Four Ways to Use an Enterprise Wiki

eXo Platform Blog

Enterprise wikis are designed to be simple collaborative documentation engines and easy to use in a corporate context.

One of the intents of a wiki is to avoid formal publication and limit formatting options. Unlike CMSs, wikis focus on allowing people to read and contribute content. The collaborative model of a wiki explicitly encourages broad and open participation.

Despite its laudable intentions, the wiki software packages remain very generic tools for free collaboration. So where to start? How can a company leverage its Enterprise Wiki? Here are some use cases that we’ve seen with our customers.

Knowledge Base Wiki

Centralizing the expertise of a company is a classic challenge that many companies are trying to address by setting up internal knowledge bases. If it’s well managed, it is the intellectual capital of the company. You can find information about customers, products, processes, and the collective memory of past experiences.

Here are some examples :

  • Customer Base: Make a description of each customer—year, sector, country, products purchased, etc.—available to everyone. Attach any intervention reports and all kinds of documents that you’ve exchanged with them.
  • Technical Support: Troubleshooting and maintenance procedures for your products, tips, and safety instructions are all necessary to support your customers. Take every opportunity to record this knowledge and make the lives of your support staff easier. This will reduce your costs significantly while increasing customer satisfaction. Good quality support materials can be made public so that your customers can access them if they wish, potentially reducing the load on your customer support staff.
  • Internal IT Support: In the same spirit, your IT department could establish a base of articles that help employees to solve common problems, such as when the database is unavailable, email is no longer coming, or documents won’t print anymore.
  • Training: To complete reference documentation for your products, you can assemble practical tutorials for your customers (and your employees) to facilitate their training.
  • Process Base: Formalize your business processes in a knowledge base wiki to allow your employees to refer to it in case of doubt. This is a way to accelerate their onboarding and save time for your managers.
  • Corporate Memory: Retrospectives, 5-Whys, and post-mortem meetings are techniques you can implement with a wiki, and avoid making the same mistakes again and again. Document them in your knowledge base wiki so staff who are facing complicated situations can benefit from the experience of others. Similarly, document major decisions for future reference.

With their automatic versioning functions, full text search, permissions management, inter-relationships, and page templates, corporate wikis are ideal for building and managing a rich knowledge base.

To ensure good quality contributions, prepare well-structured article templates with a header that summarizes key metadata, such as author, date of update, the relevant context, links to resources, or additional sources.

Finally, in systems that support multiple wikis, you can mount multiple knowledge bases in parallel for different audiences.

Project Collaboration Wiki

Whether it has a project management culture or not, any business typically hosts a multitude of projects that require interdepartmental collaboration. The various actors must communicate effectively among themselves and coordinate their actions to complete the project.

Inevitably, your projects will be punctuated by launch meetings, presentations, workshops, brainstorming sessions, and other gatherings. Using another dedicated page template, make a habit of recording the minutes and notes in a project collaboration wiki. Organize them by date and highlight the presenters, topics, decisions, and new actions. By initializing the page in advance you can even enable participants to add items to the agenda directly by modifying the page.

Over time, you will build a centralized memory of your project and the wiki can serve as a reference for absentees returning for an update as well as newcomers to the project.

Similarly, a wiki is handy to achieve a high level project schedule that can be easily shared, updated, and maintained collectively. Although more rudimentary than a professional planning tool, planning on wikis lets you easily document the key steps of your project and indicate the stakeholders at each stage. The advantage of this shared schedule on wiki is that it can be easily accessed and amended by all project members.

You can also add any kind of information to the wiki for your project that helps the team to work effectively—for instance, guidelines, project objectives, links to reference documents, or even contact information and directions.

Finally, if your project requires the development of documentation, the open nature of a wiki is ideal for developing it collegially.

In summary, through the project collaboration wiki, all the information and organizing your project needs can be centralized in an open environment that allows two-way communication. This is a way to foster the contribution of all participants’ own ideas, which will allow your project to achieve better results.

Wiki for Team Collaboration

Whether it has adopted a hierarchical, matrix, or other organizational model, any business forms more or less permanent teams that have their own charge, area of responsibility, and tools and practices. Providing a wiki to an organizational team can be a good way to boost its effectiveness.

First, recording the procedures and processes of the team in the wiki will make them easily accessible to newcomers or team members who simply need to refresh their memory. For example, a marketing team can document the process for publishing a blog post, the pointers to the SEO analysis reports, or a tutorial on updating the home banner of the company website. By allowing everyone to comment on and develop these procedures, you establish a certain collegiality that can increase the effectiveness, motivation, and cohesiveness of the group.

The team collaboration wiki is also the perfect place to share reports or corporate memos that directly affect the activity of the team. If your tools and logins are shared, document them in the wiki as well, safely ensuring that only members of your team have access to this information.

Another example? Your HR team certainly has maintenance models of typical job descriptions, procedures for performance reviews, and training material for managers conducting candidate interviews.

Although documenting all these processes takes some effort, it can be well worth it: a wiki facilitates the contribution, review, and evolution of all this documentation and ensures that it’s always up to date.

Wiki as an Employee Handbook

One of the major concerns of all HR departments is to ensure the successful onboarding of newcomers so they can fit into the corporate culture and get up and running quickly.

A wiki is ideal for recording the policies and values of the company and providing up-to-date information on employee benefits like health insurance, retirement or savings plans. A less formal but practical application is a page with frequently used telephone numbers, for instance, of caterers who will bring lunch to a meeting room, the car rental partner, or the procedure to book the conference rooms.

Again, the open nature of the wiki is its advantage over the battery of PDF documents where this information is often recorded. We’re not recommending that anyone can edit this kind of information, but embedded comments do allow everyone to give valuable feedback and ideas that HR can use to complement and enhance the information already available. Often wikis provide a watch function that notifies the group when a page changes. This facilitates the dissemination of information and enables you to correct errors quickly.

Finally, the wiki can be home to practical information that all employees can contribute and use, such as the best places in the area for lunch or after-work drinks, nearby sports venues, or the best local drycleaner. By allowing everyone to share their discoveries, you give them the opportunity to feel useful to their colleagues and share some personal knowledge. All this contributes to the well-being of employees and promotes a sense of cohesiveness and camaraderie.

We’ve seen our clients use wiki software for a variety of uses and at a variety of intensities. If you have implemented an Enterprise wiki or if you’re bouncing around some ideas of how your particular business might use an Enterprise wiki, feel free to leave a comment.

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I am the product officer at eXo. I oversee product management and product marketing. My teams design, create and promote the features of and improvements to eXo Platform. As a former enterprise software developer turned product manager, I have a passion for how IT can improve people’s lives. In this blog, I write about some of my personal interests, such as productivity, alternative forms of management and corporate organisations, collaboration, open-source and emerging technologies.

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