Want True Collaboration? Wikify!

The most common question I get about web 2.0 tools is when should we use a wiki? I find this question most interesting. Even though Twitter has been around a lot less time than wikis, it seems like companies have figured out Twitter’s place in their tool box but wikis are still a head-scratcher.

We are so document-centric that it is difficult to understand how wikis could or should fit into the content management – collaboration puzzle. With most wiki software, you can attach files to a page within a wiki but I would not recommend using a wiki as a primary document storage vehicle. Instead, wikis are the ultimate collaboration tool, in my opinion.

When we think of the word “collaboration”, we think of working together, co-creation, teams and even innovation. Wikis are the perfect tool to enable the process of collaboration but require TRUST. To change others’ content, the users of a wiki need to trust each other that if something he or she wrote is deleted or edited, that the person making the change knows better. We also need to have thick skin to accept those changes. Most of us have come a long way from getting deflated at the sight of intimidating red ink our school papers, but one needs to foster a culture that can handle true co-creation just in case!

There can be no ego when using a wiki. Titles are checked at the door when you log in and every person’s opinion counts. If your culture does not accept this then wikis will be difficult to implement but not impossible. Sometimes, it takes new tools like this to prove efficiency and creativity to actually change a culture from being overly hierarchical to more collaborative.

The process requires commitment; the satisfaction is realized in the end result of a great piece of work co-created by many qualified minds. Below are some great applications for wikis:

  • Company Policies: collaboration on a small team (usually Legal and/or HR)
  • Training Guide: collaboration among a specific discipline or management level
  • Lessons Learned Repository: collaboration among one or more project teams
  • Best-Practice Language: collaboration among a project team (document assembly on the cheap)
  • Knowledge Capture/Transfer: collaboration among retiring / exiting population and future population
  • Institutional Knowledge Base: collaboration across the enterprise (great for acronyms, definitions and resource sharing)

Is Records Management the Same as Knowledge Management?

Many organizations separate Records Management from Knowledge Management because they are seen as two distinct functions. There are many differences between the two – one is focused on retention and standards while the other is focused on collaboration and bubbling up good information for active use. However, there is certainly overlap in very important areas that businesses need to consider. Organizations that separate the two functions could be taking on risk they may not have planned for.

At a minimum, Records and Knowledge groups need to be talking to each other if not organized on the same branch of the org chart. They are two sides of the same legal coin; they both facilitate and manage content – content that should be findable by people in their organization and can be discoverable in a lawsuit. Search and e-Discovery are booming businesses today and both functions need to work together to establish policies and processes to provide for both.

RM_KM_chart

Here are some key strategies to ensure findability and discovery needs are met:Establish lifecycles for each type of content. A sales proposal may be a good example of a current strategy and have a short lifespan in a Salesperson community but what if it leads to actual client work? Then, it should be formally versioned, archived and retained per the client agreement. Content lifecycles and uses are key elements to define together.

  • Define where each type of content should be stored. What should go in a community site vs. the Document Management system? Should client information be stored in the sales wiki or the CRM database? Where content should be stored has a lot to do with its lifecycle and purpose. For example, Facts and figures about a client should go into the CRM for people to find it; but where the client likes to play golf may not be essential but helpful information and could go in a wiki.
  • Set up governance and roles and responsibilities that naturally break along people, process and technology lines for the two groups. For example, Records should be the managers of standards, document naming conventions, lifecycles and policies; Knowledge should be responsible for community oversight and strategy, collaboration tools, sharing processes and capturing lessons learned. The two groups should collaborate on taxonomy development! Which leads me to my final point…
  • Mesh taxonomies to reduce confusion. Both groups should focus on taxonomy development and be aware of changes made. Knowledge people may feel folksonomies are more effective, organic and collaborative. Regardless, there will be a common vocabulary, common high-level categories, industry lists, client lists, however content should naturally be organized. These two groups must work together to ease the burden on the user. Having identical or very close taxonomies also helps if content from a document library on a collaborative space actually needs to move into a formal records repository.

Top Ten Myths about Social Media (the last Five)

#6 People will never adopt these tools; they like email too much. People still love their email. As much as people complain about it; they can’t live without it. Adoption of social tools is not automatic, which is why you need a purpose, a plan and some marketing and communication behind them. But, the benefits of instantaneous, not having to remember or create emails groups is very appealing. Even employees without computers are getting in the game. Truckers now use their mobile devices to update their status and respond to questions from fellow truckers. You couldn’t take that away from them if your tried!

#7 People don’t need any training; everyone knows how this stuff works by now! Despite all the hype, some people really don’t know how to navigate the tools or are afraid to try. Holding a virtual lunch n’ learn is not a waste of time to remove any barriers and get people started.

#8 Social media adds too many channels to an already complicated communication picture. Yes…social media do add more tools to what might be a heavy toolbox. The question should be: what can social media tools enable you to do that others can’t? Can you replace some of your existing tools with social media? Are you using a custom-built executive blog that a different technology could remove some of the manual work and enable others to join the blogging experience. Could a wiki decrease confusion that a project folder on a shared drive causes today?

#9 Every company HAS to have social media no matter what their challenges; it is the wave of the future. While I sort of believe this viewpoint for many reasons, I do think defining your needs and deciding whether or not social media meets those needs is the proper methodology. If shared drives or SharePoint sites really meet your needs, then maybe you don’t have a good business reason for starting wikis, and that’s okay. It’s about solving business problems, not just implementing the latest craze. However, if a company’s need is around collaboration, social tools are a perfect solution.

#10 Social media is a time waster.Even though social media is pervasive, a lot of leaders still feel it can be a time-waster and, therefore, block access to consumer sites and discourage the use of blogs internally except for managed leadership ones. Your employees are engaging with these tools anyway, and forcing them to do it on their mobile devices on lunch doesn’t help. Why not empower people to jump in on conversations on behalf of your company? And, using these tools behind the firewall won’t waste time…just the opposite. With its easy interface and instantaneous delivery, these tools SAVE time.

Final Note: When economic times change, people will have more employment options, and I think access to these type of tools and resources will matter to those seeking opportunity.

Top 10 Myths About Social Media (the First Five)

#1 You can just launch it and forget it. Yes. The purpose of social tools is to inspire collaboration and transparency, and its content should grow organically. However, you need a plan to monitor postings to ease your attorneys’ apprehensions and track usage for proof of success. 

#2 People will stumble upon it own their own. Despite all of the buzz around social media, not everyone will adopt it right away. Jump-starting posts and driving traffic to these tools is critical for success. 

#3 Leaders should be involved in every conversation to show support. Be careful here. Leaders should lead by example but they should start the conversation and then stand back and let the conversation happen between employees. Chime in from time to time but too much interference will be a barrier to some.

#4 Social media doesn’t need governance. Along with monitoring and measuring usage, determining who can post, reply, manage its content, report on content are very important parts of the requirements definition process. Can anyone start a blog? Maybe yes; maybe no. It depends on your needs and your organization’s culture. What content gets captured in a wiki vs. a SharePoint site? These questions also need to be answered ahead of time in your governance model to ensure people don’t get confused as to where to store information.

#5 People don’t really listen to what others’ have to say.  Au contraire! In a Universal McCann study, 72% of respondents used social media to research a company’s reputation for customer care before making a purchase. In a health study by Christakis and Fowler, social networks influence behaviors and even affect people’s happiness. People are reading and acting on what others have to say.