Wiki as a tool of knowledge sharing in organizations
1 February 2013
Many people have heard of the famous wiki Wikipedia, which allows any person to learn about nearly any subject imaginable as well as contribute personal knowledge. Thus each of us can (theoretically) become the implementer of this wonderful idea of information sharing, contribute and gain from this process of individual and group enhancement.
Yet the wiki has many additional uses; it is far more than a platform for a data dictionary (elaborate as it may be). The wiki can be utilized for sharing knowledge and information within the organization. Let's begin with a short introduction on the wiki and its basic features and abilities.
What are the abilities of the Wiki?
Editing using a browser-Wiki allows anyone to edit a text without requiring any previous knowledge or performing preparatory installations. The editing in Wiki is simple, easy and accessible to anyone from anywhere.
Abstract syntax: easy and simple in comparison to other syntax (such as HTML). The simplicity of Wiki commands enables creating links and design commands relatively easily.
Retrieval: any change or edit to the text is saved in the Wiki system, enabling retrieval of previous versions. This is useful, for example, in case vital content was deleted. Wiki also supports an option to compare the versions.
Free unlimited access: anyone can perform n edit or change. Nevertheless, there is a restriction option (if needed).
Teamwork: Wiki supports collective editing and joint construction of content. Furthermore, many Wikis allow the establishment of communities, discussion rooms, and change summaries and 'last insertion' lists.
Hyperlinks: pages in the Wiki will always be intertwiningly linked with other pages. Creating a hyperlink is easy and comfortable for the Wiki user. These links allow a semantic navigation throughout the Wiki. Therefore, many of the links are bidirectional.
Search function: an additional access-to-information tool.
Content uploading: Wiki supports uploading contents such as pictures, files etc.
What are the possible advantages of implementing Wiki in the organization?
Wiki reduces the time spent on teaching new workers-the Wiki can be used as a learning platform for a new worker. The Wiki does not require previous knowledge in order to operate it and navigate through it. The easy operation enables every worker to get acquainted with the knowledge in his/her own pace. Furthermore, if the worker needs to refresh his/her knowledge, the worker can review and update.
Creating a culture of sharing and knowledge: The Wiki enables increasing the personal involvement of the worker in the organizations ordeals and especially allows each user to voice his/her opinion and contribute individually. Wiki "breaks" the traditional organizational "down-up" hierarchy and provides everyone with the option to contribute from a standpoint of equality (in accordance with the relevance of the position and professional knowledge) in the team.
Everybody is familiar with it: Wikipedia's popularity and widespread use contributes to the feeling of comfort when using the Wiki in an organizational environment. The Wiki technology is mainly known to the average worker and the need for learning, comparing to other share-supporting platforms is substantially reduced.
A central experts' database: a popular term used nowadays is "The Wisdom of the Crowds. This term implies that the wisdom of the crowd is in some aspects greater than the individual expert. The wiki allows any knowledge expert in the organization to contribute to the database. The knowledge will therefore be the fullest and most updated information possible.
"Sterile experimentation": in organizations interested in initiating a KM project using high-budget KM programs, the possibility to test the level of cooperation of the organization workers and their level of willingness to implement this sort of project can be tested in the wiki, which is relatively cheap to assimilate. Following this field experience, it will be easier to implement the material in more sophisticated systems.
A solution for the information overload in some workers' inbox: the average workers' email inbox has become a battleground in the war against information overload. The constant flooding in mails and the need to tag, organize and distribute tasks can consume much of the worker's valuable time. Furthermore, following the document or most updated version can be challenging. Wiki solves this problem-the ability to publish a draft publicly for everyone to view ensures that the version worked on will always be the most updated version and that when the collective work is completed we will be able to "publish" the final version.
How can Wiki be implemented in an organizational KM project?
Asking the right questions: the first stage of implementing Wiki is a correct identification of the knowledge missing in the organization; for example, knowledge repeatedly created in different departments due to unawareness is a time consuming problem and a waste of effort.
Choosing the suitable Wiki: adapting the organizational need to the type of Wiki. There are nowadays many types of Wiki available (Semantic Wiki, in which information is tagged by using formal terms that can be retrieved and searched, organizational Wiki, Wiki that incorporates a database, Wiki shared via organizational platforms and many more). When choosing a Wiki the organization must consider: who will be the users, what is the required level of security, what is the range of future usage of the Wiki and the information constructed in it, etc.
The Wiki's initial implementation environment: should the Wiki be implemented gradually, beginning with a departmental pilot and then distribute it on an organizational level, or start from the latter?
A suggestion for implementing Wiki- a database containing shared documents as a substitute/support for the organizational server:
Many organizations use an organizational server as space for storing documents such as procedures, forms etc. This can lead to several problems, such as:
It is impossible to know who wrote the file.
Besides the 'last modified' date there is no way to follow the development of changers in the document.
It is impossible to see previous versions of the document.
The files are usually organized by name, which is not always enough to indicate what the document contains.
It is easy to delete without anyone knowing the document was deleted.
In case comments or collective work on a document are required-this will sometimes require downloading the document to the user's PC, to assimilate the changes, to save them, to send the result to be validated and even print the document in order to work on the changes together. This method doesn't enable following versions and developments of documents and leads to a complex document database difficult to navigate through.
On the other hand, When using wiki:
There is no need to save ten versions of the same document every time it is updated. There is no need to create a long list with the same document named slightly differently (or numbered).
Every change is documented and contains details on its performer, the nature of the change, date. Also, a notification is sent after every change is performed.
The search is performed not only on the document name but also its entire text.
It is possible to add comments. This option enables conducting a discussion regarding changes. No need for workers mailing each other back and forth.
Authorization is required in order to delete documents.
Beside these advantages, using Wiki has some disadvantages that should be considered as well:
Data Protection: the Data Protection options in Wiki are limited in comparison to those of other programs. Nevertheless, a concise publishing and writing policy, publishing Date Security procedures and an ongoing content regulation can assist in enforcing this issue.
A different exposure to Wiki: it is possible that not all company workers know how to operate a Wiki, or know of it on different levels. They may therefore require a learning process. It is important to examine the worker's levels of knowledge and manage a suitable learning solution in order to ensure successful implementation of Wiki in the organization.
The flexibility of tagging: the problem here is that each person tags differently and uses different words when tagging. This can make locating information in the Wiki quite difficult. This problem can be overcome by providing a defined tag dictionary.
Limited editing options.
There is no search option regarding related documents linked to the Wiki.
The wiki as a tool of information sharing in an organization has many advantages; its easy learning and operating features make it quite the intuitive tool for the worker. Nevertheless, we must take into consideration the organizational needs and the importance of Data Security and data wandering throughout the organization. We must also prepare the organization before implementing the Wiki in the organization and test their level of willingness to share the information in order to identify what obstacles lay in our path.