Wikis At Work - InformationWeek
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2/2/2006
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Wikis At Work

Wikis can bring a sense of involvement and innovation to an organization--if they're implemented wisely. Here's how Nokia, the Canadian Meteorological Center, and Angel.com are putting wikis to work.

As interest in Web 2.0 picks up speed, the development and implementation of social software (such as blogs, wikis, and photo- and bookmark-sharing systems like Flickr and del.icio.us) is also gaining traction. Although these platforms are still relatively new, their presence in the world of business is growing quickly as they gain complexity and robustness. Chief among them is the wiki.


Wikis At Work


•  Introduction

•  Bringing Wikis Inside

•  Getting Users On Board

•  The Wiki Effect


A wiki is a Web site that can be edited by anybody who is granted permission. In a business environment, that can mean a workgroup, a department, or even the whole company. The people who access the data and documents in a wiki are also the authors of the wiki, making it ideal for information sharing.

While wikis aren't the best tool for discussions or real-time collaboration, they excel as resources for archiving documents and tracking workflow. In addition to Web pages, wikis can link to spreadsheets, Word documents, PowerPoint slides, PDFs – anything that can be displayed in a browser. They can also embed standard communications media such as e-mail and IM. In other words, they let users gather all the information and correspondence pertinent to a project within one central location.

What's more, most wikis are either open source or based on open-source code. Open-source wikis are absolutely free for companies who implement them, and even licensed versions – which include implementation and support – are cheap compared to standard project- or content-management software. (See Wikis In The Business World for a more complete introduction to wikis and whether they're right for your company.)


The people who access the data and documents
in a wiki are also the authors of the wiki,
making it ideal for information sharing.

We interviewed three businesses, large and small, that have implemented wikis:

•   The Corporate Strategy department of mobile communications giant Nokia, located in Finland, has four active wikis on both open-source and proprietary platforms. The organization has more than 50,000 employees worldwide; currently, 1,000 to 1,500 employees throughout Nokia use wikis.

•   Angel.com, a 25- to 30-person startup, is a subsidiary of business intelligence firm MicroStrategy, Inc., specializing in Interactive Voice Response (IVR) software. Angel.com uses commercial wiki software from Socialtext companywide.

•   Finally, about 100 workers at the 250-person Canadian Meteorological Centre (CMC), a section of Environment Canada that deals with weather forecasts (the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Predictions), use a wiki based on the open-source Tikiwiki platform.

We also spoke with Marc Laporte, who runs a Quebec-based consulting business called Avantech.net that builds, installs, and maintains open-source wikis based on the Tikiwiki platform. Laporte started using wikis as a hobby, converted them into a business model, and now makes his living implementing wikis for small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits.

The representatives we spoke with all provided insight into how wikis typically find their way into corporations, what effect they have once they're there, and how they can be used most effectively.

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