like Disney, Dell, Yahoo, they are so large company, but they have speed and collaboration because of wiki. so nice creativity.

  4. Excellent post Ben. I was too investigating Wikis last week and how they can be protected from spamming and bias. I’ve came across a presentation by Jimmy Wales (the founder of wikipedia). He explained that they follow certain rules to maintain the quality of the content.

    I think before the introduction of the wiki in any organization, the reason for having it should be crystal clear. Otherwise, measuring the benefit would be difficult and things could go out of control.

    • benmccallum on said:

      Thanks for the comment Ghiath.

      I wasn’t sure about the rules that govern Wikipedia edits but following on from your comment there looks to be a very good set of rules governing the “editability” of a page.

      Making sure there are company policies and guidelines around the wiki as it is introduced is obviously necessary. But furthermore, your point about having a clear reason/purpose to its implementation should be transferred to its users. That way they know what its for and as you said the success can be more easily measured.


  5. Ben

    Thanks for the link to this information. It is most useful. It is easy to see that there can be benefits and disadvantages to a wiki in the workplace. I have found that having the support of management in the begining and setting the boundaries can be beneficial.



    • benmccallum on said:

      No problem Brendan. Hope you found it useful. I would say you are right. As I said in a previous reply, ensuring proper management surrounds the use and purpose of the wiki is key to its success.

  6. I love the case studies and closer looks at enterprises using wikis for collaboration and knowledge management. Here’s one published by eTouch SamePage about Cal Poly Pomona —

  7. I am not sure if it’s a good choice to leave my message here. I am from a startup company, which is focusing on supplying the productivity tools to let our work easier and comfortable.
    So there is XMind, a visual thinking(mind mapping) software. It has won many adwards and thousands of users.
    Now, we have another cloud-computing tool, a fastest enterprise wiki, Our philosophy is that wiki should fast, simple, and friendly.

    All features are list at:
    So could you just take a look at our product:

    thanks in advance!

    • benmccallum on said:

      Thanks for the comment,
      Not sure if it spam but some might find it useful. I have looked into your product and will give it a review if I have time.

  8. Pingback: Grassroot Enterprise 2.0 projects lead to success « Ben McCallum's Blog

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