Enterprise intranet wikis
“Wikis often grow out of hand very quickly and consequently many employees simply ignore them. Enterprises also face the risk of an explosive information growth far beyond their capacity to manage that information”, said analyst and MD, Janus Boye, author of a report, Wiki in the Enterprise.
“If you don’t create guidelines and processes for managing the wiki, the gap between information and capacity is a risk to the enterprise as it translates into the right information not being found and the potential creation of redundant information.”
“One organization at Cisco got shifted from 5 projects to focusing
solely on standardizing and securing our wiki platform… because
it became so mission-critical.”
Most corporations do not have a wiki. And most aren’t planning to have them either (just yet). A recent Forrester study found that only 51% of Global 2000 companies plan to invest in Web 2.0 in the coming year. But only between 20% of small companies, and only about 30% of medium corporations plan on buying Web 2.0 tools (for a summary, see Intranet portal solutions die, evolve & move to Web 2.0).
But almost no one had a wiki three years ago. So in truth, wikis have exploded and are multiplying like rabbits. Boye, an independent analyst focusing on online media and an expert on enterprise portal solutions, has found that wikis are increasingly gaining foothold in the enterprise due to it promises of simplicity. Yet, wikis introduce complex challenges for organisations, on a strategic level as well as on the level of actual content creation.
At Cisco, the first wiki appeared a few years ago, when an engineer installed one on the server under his desk. “He told a PM, who then told other PMs and it spread like wildfire,” says Michael Lenz, Senior Manager, User Experience, at Cisco Corporate Communications.
“Literally, day over day, the increase is amazing… any number I gave you today would be useless tomorrow or next week. There are tens-of-thousands of wikis… and the number of wikis about equals the number of employees (65,000).”
Lenz says wikis turned from cool to mandatory. “One organization at Cisco got shifted from 5 projects to focusing solely on standardizing and securing our wiki platform… because it became so mission-critical.”
"With the potential for everyone to contribute and a lack of built
-in management control, concerns of quality and confidentiality
put a damper on motivation."
Intrawest Placemaking has built their entire intranet on a wiki platform (ThoughtFarmer). Shortly after launching, Mike Hartigan, a Placemaking project manager in Vancouver, created a wiki page about a method of finishing concrete floors that creates an appearance better than tile at a substantially lower cost. Using the method at the entrance to a resort saved $500,000 and reduced the project timeline. Other project managers in Florida and Nevada posted comments to the page, asking further questions. In response, Hartigan posted photos of the finished job and addressed their comments. The other construction managers planned on using this valuable knowledge in future projects – and likely to contribute to saving the company millions of dollars thanks the increased exposure and collaboration delivered by the wiki (see the complete case study Intranet case study: Intrawest Placemaking).
At our company, Prescient Digital Media, we used a wiki to develop our "Client Manifesto" (what we owe our clients), update our core values, and to collaborate on HR processes, strategic planning actions, event registration, and even how and to whom we should make corporate donations.
Among Boye’s other findings from Wiki in the Enterprise report:
- Wikis can offer strategic benefits when it comes to increasing contribution and ownership, and improving information sharing. These benefits are, however, dependant on work practices and governance for successful collaboration and information sharing already being in place or being developed.
- Organisational culture is critical to ensure successful adoption. “We see examples of a wiki becoming a source of conflict in certain organisations. With the potential for everyone to contribute and a lack of built-in management control, concerns of quality and confidentiality put a damper on motivation. Too often, employees may be unwilling to contribute to the wiki, for fear of exposing themselves to criticism”, analyst Dorthe R. Jespersen clarified.
- Despite being sold on simplicity, wikis are not always easy to use. Enterprises are generally surprised that training is still necessary. In particular, the need for special wiki mark-up is a usability issue, which slows down the adoption. To make matters worse, each wiki vendor has their own mark-up.
The 22 page research document offers a business analysis of best practices for all sizes of wiki projects, while also providing a reality check with an analysis of how a wiki best can be put to helpful use. The report is available for purchase online from J. Boye.
The benefits of a wiki are clear, but how do organizations get started? The key to the challenge is to first understand that the success of any wiki has little to do with the technology, and is more invested in the people and processes used to create and use them. In other words, an intranet wiki is not a technology project, it’s a change management project.
Here are 10 easy steps to consider when rolling out a new wiki:
1- Determine your subject matter (e.g. intranets)
2- Define your target audience (e.g. intranet managers &consultants)
3- Establish objectives and measurable goals
4- Develop and document the appropriate governance and policies.
5- Determine the required feature set and functionality of your wiki
6- Select the most appropriate technology solution (e.g. SocialText)
7- Set-up the wiki and arrange hosting
8- Begin writing
9- Invite other contributors
10- Market, promote, educate.
In short, wikis can be very powerful tools, if executed properly. But just because Cisco has them, doesn’t mean your organization is ready. Most don’t have wikis yet, and are treading carefully for good reason.
Toby Ward is the President and Founder of Prescient Digital Media. For help in establishing an intranet wiki or blog, please contact us directly about our Intranet 2.0 service. To learn more about delivering and measuring intranet ROI, see our free white paper Finding ROI: Measuring Intranet Investments.