Man, I loves me some wiki. This evening I ran across a post on Lifehacker about using wikis for business. They point to this article at Information Week on the same topic. If you’re already down with wikis, there won’t be much new info in the article for you. But there is a nice chart on the second page that helps determine whether a wiki will work in your organization.
This is top-of-mind for me right now since I just established yet another office wiki at the new job. I’ve established them in the last three organizations that I’ve worked in, and they’ve always been beneficial. Getting folks on the wiki train can be a bit of a tough sell. Wiki markup is pretty easy to figure out, but definitely seems a bit arcane to the uninitiated. Especially those who don’t have a whole lot of web experience beyond, you know, MyYahoo! or something.
In my experience, nothing is more important for the success of a wiki than a champion and a quorum. You’ve got to have at least one influential person who is willing to pitch the wiki at every turn, and you’ve got to have a sufficient number of folks in the office on board with the wiki. The more little things get pushed over to the wiki, the more it’ll be used. Soon it’ll be the defacto first stop for slapping together new policy, lists of "reports needed" and quick knowledge sharing between colleagues.
One of the biggest problems I’ve had with wikis is the tendency for temporary information to stick around too long. An easy solution is for someone to "own" each page–that way that person can lock, archive or delete the page when it’s no longer of use. It’s kind of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ problem. When everyone is responsible for keeping the place clean, often nobody will do the work since they’ll rely on everyone else. It’s a real problem and, aside from just keeping good wiki hygiene in front of everyone, it’s tough to overcome.
Anyway, the article is right on. There’s definitely a place for wikis in business.