How to build your own Wikipedia

A funny thing happened on the way to Web 2.0: wikis went to work. Businesses are turning to wikis to cut time from projects, remain competitive and improve their processes.

A wiki is a website that can be edited collectively and at will by users. The most famous model is Wikipedia, the massive, user-generated encyclopedia.

This shared-document model means wiki documents can be modified by anyone with access, adding and revising what's there. And while companies are using blogs to increase awareness within their organisation about important events and projects, business executives, project managers and frontline employees are beginning to look at how internal wikis can help them be more efficient, to promote collaboration and make it easy for users to find and use information about business processes, company policies and more.

Wikis used for training, knowledge management, or to set business processes in place help companies organise and document their process while promoting collaboration among employees.

Before you set out to create a wiki to help manage your next project, there are necessary steps to go through in preparation for launching it company-wide. You need to define the purpose of your wiki, pick the technology that is right for you and ask for feedback from test users.

And once the wiki is up and running, you will need to be diligent about maintenance.

Why a wiki? Make sure you know

If you can't clearly and simply state what you hope you accomplish by building and maintaining a wiki, then you aren't ready to get started.

Jeff Brainard, the director of product marketing at Socialtext, a hosted service and wiki software provider, says that if the scope isn't carefully defined, the wiki won't be off to a good start. Have lots of conversations about the purpose of the wiki and what improvements you hope it will make to a project or process. Know that a clear focus is essential.

Pitfall to avoid: Brainard says: "80 percent of wikis fail because the scope wasn't clearly defined. The others succeed because of the mentality that was there going in."

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