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WIKI Uses for Knowledge Management

1 May 2010
Dr. Moria Levy

The Web 2.0 world always seems glamorous, inspiring envy compared to the world of organizational knowledge management. We stand in awe of the sharing and ask ourselves anew each time: How can we replicate this success to improve internal organizational knowledge management?

This review will present the WIKI and its characteristics, highlight the preconditions for implementing such a solution, and suggest possible concrete uses.

The first tendency of many organizations is to create an organizational WIKIPEDIA, particularly a glossary of terms. Before discussing this or any other solution within the framework of implementing WIKI in an organization, it's essential to return to the definition of knowledge management to provide tools for properly planning these solutions. Knowledge management deals with preserving, sharing, making accessible, and developing knowledge in a goal-oriented methodological manner. The first condition in any WIKI solution implemented in an organization is meeting an organizational or business need. Want to establish an organizational glossary? The immediate question is - "What will the organization gain from this?" How will an organizational dictionary cause people to sell, develop, or provide better customer service?

There's a small trap here that one must be careful not to fall into. It's straightforward to say that a glossary will allow the salesperson or service representative to use the desired terms correctly and accurately. However, we cannot present such a claim without asking ourselves two questions arising from the presented claim:

  1. Will they use the glossary? While conversing with the customer, will that employee enter the glossary to check what the proper term is?

  2. And if they use the glossary, to what extent will this improve the quality of service? Is the benefit significant, or is it possible that it's marginal and we're deceiving ourselves that the glossary is worthwhile?

This is not to say that a glossary is never a good solution for knowledge management. There are cases where a glossary is worthwhile business-wise and organizationally. However, this is not self-evident. A glossary as a tool for new employees is usually not justified unless there is high turnover, high risk from not knowing the terminology precisely, and other concrete reasons.

A second condition is the suitability of the WIKI solution type, with its characteristics in relation to the nature of the organizational need.

A WIKI is a tool for managing structured or semi-structured content. Its main characteristics are:

  1. Simple - people are familiar with its structure, have gotten used to it, and enjoy working with it.

  2. Strong links allow transitions between different information items, allowing it to be used for purposes requiring a network structure with connections between different nodes.

  3. It is convenient for users to update themselves democratically.

Here are several possible uses for WIKI as a knowledge management solution, provided, of course, that it meets a specific organizational/business need:

WIKI as an Encyclopedia

Suitable in places with small but critical knowledge bases that were not managed at all or managed as documents. Examples: the repository of technological capabilities (for various uses ranging from intelligence uses to engineering and service uses), drug database, medical test database, and more.

WIKI as a Glossary

It is suitable in places where it's essential that the employee knows the correct terminology and will take steps to use the glossary. A helpful example is a glossary in a service center management system. On the one hand, the information in the management system's information items is concise to make it easier for the service representative; on the other hand, if the representative doesn't fully know the term and the customer asks something requiring understanding, the representative can quickly go from the information item to the term.

Another example relates to the world of business intelligence. Report columns are always supposed to be precise, but they aren't always. What is profit? If two different reports present a column of profits and in each one, the calculation of what information was and wasn't considered is different, then apparently the reports seem contradictory. Even if there's no contradiction, the report reader often doesn't understand how the data was calculated and can make wrong assumptions that will lead them to wonder about the nature of the report and its reliability.

WIKI as a Tool for Managing Malfunctions

It is very suitable for places where technicians or software people manage the malfunctions themselves. It is very convenient for updating, sharing, and setting up.

WIKI as an Information Management Tool

Suitable in organizations where the management system is initial and not large. The ability to structure the information helps present it in a way that's easy for the service representative to understand and allows for quick setup of a management system without investing in dedicated software. This is a solution limited in time or scope, and when the level of information complexity is high, the number of items is numerous, or additional components such as calculators are required, it's necessary to move on and use a tool designed for this purpose.

There are additional uses suitable for WIKI. Here, several prototypes were presented. Before setting up any such solution, one should also remember the disadvantages of WIKI and examine that, indeed, the missing components are not the important ones:

WIKI contains structured and semi-structured information but does not include documents. Documents can be linked, but they are not indexed and, therefore, not searchable.

WIKI is flat and continuously contains all information, with only the possibility of separating chapters. More complex information is less suitable for this basic tool.

Content organization in WIKI is limited. Each information item can be linked to a category. To achieve a content tree with several levels, complementary tools must be purchased.


In this review, we presented the WIKI's strengths and weaknesses and provided several examples of typical uses. Hopefully, we will succeed in using this tool to infect the organization's people, even a little, with the joy of Web 2.0 while providing substantial business or organizational value to those who use it.

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