Wikis and document management
This got me thinking – when is this approach appropriate and when is it not?
What is a wiki?
A wiki is a website that allows users to add, modify, or delete content via a web browser, usually using a simplified mark-up language or a rich-text editor. Wikis are powered by wiki software. Most are created collaboratively.
Why would companies want to use wikis?
A number of tangible and intangible benefits are possible:
- Productivity benefits – reducing emails
- Improved collaboration and communication across the organisation
- Reduced project delivery time
- Ease of use
- Easier access to information
What considerations should be taken into account?
Before replacing documents with wikis, companies need to understand what business benefits they want to achieve from using a wiki. I think it is important to ask the following questions:
- Who is expected to benefit, the reader or the author? Is the aim to make content more accessible, or is it to enable multiple people to easily edit the content with knowledge evolving over time?
- How formal is the document? Does it require a formal approval process?
- Who should be allowed to edit the wiki?
- Is there a requirement to print the content?
- Do we want users to read the document in its entirety, or is it OK skip parts of the document?
In the enterprise, it’s advisable to choose a wiki that enables auditing so you can track the changes. Other useful functionality includes versioning (ability to keep track of incrementally different versions) and rollback (capability to “undo” edits on a given page if required.
Documents that lend themselves to be good wikis are:
- How to’s and procedures
Documents I would not recommend turning into wikis are:
- Organisation policies
- Formal documents that tend to be printed
- Documents that require an approval process (unless this functionality is delivered by your wiki)
The reason I don’t recommend policies to become a wiki as they are generally not changed frequently and more often than not require approval and sign off from the executives. On the other hand, procedures and how to’s can be great candidates for wikis. You’ll want them to be updated and improved over time, just like in Wikipedia. For example, if a procedure is incorrect, users can make suggestions (that can be moderated if required) . This means knowledge is improved and procedures are kept up to date and don’t become redundant or out of date.
Overall, wikis can be great for knowledge sharing and brainstorming. They can help connect people across an organisation and can promote collaboration. However, the trick is to pick the right documents!