Friday, October 31, 2008

Wikis ... Useful Or ...

Olaf S has asked a question over at linkedin, about the utility of wikis as a tool for Knowledge Management. What’s more interesting are the responses this question has generated. The responses are actually a wide spectrum, in terms of the way people perceive the utility of wikis as a tool for externalizing knowledge.

These responses range from wikis being an excellent tool for sharing knowledge, to them being not as useful as they are made out to be. But please read them for yourself.

So, what are wikis all about? The way I see it, a completely open solution a-la Wikipedia may not be the appropriate solution within the organization. On the other hand, however, from what I have experienced, people in organizations are more comfortable with wiki based collaboration within teams, rather than with a larger audience. This is where I think a tool like knoll could add more value.

Coming now to the question of adoption … it would be folly to assume that just because you have built it, they will come. Far from it, the challenge is rather to get people to contribute. And this is the challenge, I feel, which needs to be addressed, if wikis are to be successful. For, people will not take to them till they see value coming from them, and wikis will not deliver value, till people take to them. So, in a cyclical situation like this, some mechanism is required for the initial push. And this is where quite some thought process must go in. The way I see it, there are going to be no big wins on the way to wiki adoption. Rather, it would be a better option to accumulate a set of small wins, thereby building up a much larger adoption footprint.

For example, the first thing that could be done is to identify the people who would benefit most from a tool like a wiki. For instance, it may be Project Managers who could use wikis for managing project data, schedules, issues, etc. Or, it could be a helpdesk team using wikis to manage commonly occurring issues, documenting problem and resolution on a single wiki source. Once this has been identified, then one could look at targeting positioning of wikis to this select audience. And once we can get wikis to deliver value in the context of a particular role, we can then use this as a base to launch to other target audiences in the organization.

What this presupposes is that there wont be a widespread adoption of wikis in the organization. This, in fact, is a realistic assumption, given the experience we have had with social computing tools, and this is indeed not unique to wikis alone.

Coming to the idea that wiki contribution is high to begin with, and tapers off at a later point, the question that comes is whether this is to be expected? If there is a wiki for a particular topic, over a period of time, most of the things that need to be written have been written, and hence, maybe its reasonable to assume that this would happen, and that, as the wiki matures, there could be more emphasis on the usage in terms of read rather than write, on the wiki? Any thoughts, anyone? Would like to hear them …


Anjali said...

Yes 'usage in terms of read rather than write" after everything is done is what is expected is my opinion. Ready reckoner it will be all the time.

Subash said...

Atul I totally agree with you when you say wiki could be tried with help desk team and teams which need to to update information on tickets...But somehow people are so comfortable with tools like remedy. I still cant understand whats preventing TIS kind of teams to atleast try WIKIS.

I feel wikis can be tried in teams where data frequently changes so that atleast the wikis dont die over a period of time.

Wiertz Sébastien said...

I made an answer on this question in Linkedin and saw that you have back my view up. I would like to add a comment on your post here by adding the following: Especially in the project management area, the issues and tasks should not be handled by a Wiki but by a task management system and an issue tracker system. Simply because they should be subjected to a workflow ( task has to be assigned to somebody that will resolve it and change the status for a follow up) Both tasks and Issues should be integrated inside a Project workspace that can also contain accessorily a Wiki where people will write miscellaneous information (for example: test made on a product by some testers). This workspace could also contain a calendar and be the single point of information for a specific project. My opinion is that a Wiki is a part of a workspace and not the workspace. Of course, there are now some products called Enterprise Wiki (more a Fashion than useful platform for the enterprise). I have personally integrated a Wiki inside my team among task list and issue tracker and I would be glad to exchange feedbacks and ideas with you.
PS: Nice picture of the golden temple, next time I am back in India, I will visit it for sure.

Atul said...

i agree to some extent, Wiertz ... i see more utility of wikis within the team environment, rather than an open for all kind of deployment, when it comes to within the organization scenario. the rest, i guess, follows from there ... though, i think that since this is more useful within the team, maybe workflows may not be so critical? but yes, somewhere, there seems to be a convergence between wikis and enterprise apps ... more to do with the enterprise apps vendors wanting to embrace web 2.0! :-)