Wikis that work: Four IT departments get it right

IT orgs harness wiki power to handle everything from tech training to project management

"The wiki has added tremendously to IT's ability to provide service," says Alek Lotoczko, intranet project manager. "People have a tendency to junk e-mail without reading it. Now, information is getting to people who need to know, and it's cut down on full e-mail inboxes and waiting for e-mail alerts each day."

Separately, NYK uses a wiki to keep multiple peer IT groups in the loop on the status of various projects. "Now there's one place where people can get searchable access to information, whereas before it was filed away in people's [individual] e-mail inboxes," Lotoczko explains. The tagging and structure capabilities of the enterprise wiki tool (in this case, Atlassian's Confluence ) also help the team easily build up an IT knowledge base of bug reports and troubleshooting guides.

Lotoczko's IT group has gone a step further and swapped its project management tool for another Confluence wiki that enables employees to collaborate with outsourced Web site development partners, taking advantage of the tool's permission and security controls to limit access to intellectual property and other company materials to specific subsets of users.

"It's allowing us to do what could have been done via e-mail and face-to-face visits, but it's cheaper and more efficient [with the wiki]," he explains. "With this archive, there's a permanent schedule record that's searchable and that we can learn from, which couldn't have been done before."

Wikis streamline project management

With a wiki, important project milestones, schedule changes or problem resolutions can be easily gathered and accessed from one place rather than becoming lost or overlooked in a crowded e-mail inbox, the consultant Stewart Mader says. In addition, wikis encourage participation from colleagues who may or may not have been included as part of an e-mail chain.

And wikis can be better than discussion forums or software version management systems in compressing communication into more useful, actionable information, says Christian Wagner, author of "The Wiki in Your Company: Lessons for Collaborative Knowledge Management," a report conducted by the Society for Information Management's Advanced Practices Council . "There's less noise and more signal in wiki conversations," says Wagner, who is also a professor at the City University of Hong Kong .

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