Small Business Technology Articles
Written by Adam Roy for Gaebler Ventures
Wikis have taken the world by storm. Are you leveraging them within your business? You should be.
Since Wikipedia burst onto the scene, people have made much of this technology's potential.
The quick response time and flexible interface have made wiki-based manuals and databases into Internet fixtures, operated by both wiki-centered data projects, such as Wikipedia, and utilized for documentation purposes by private companies and non-profit groups.
However, in the business world, wikis are mostly limited to use as user-end delivery systems for documentation and the like. Thus, the potential uses of wikis as internal tools for businesses' employees have been largely overlooked.
This is unfortunate because, looking at the technology from an objective standpoint, wikis are perfect for internal business usage. The technology is largely covered by the GPL, so it is available at low or zero costs to entrepreneurs. In addition, the open nature of wikis means that all employees can contribute to the knowledge base at whatever pace their schedules permit. Finally, the fact that all contributors are employees, who can be held responsible for the content they post, eliminates the main flaw with wiki technology, the lack of any editorial oversight.
One advantage of wikis which is worth noting is the speed with which new information becomes entered into the document. In a traditional company history or archive, in which all new events are compiled, recorded, and organized by a single person, the turnaround on having new information entered into the company's records is understandably long.
Almost always, new deals, suits, purchases, and business strategies are not compiled and organized until after the developments are over. With a "wiki-history", however, business owners can chronicle not only their past strategies but their ongoing deals and activities as well. This means that the details and impact of new business developments can be accessed and put to good use not only by business owners but by their employees and, when applicable, their investors as well.
Business owners who wish to step into this exciting new technological arena would be well-advised to apply a couple of changes to the normal wiki structure; the first of these would be the addition of a central editor.
While most wiki documents are kept to editorial standards by a community of concerned and altruistically motivated users, this approach can occasionally overlook factual or grammatical errors, something which professionals cannot afford. In order to provide a consistent standard of reliability, business owners would be well advised to provide some type of consistent editorial oversight, whether by hiring a full-time archivist or by spending a few hours a week checking the content themselves.
The second important change would be to integrate the document into the company's main site, where applicable. Most wiki-based pages share the same dry, white color scheme and, while this may be appropriate for some sites, it may be better to give the system a facelift, both externally and internally, to better suit particular companies' web design strategies.
While this may seem trivial, it may prove to be an essential step to integrating the new wiki-based documentation into the rest of the site and, more importantly, preventing dangerous compatibility problems that could hurt access to the system.
If you are interested in using wiki technology for your company's internal information systems, you may want to try making a mock-up first, using a free wiki-hosting provider such as pbwiki.com or wikispaces.com.
While the technology may be intimidating, entrepreneurs who venture into it are likely to reap the rewards of a smoothly running business and improved professional communication.
Adam Roy is an accomplished writer specializing in business writing and topics of interest to entrepreneurs and small business owners. His own fast-growing small business, Roy Writing, is based in Northbrook, Illinois.
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