Wiki and Knowledge Management

I posted the following  answer on a non public area and I wanted to share it. The question was “How many of you are using a Wiki for knowledge management and what are your experiences?”.

Here was my answer:

I will start my answer with 2 definitions:

A Wiki is a website where people can create edit and delete available online content keeping automatically a history of the changes. His main purpose is to generate online document in a collaborative way.

Knowledge is information that has been subjected to and has passed validation tests. It is information that has been enhanced by the record and experience provided by the validation process

I consider the Knowledge Management (KM) as a lifecycle and the Wiki could play a small role in this lifecycle to externalise and combine information/Knowledge but the Wiki does not contain process of validation and it is then difficult to identify validated information/Knowledge against a belief/affirmation of a user.

Moreover when the collaborative writing process is finished, it’s often difficult to convert the Wiki pages into your corporate standards (MS Word, Open Office …). If your organisation has a lot travelling knowledge worker, Wiki could be an issue since no offline version exist and it’s often while you are offline that you have time to write and provide information. So compared to a good EDM (electronic document management) which contains a workflow of validation and enable versioning, collaborative work on spreadsheet, word document… the Wiki is not really efficient.

The fact that most of the Wiki have no formal structure and that search can be sometime an issue does not play in favour of his adoption within a Corporate Knowledge Management project. The Wiki was designed originally to be open and not closed which makes it also difficult to include confidential projects.

I would say that you have to avoid imitating the successful Internet model inside a corporate world. A Wiki is just another kind of content management which has to be included inside a project workspace in order to write quickly ideas and small information that could then be developed further using other means of communication more adapted to the business processes.

If you want to enhance your KM inside your company then I suggest starting with socialisation but by investing rather in coffee area or beers than in IT software’s. Collaboration will not start if people do not know each others and trust is the key to success in such a project. There is no software that can do that.

Comments
One Response to “Wiki and Knowledge Management”
  1. Like this post, but caution that a “good EDM” application generally within a scope that is less than the corporate need to manage knowledge resources (people + information retained in multi-media formats). Like a wiki, perhaps, it is but a part of the answer.

    Agree completely that technology should be an enabler- not a driver – and that what is enabled is a factor of human and environmental characteristics (like trust).

    On the other hand, early exposure to too much beer means that today it is not a trust builder ;-) Repeated exposure that garners a “felt sense of belief” in others is required for trust. Social networking technology can facilitate that to a degree where multiple facets of a person are revealed. I would argue that inhibitors to knowledge sharing and collaboration are largely factors of the environmental context: cultural recognition of rank, systemic reinforcement of “need to know” limitations, contradictions in touted support for sharing and performance appraisal and incentive programs. Thoughts?

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    This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.