The Business Wiki

Wiki in the Workplace

PBWiki specializes in the business wiki.
PBWiki is a popular wiki host. (Image of PBWiki).

The business wiki is one of the most powerful Enterprise 2.0 tools and is capable of transforming the nature of communication within a company. While normal corporate communication flows in a straight line, often from top to bottom, a business wiki can create a synergy of communication that flows from the bottom up.

Designed as a simple-to-use collaborative tool, wikis have risen through the ranks of content management systems. From replacing an internal knowledge base to providing templates for reports and memos, wikis are invading the workplace and changing the way we do business.

The World Wide Business Wiki

Global communication is an obvious target for a wiki in the workplace. The ease-of-use makes it a great tool for dispensing information across the globe, and the simplicity of editing makes it easy for satellite offices to offer input back to headquarters.

More than just keeping employees around the world informed a global wiki can provide a method for teams with members in different locations to work together seamlessly and share information on a project.

The Business Wiki Knowledge Base

Another excellent use for the business wiki is as a replacement for knowledge bases and frequently asked questions (FAQs). The collaborative nature of wikis makes it the perfect tool for small teams of people who need to create and distribute information to a large group of readers.

The information technology department can make use of a wiki by using it as a surrogate knowledge base that employees can use to solve the most common problems such as what to do when the database is unavailable, mail isn't being delivered, or documents aren't printing.

The human resources department can utilize a wiki in maintaining an up-to-date employee handbook, dispensing information about health and 401(k) plans, and making general office announcements.

Any department that outputs information to the rest of the company can put the strengths of a wiki to good use in streamlining communication channels.

The Business Wiki Meeting

Wikis can also play a role in enhancing meetings, and in some cases, replace them altogether. A wiki can be a great place to store meeting minutes and provide the opportunity for employees to offer additional input outside of the meeting.

A wiki can also reduce the number of meetings needed to keep a project on track. Communication and synergy of ideas are the two main goals of most meetings, and a wiki is an excellent tool that can accomplish both of these goals.

As an example of just how far the wiki meeting can go, IBM held a global wiki meeting in September of 2006 with online discussions that lasted three days. Over 100,000 people from more than 160 countries participated in what IBM considered a highly-successful brainstorming session.

Business Wiki Project Organization

Taking the wiki meeting one step further, a wiki can be used to centralize the information and organization of an entire project. Not only could it store meeting notes and provide brainstorming synergy, it can organize the project into an open environment with two-way communication.

Think on the drawbacks of the conventional meeting. With too many people, a meeting becomes an information-dump rather than an idea-gathering mission. But, with too few people, you run the risk of excluding someone whose ideas could be vital to the success of the project.

In a traditional organization, projects can oftentimes devolve into a leader team and a follower team where the leaders dump information and give instructions to the followers while those followers simply go about their tasks.

With wiki organization, all participants in the project can get the same information and are able to share ideas seamlessly. It provides a way to empower the employee and let them take ownership of the project, driving it with their own ideas and, in the end, providing better solutions.

In essence, it is a way to kill the one-way street of ideas flowing from the top and going down and creating in its place an open environment where the best ideas can be voiced and then built upon through a team effort.

Business Wiki Documentation

Project documentation can sometimes be a dirty word in business, especially in information technology departments. Everyone strives for it, but not everyone has it. This is mainly because of the intuition barrier. Simply put, project documentation is often not a very intuitive process, and when something is not intuitive, it bogs down.

Arbitrary forms and templates can often seem like busy work that takes away time that could be better spent focusing on productivity and moving the project along, but documentation is a very important part of running a business.

Wikis are designed to be a simple, easy-to-use collaborate documentation engine. They are also battle-tested with hundreds of millions of people using wikis every day. Because of their open design, they can be the perfect tool to provide documentation for a wide range of projects, from large to small, and from technical to non-technical.