Since the earliest days of the worldwide web, organizations have looked for ways to improve the level of engagement across the enterprise. Within any knowledge management or enterprise collaboration platform, the simple truth is that the more engaged your users, the more value that is created for the organization. One of the earliest forms of online collaboration was the wiki, developed in the early 1990’s by software engineer Ward Cunningham. The term originates from a Hawaiian word meaning “quick” or “fast.” A wiki is essentially a web page that allows anyone with the right permissions to author and edit the content on the page. Since the earliest days of SharePoint, teams have used out-of-the-box and third-party features and capabilities that leverage enterprise wikis as a way to improve end user adoption and engagement.
Wikis are used as a quick and easy way to collaborate on content, including technical documentation, research projects, and other knowledge management efforts. Many educators and training organizations prefer the format as a way of not just disseminating information to a large group, but in allowing open participation and two-way learning between participants. Spend any time online and you are likely familiar with Wikipedia as an online data resource, with most content provided by (and constantly added to) by millions of contributors and site visitors. As with Wikipedia, enterprise wikis are based on the idea that within your team or across your enterprise, there is a massive amount of knowledge and subject matter expertise. The hard part is capturing that collective knowledge.
According to Ward Cunningham, creator of the modern wiki:
“What we really did was say was the command and control hierarchical communications that we had to use in organizations wasn’t necessary anymore. In fact, it was an impediment. It wasn’t that it couldn’t work. It was that it was unnecessary. And I think the reason why the wiki is popular is because it’s the first medium that disregarded that hierarchy. And it allowed people to contribute based on their own understanding of what was valuable.”
What makes wikis important within an enterprise setting is their ability to capture the collective wisdom of the crowd. This can be profoundly powerful. It’s not a document — it’s a knowledge repository, a place for open discussion, and a tool for the asynchronous capture and composition.
By contrast, the typical blog is often used to share or broadcast information one-way, and while many blogs provide tools or methods for interactions — such as commenting, rating, liking, or sharing — readers are not allowed to change the content itself. Blogs are a great tool for disseminating authoritative content, but wikis are the preferred format for teams or organizations that want input from everyone. And the fact is that wikis represent the way most organizations are trending — leveraging the collective wisdom of their employees.
“In fact, organizations are flattening left and right, and they might even say they’re becoming more wiki.” ~ Ward Cunningham
Thanks to their flexibility and ease of use, wikis can be used to address a wide range of enterprise scenarios, whether sharing information about a given topic (knowledge base, product catalog, documentation), building a formal FAQ (frequently asked questions) knowledge base, or when generating technical documentation for users by leveraging natural language and terminology from the community. Wikis are often also used to help manage projects (such as organizing an event, or creating and launching a product) and facilitate development efforts and scrums.
Wikis are also very effective when your team is geographically dispersed, supporting both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration between team members. Much like a web page or ebook, wikis are meant to include interactive content and links to other relevant information. The format allows participants to add their notes and open questions and directly attach supporting links and attachments, adding to the overall body of knowledge of the team.
Another key difference between a wiki and a blog is that the community has to come together and agree on what is notable, and what is important — where a blog is the opinion of the author alone. Wikis grow and evolve as a direct result of interaction. The technology was designed to be interactive. They reside online, where everyone can access and interact with them. They often include versioning capabilities that allow you to see the progression of the discussion, and easily revert back to early versions, if needed.
While individuals and teams may use tools like OneNote, and store these shared notes out on platforms such as OneDrive and Office 365, these are still generally “closed” solutions, where a wiki is open and available for all to read and edit. Of course, giving everyone the ability to alter content comes with risks — which is why they should be monitored, with defined owners, which can be time-consuming. A best practice is to give editing capability only to a select group of participants rather than open to the entire organization
Wikis are one of the easiest and most effective methods for team collaboration, and are an excellent method for eliciting input from a diverse group of people. They should be used strategically within your enterprise collaboration strategy.
The Beezy solution builds on top of the basic SharePoint capabilities, enhancing and extending the out-of-the-box experience — including what is truly an enterprise wiki capability. Within Beezy, wikis can be created at the intranet-level, as well as within communities and as standalone activities, giving teams flexibility in how and where they collaborate, which helps organizations improve the level of engagement of their users. Contact us today to schedule your demo and find out more about the award-winning Beezy user experience.