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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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