Corporate wiki use

As corporate wikis become more popular, excellent examples of companies successfully structuring their business practices around wikis are continuing to emerge. One of these examples is RedAnt – a web design company who have fully embraced the wiki technology with powerful outcomes.

Rather than just a receptacle for information, we use it to store meeting notes, brainstorms, wireframes, snippets of code, and even present visual designs. The aim is to try to get as much information on each project written down. By doing this, we’ve found that our Wiki has become our main interface with customers – a kind of a mixture of intranet and extranet. (RedAnt, 2009)

Web design company RedAnt doesn’t just use wikis – they’ve built their work structure around them. More specifically, RedAnt uses a wiki platform software tool called Confluence.

RedAnt is vocal about the benefits it has drawn from this approach and I identified three different areas these benefits relate to:

Data

–       Handling a variety of content (the wiki supports a variety of content types – such as images and Flash as well as text – and can bring them together in a single document)

–       Documentation (in addition to storing and displaying actual project data, the wiki can be used for storing data about the project, including ‘detailed software documentation’)

People

–       Everyone was able to contribute and participate and more people were involved

–       Easy to manage who has what permissions (One of the problems RedAnt faced was how to make sure the right files were accessible to to everyone who needed them whilst keeping more sensitive files were off limits. Using the wiki enabled this provision and protection to be set up quickly and easily.)

–       Helps maintain communication with clients

–       Helps demonstrate activity levels to clients (This makes sure the clients are aware of progress being made and are reassured that the company is still working on their project)

–       Working with both geographically and temporally dispersed groups (RedAnt found that the wiki technology was extremely useful in dealing with clients that weren’t ‘local’ or were in a different time zone)

–       Improving communication through visuals (RedAnt also found that explaining concepts could be helped by using images and graphs and the like)

Time

–       Less waiting around for other people to upload content for the group (In previous systems, publishing content was left to a select group of individuals and this mean that there was often time spent waiting for these people to upload large amounts of content from others. Using the wiki, everyone was able to contribute, thus relieving the pressure on the few people who used to be responsible for that task)

–       Speed of publishing  (In addition to allowing other people to publish content, the wiki system simplified the publishing process, thus shortening the time taken to upload content.)

One of the pitfalls of this system is related to some of the behaviour RedAnt noticed emerging – ‘crammers’. These people didn’t read updates frequently but attempted massive catchups right before meetings. I suspect that if the same people were presented with a different system, they would exhibit the same behaviour to some degree but the “What’s new” feature of the wiki likely encourages it. This behaviour could be detrimental to the project and organisation because it means that some people are unaware of potentially serious developments and may not react in time.

The RedAnt example is definitely a positive one – there seem to be almost no downsides to their transition to a wiki workplace and an abundance of benefits.

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