Solving the knowledge management problem is hard. People have many choices: email, wiki, blog, news groups, email lists, and others options. None of these solutions is perfect.
A wiki is a good part of a knowledge management solution, but getting a new wiki adopted in an organization can be difficult. How do you get a wiki adopted?
Getting a Wiki Adopted is Tough
People who love wiki find it hard to believe that people wouldn't immediately accept a wiki and start using it. It's not always that easy.
To get a wiki adopted in any organization can be tough because:
- Anything new takes a while.
- Wiki is different than anything they have used before.
- It is not email.
- It is not part of the current workflow.
- It takes active participation to create content and keep the wiki organized.
- Most wikis have some features that make adoption more difficult.
- Usually wikis start with no content so there's no reason to use them.
The advice on this page will help get your wiki adopted.
Have a Champion
Your wiki needs a champion. Wiki adoption just doesn't happen. Someone has to do the heavy lifting of:
- Selecting a wiki.
- Getting it installed, running, configured, maintained, enhanced.
- Bootstrapping content.
- Recruiting wiki evangilizers.
- Answering questions, training, and solving problems.
To ease wiki adoption you need to remove as many objections as possible. Systematically take away every possible execuse for not using the wiki.
- Make sure the wiki looks attractive. Ugly doesn't sell well.
- Have a contact email so people can ask for help. When people ask a question or ask for a feature address their issues immediately.
- Select a wiki you can make changes to so you can customize it for local needs.
- Select a wiki with good features, that is configurable, and that is fast.
- Select a wiki with a powerful and simple markup language and that has a linking syntax other than just plain CamelCase.
- Select a wiki that handles attachments.
- Select a wiki that has version control.
- Consider having the wiki data backend to your primary change control system.
- Make sure there are clear task based instructions on how to use the wiki. Add commands for adding/removing/renaming pages. One of the greatest objections to wiki is people don't know how to perform basic operations like add a page. If you add a way to add a page your adoption rates will sky rocket.
- Have the ability to email people when pages change.
- The search facility should be good.
- Have a large amount of content in the wiki before rolling it out.
- Don't get stuck on wiki philosophy. Make it usable so people will use it. If people want a feature then consider adding it. Don't say "that's not how wiki work."
- Maybe gateway the wiki to email, blogs, and news groups.
- Give the wiki a simple URL.
- Have a policy for wiki backup and restoral in place and explained on your wiki.
- For a public facing wiki have a way to deal with comment spam.
- Link to successful wiki sites on the net so people can see how an active wiki community can create and maintain content.
- Encourage the use of attachments so people can use their normal tools for producing documents, spread sheets, charts, etc. Don't try to force eveyone to use the wiki exclusively for everything. Let the uses of the wiki build as people experiene it. Don't force an all or nothing conversion.
- Backup your wiki data so people aren't afraid of losing their work.
- Select a wiki the exports pages and trees of pages to PDF format. One common objection against wikis is the inability to get hard copy output of wiki content.
The best way for a wiki to not be just another island of information is for people to use it and for a community to build unquestioned value both in content and links. You can say that about any technology, but the wiki has some features (browser based, easy editing, easy linking, simple formatting, visible links, searching, etc) that make collaboration more possible.
When enough content has been added the value of the wiki becomes unquestionable and it becomes self-sustaining and self propagating.
- Start the wiki with as much content as you can. Put a lot of effort into adding content before people learn about the wiki.
- Add new content to the wiki.
- Instead of emailing content, put it in the wiki, and email a link to the wiki page.
- Move existing content over to the wiki as you can.
- Actively summarize email you receive, put it in the wiki, and email a link to the wiki page.
- Turn the answer to every question into a wiki page.
- Turn every piece of knowledge into a wiki page.
- Actively link pages together. Easy linking is a big win of wiki so show it off. Good links dramatically increases the value of content.
- Link to internal wiki sites or wiki sites on the net so people can see how a wiki can link together different groups and build knowledge.
Enmesh the Wiki In Company Processes
Things that are in company processes survive and grow. To get your wiki to a point where it is self-sustaining you need to get it involved in company processes.
Take every opportunity to volunteer to have content put in the wiki. For example, have people put test results in the wiki, put meeting notes in the wiki, put todo lists in the wiki, put project and personal status in the wiki, put how to instructions, and so on. Anything you can think of.
- Have your company search system index your wiki so it comes up people's everyday searches.
Getting a wiki adopted takes consistent education and marketing. This is the job of the champion and their aids.
- Have a rollout announcement of the wiki. Once the wiki is up and working and has substantial content, then announce it to the world.
- Have classes where you introduce the wiki to different people and groups. This is the "train the trainers approach." One-on-one situations are often better at showing people the value of using a wiki and for showing how easy it is.
- Enlist aids to help sell the wiki and add content.
- Encourage people to add content and publish links to the content in email.
- Find opportunities to enmesh the wiki in company processes.
- Actively ask people if they could put that (whatever it is) content into the wiki.
- Recruit opinion leaders and higher level management. Try and figure out arguments for the wiki that will appeal to their needs. Personally show them the wiki to reduce objections.
Don't Give Up
Don't give up. It can be a lonely road at first, as is anything new. Organizations are difficult to change. Keep evangelizing. Keep adding content. Keep using the wiki. An unused wiki is a dead wiki.
How do you know when to give up? You may not need to give up your wiki in that you and the people who have adopted the wiki can continue to use it.
Consider Not Using Wiki For Conversations
Wiki is not a natural environment for holding conversations. Yes, it does seem to work in a few specialized environments, but yours probably isn't one of them.
But don't expect people to feel comfortable using a wiki for Thread Mode. Wikis just aren't good at threads of messages. Everything looks all jumbled together and people just give up in frustration. Instead, use your normal options that people are already comfortable with:
- Face-to-Face conversation
Then use the wiki to present the take-away message of your conversations. People will see this is useful because they always find what was decided in a conversation. Encourage the cycle:
- Write the result in the wiki.
- Talk some more.
- Update the wiki.
Just Do It! Don't Wait For a Budget
Bootstrap your wiki into existence by just setting it up and using it. If you have to get a budget, people, machines, permission, management buy-in, etc then it will never happen. It's better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.
Tools like wiki need a guerilla adoption strategy. Do the work on your own time with your own resources.
Once you demonstrate your wiki's value through actual use then you can go mainstream.
This doesn't mean you can do a poor job setting up your wiki. It needs to be first class in all senses or people won't use it.
Have a Transition Plan
If you are successful it means your wiki will probably outgrow your ability to administer it and maintain it. Maybe not, but you should be prepared to transition ownership to IT, a tools group, or maybe even a new wiki group!
This is a hard transition to make because your baby is leaving and you won't have the same control or access as you used to. Just be prepared.
Hopefully your company can establish a healthy process for this transition. Often something will just be taken from you and that's that. Teams grab for power and think they win by having absolute control and cutting off all ties with the original creators.
A healthy organization might:
- Consider the transition from user initiated projects to a more formal status an excellent corporate process. It's like a bigger company buying a smaller more nimble startup to fill out their product offerings.
- Allow the creators of a project, if they wish, to maintain involvement with the project after it is handed off.
- Encourage user initiated projects by making "extra" budgets and machines available without requiring an act of congress to use them.
Promoting Your Wiki
For Pay Wikis
- Confluence - Probably the best wiki on the market.
- JSP Wiki - JSP Wiki is a nice free wiki with a lot of features
- Xwiki - an excellent full featured easy to use wiki.
- Media Wiki - engine behing wikipedia
Free Hosted Wikis
Not everyone can install a wiki at their ISP or their home. Here a few options for free wikis that are hosted on someone else's site.
- http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiEngines - is a good list of available wikis
Here are some other interesting topcs that you may find useful: