Making Wikis Work in Business - Leading Users to the Water

October 17, 2007 · · Posted by Jordan Frank

Rod Boothby's post on Managing Wikis in Business draws out the main points on a post and MBA research by the same name written by Penny Edwards.​

Boothby's conclusion is "the biggest take-away I have comes from the last point.​ In a work environment, new technology is never adopted over night.​ It takes time to move people over.​ When introducing something as radically new as Enterprise 2.​0, you have to be patient… at least during the roll-out phase.​"

I generally agree.​ In cases like ShoreBank, where the team and management agreed on a process for using and the wiki site was organized well to support their goals, overnight adoption can succeed.​

However, in most scenarios, its necessary to lead users to the water and slowly transition people and their communication and collaboration processes to the wiki.​ The question is "how?"

The last two points Boothby pointed out from the research stress the importance

  • to "allow people time to develop their skills with the wiki and gradually move them away from use of inefficient tools by constantly and subtly promoting its use"
  • and to "Recognise that later adopters may need greater support helping them understand how to use the wiki and work more collaboratively.​"

These points can be addressed in part by socialization and leading by way of example, but interface elements play an equally powerful role.​ One popular method in Traction TeamPage is to use Sections on the home page (newspages) of wiki projects.​

The screen shot below is a demo wiki site I created for a customer who makes specialty metals.​ The left column shows the tag cloud for the page while the middle section includes sections that fill dynamically based on the content in the wiki project:

The sections play two roles simultaneously.​

First, they bring important time ordered (Status Reports, Meeting Notes, Issues and Questions) and wiki type content (Alloy Glossary and Tech Doc) to the foreground.​

Second, the Add buttons aim to engage indiividuals in the process, leading them to the water.​

Individuals are often shy to start using a wiki because they don't know the basic skills (which are as simple as Post, Comment, Link and Label).​ But even with the basic skills, they still may not know understand the use case for a given wiki project space.​

Encouragement from team members coupled with subtle hints from the interface work together to solve the adoption, cultural and process transition issues faced by organizations seeking Enterprise 2.​0 success.​