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Enterprise Wikis – the Mash-up of Content, Knowledge and Document Management
By Cindy Rockwell, CEO, Customer Vision
The land of Web 2.0 Enterprise Wiki takes knowledge, content and documents and mashes them up into a reason for organizations to once again look at one of their greatest and most expensive assets, information. The new challenge is to develop and share content, knowledge and information rapidly and make it highly accessible and integrated into day-to-day workflow.
Take a minute to think about the business knowledge being circulated within your organization on a daily basis. Whether that information is in email, memos, meeting exchanges, water cooler talk or in a more formal medium like an intranet, CRM or LMS, information is constantly being shared and obtained by users.
Like most ventures into the often challenging waters of improving information exchange, some of your past attempts may have been successful and others became too complicated and time consuming to continue. Fear not, you are not alone in the quest; most organizations have had success and hardships in their ability to control and collect one of their largest and most valuable assets, corporate knowledge.
Information is everywhere; so trying to harness this ever-changing beast is a huge and sometimes daunting corporate undertaking. Software companies traditionally have charged large amounts of money to help organizations capture and tame the beast, only to find out the beast has evolved into a completely different animal than we expected and thwarting all our initial assumptions about how to approach it.
The point is, knowledge evolves like we as humans evolve on a daily basis, we learn and share and experience new ideas, thoughts, concepts, changes, multiple times throughout our day, therefore trying to capture a moving object is a difficult task and takes a new way of looking at the beast.
Enterprise Wikis or Web 2.0 knowledge management solutions take a new, more adaptive approach to an old challenge, the ability to quickly and easily share information. Wiki is the Hawaiian term meaning ‘rapid’ or ‘quick,’ therefore capturing new information when it happens is not an isolated process in a moving and growing organization.
Traditional approaches to information capture are stand-alone systems, or embedded into such solutions as CRM, ERP or LMS, all tend to have one of multiple core technologies that we refer to as:
Web Content Management
The ability to maintain web content published online in an HTML format, and usually including the workflow process for producing online content
The ability to capture intellectual capital held within Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) heads and translates that to a system that allows others to learn from and act on this knowledge
This varies, based on usage, but for this discussion we are referring to documents as supporting information for such tasks as training, sales and marketing support, etc. Anywhere a document, such as word, pdf, etc. might need to be shared.
An Enterprise Wiki includes each of these technologies and delivers this functionality in a highly adaptive, robust and secure system. The wiki concept fits with the way people work today – using tools such as email, work teams, document sharing, etc. Without requiring people to change the way they work today, wikis can capture and share this valuable content in a real time information flow. People no longer need to stop what they’re doing and remember to share with the knowledge expert, trainer, etc. People contribute to the wiki, others modify when necessary as this piece of relevant knowledge evolves and changes with your company.
This mash-up of technology solutions to support the real-time needs of users has changed how organizations capture vital knowledge assets. An enterprise wiki quickly empowers workers to learn, share and deliver the information when they need it.
In many cases, the biggest benefits have been in providing a reduction in training time and eliminating delays in answering questions from users, clients, etc. This saves organizations a huge amount of time and money and assists with longer term objectives like understanding your market, making more informed decisions and capturing valuable business intelligence as experts retire or leave the organization.
Enterprise Wikis provide the ability to create and collaborate on content in real-time and then search this valuable content without requiring additional indexing or data input. User experiences with popular search engines like Google have conditioned the workforce to expect to be able to search and find relevant information they need immediately.
As a consultant, I had the privilege to work with a number of Fortune 500 companies on their organizational business processes. What I found was that the majority of employees want to do a great job, but a large amount of information they have access to is either out-dated or too hard to find. That problem exists in Contact Centers, Marketing Groups, Training Teams, etc. The ability to find the information when ‘I’ need it, and feel confident the information is correct, is a continual issue.
Enterprise Wikis take a very user-centric approach. They provide for quick and easy information exchange utilizing such mechanisms as:
Wiki Edit or Create
The ability to add a new page of content to the wiki through an easy to use WYSIWYG editor (and yes, this can be security controlled if your organization desires).
Emailing the Wiki Repository
Next time you’re emailing that marketing announcement, include an email to the wiki repository email address as well and build a new page of content for all to find and see.
Ask the Expert
Capturing valuable knowledge that often only exists in various SMEs heads has been one of the toughest challenges for organizations, through a workflow process that is as easy as emailing the expert with a question and receiving an answer back, while at the same time allowing the expert to publish the answer to the Wiki and therefore making this knowledge shareable within minutes. Talk about reducing duplication and increasing productivity.
People talk a lot about document management systems and the ability to store information as a document. But the way I look for information is probably not the way Sally looks for information, which is probably not the way Joe looks for information, and document-based information repositories are often rigidly organized according to someone else’s idea of how content should be organized, which often adversely impacts users’ ability to find what they need. The reality here is that people need information in context with words describing what something is or how it is used, with formal documents often providing supporting information, etc.
Remember, over 41% of what a person does on a daily basis requires tacit information and informal knowledge, that is why an Enterprise Wiki is a great mash-up of solutions such as content management, knowledge management and document management packaged in a highly adaptive, powerful new approach that fits the highly competitive and rapidly change world we live in.
Cindy Rockwell is CEO of CustomerVision, an application wiki company that offers a social software product to mainly medium- and large-sized businesses. She brings to the company and its customers an expertise in managing business and technology, as well as a passion for the web’s collaborative communication potential. Cindy is responsible for developing and implementing CustomerVision’s business strategy and vision. For article feedback, contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org