Wikis are popping up everywhere. The are even making the news, with well publicized stories about people changing articles on . Wikis provide a great way for people to collaborate on Web content and form a community around a goal. But, are wikis right for the enterprise? Are people trying them in the business setting? The answer to both of those questions is "yes."
Wikis are in the early stages of adoption within the enterprise, and many companies are only in the pilot phase of deployment. But others are already using wikis to support critical business operations. Their application falls mainly into the following categories.
Communities of interest or project teams benefit from collecting and sharing knowledge about the subject of common interest. Wikis are used in businesses to allow such communities and teams to support themselves by building up bases of knowledge that can be used and augmented over time. The joint ownership and shared authorship of the content helps keep the information timely and up-to-date.
Project management accounts for a significant proportion of enterprise wiki usage. Project control documents, plans, status, sub-team reports, "how-to" documentation and specifications are collaboratively created and maintained in the wiki. The wiki can augment and sometimes replace more formal project management tools.
Working Document Repository
Many types of documents are authored by teams of contributors. The document creation is usually centered on a single editor and often involves iterations of team comments and revisions. Usually, the editor distributes new versions via e-mail and the reviewers send marked up versions back (or share them with the other reviewers) via e-mail, making it difficult for reviewers to know what the latest version is and forcing the editor to reconcile conflicting comments. Using a wiki to collaboratively create such documents eliminating much of the e-mail and allows to the team to make changes or post comments directly to the shared view of the document.
A good example of an enterprise that uses wikis for all three of these purposes is IBM. Within IBM any employee can create a wiki instance via a central wiki deployment infrastructure by a couple clicks of the mouse. Main-line product development groups, discipline-base communities of interest, topical study teams, and other communities use wikis in the ways described above. Some groups use wikis in pilot projects, while many have wikis serving in support of critical processes.
This seems like the time for businesses to explore how wikis could help their employees be more efficient and effective. In later posts, I'll offer other ideas on how wikis can be use and how the wiki concept can be evolved.