Friday, May 8, 2009

About Wikis ...

If you are looking at wikis as a tool for collaboration within an organization, there are a number of factors you need to consider which are quite distinct from the implementation of wikis in the public space. One of the major aspects that i consider is the context in which wikis can play a major role. A rather interesting post by Matthew Clarke about the question of control vis a vis community in the context of wikis can be found here.

While Matthew talks about three kinds of wikis, namely Public, Team, and Enterprise, i think that within the organization, public wikis probably dont mean too much. This is not to say that organizations cant have public wikis, just that i would think these would be few and far between. Which means that you are responsible for whatever you are writing over at the wiki.

Coming now to the team and enterprise wikis, i feel that the team wiki is a concept which could have the maximum impact within the organization. One reason for this could be that the way organizations work, they are organized into teams for achieving a particular objective. And a number of people, part of the same team, can relate to each other, and to the shared context of the team much more than in a non-team, or, if i may say, enterprise context. This is not to say, though, that the enterprise context is something which doesnt show value. Where there are topics which run across the organization, and these topics can draw people from a number of different parts of the organization, the contribution of enterprise wikis towards knowledge-sharing is, i think, quite large. In fact, an enterprise wiki could be used to build up a repository of knowledge originating from diverse parts of the organization, and utilized too, in a diverse way.

There are two aspects of wiki usage, which i would like to point out here, which i feel could be the appropriate way of introducing wikis to the organization.

1. Policies. A few organizations use wikis as a place where the policies of the organization are written down, and are periodically updated by people who are responsible for maintaining these policies. This, of course, assumes that not everyone is able to write to these wikis, but is a nice way of getting people from diverse backgrounds together, to create content which can be useful for a particular audience. For example, if you have a Sales wiki, this could be used to write the sales policies, which could originate from the sales team, from the manufacturing, design, and customer service teams. Here, the utility is the ease of use, and the collaborative capability (across teams) which wikis can provide.

2. Transactions. Wikis can be also used as a tool which brings transactional information from a number of sources to a single place, for use by different teams in the organization (notice board, maybe?) in a way that this information is easily available (doesnt have to be circulated), and up-to-date (containing links to the latest reports). This, probably, gains even more improtance within the team, because this is a simple way of getting information across to entire teams, from a single source.

As such, these are aspects of the wiki which also need to be considered, in addition to the "wisdom of the crowd" concept which wikis can be based on.

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