The greatest thing to happen to your business knowledge since it was forged.
A wiki is a web-based tool that houses information while offering convenient, universally accessible tools to allow users to edit the content. The most well-known and instantly recognized example of a wiki is of course, Wikipedia. Wikipedia, along with wikis of all shapes, sizes and purposes, were a mindless rage in the media over the past few years. Now that the rabid popularity has died down a bit, wikis have proven themselves to be a strong workhorse for large corporations and small businesses alike.
Documenting collective knowledge
The wikis role in the workplace is a very flexible one. The common theme to the wiki’s role is documenting the collective knowledge of your business. When used properly, a wiki provides one centralized location for all of your employees to find the information they need to make the business run.
For example, a wiki would house the latest policy on referrals to Service X. When Service X moved their website, the first person that found the link broken can click “edit” and update the link. No need for an e-mail that half the organization will delete. No need for a Word document on a file share that everyone will forget how to access. All the pieces of your business knowledge are conveniently found behind a single bookmarked web page.
Working your SMEs around the clock
All businesses have areas of niche information; the nitty-gritty procedures, trivia, or know-how that are not often used but are essential to business. Inevitably these things find themselves a home in the head of a SME (Subject Matter Expert). Everyone can do more and solve problems faster with your SME around. Wikis help to document SME knowledge for all to partake of, regardless of your SME’s physical presence.
Take the guy who understands how to complete and invoice the specialty work for that small unique customer you have. What do you do when he takes a vacation or gets sick? Have your SME create a wiki page about Customer Y. Link this page to pages about the procedures that are needed to do the work for this customer – linking those procedures to the policies related to the pricing of this work. This will keep business going, even if your SME isn’t around.
Information without an expiration date
Wikis aren’t all free love and information sharing. Rugged individualists will find that they can still find a sense of self in a wiki. Personal stashes of information are abundant in the workplace. Sometimes this takes the form of a cache of saved e-mails. Others prefer to archive dusty piles of printouts. Still others keep planners permanently at hand. Wikis offer benefits even for these self-important souls.
Wikis are a much more intuitive format for organizing information than the aforementioned methods. Instead of tracking down the e-mail reply chain, the wiki hyperlinks between related topics. By documenting all of the information in a wiki page, new employees are no longer at the mercy of e-mails they did not receive. Wikis are more space-efficient and organized than printed documents, with the added bonus of being web accessible. Personal notes are convenient but subject to becoming obsolete. Information on a wiki page maintained by the team is timeless.