Month: October 2009

10 Reasons to wiki

I’m speaking at the Potomac Forum at the Willard Hotel (Washington, D.C.) this Friday, October 16th. Its a how-to workshop focused on government – how to create a social media campaign, how to create effective policies, how to blog, how to engage with communities, and my subject – how to use a wiki.

It used to be that wikis were techie things where you needed to know a markup language or worse to use them. But times have changed.

The last time I spoke at the forum I asked how many people in the audience had never used a wiki – so – this workshop will focus on two things – 1) the mechanics of how to actually set up and use a wiki, and 2) why you might want to.

After defining what a wiki is, I’ll walk through some of the many uses of wikis:

1. Wiki as team roster.

2. Wiki as document organizer

3. Wiki as issues list

4. Wiki for FAQ

5. Wiki is the document

6. Wiki to get organized

7. Wiki to aggregate resources

8. Wiki to build a portfolio

9. Wiki to plan

10. Wiki as knowledge base.

Next, I’ll cover some rules of engagement:

1. Make sure you have a purpose, and that you’ve expressed it to your co-contributors. Focus is the key to success.

2. Capture your roughest thougts. If you do this, you’ll always be giving yourself something to build on.

2. Be appreciative when someone else contributes, and let them know.

3. Don’t forget to go in and prune.

4. The earlier you share, the more collaborative you can be. Once you or your colleague have formalized your thoughts, its much harder to change them, and much harder to accept well meaning critisicm. So – share while you’re still open to feedback, and comment while they are. Its very hard to put hours into creating something, and then have people point out its flaws. Its much easier to remain open to new ideas before you’ve invested too much in developing them.

Last, I’ll cover some of the features to look for in a wiki, depending on the purpose you’re after, and show some examples of great wikis.

If you’d like to learn more about how wikis can bring a new level of efficiency to a team, then register here for the two-day event, or leave me a note in the comments here.

If you’re new to wikis, or  just love a really good explanation,  this video is surely the best basic introduction to the wiki concept:

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Bigger isn’t better, and email is no way to work

I spend a lot of time these days trying to articulate the value of enterprise collaboration. This because I’m now working on a surprisingly good “social collaboration” product for enterprise. (Why surprising? Cause its out of the box functionality and usability are excellent (hours to deployment) and yet it scales like gangbusters. this is another story. check it out here).

Here’s the thing. Enterprises get big to benefit from economies of scale – the idea that the more you do something, the more efficient (cheap) you can make it. This works well for many things – manufacturing, transactional services like banking and insurance – businesses that produce things that are the same every time.

But a bigger, and ever growing, component of business success is about problem solving, idea sharing, strategy and insight. This is true in knowledge enterprises: Intelligence, Military, Technology, Medical, but its also true in manufacturing companies that need to come up with product strategies, marketing strategies and process improvements for those ever important cost savings.

This knowledge work does not benefit from efficiencies of scale – but it could. The concept of crowd-sourcing is ultimately the concept of scaling thinking.

There are a few fundamental issues, however that companies face that social collaboration tools can actually solve – without having to look into the future and take a leap of faith in the alchemy of collaboration.

1. Email is a really bad way for groups to communicate with one another.

Email is a really great way for two people to communicate, or for one party to send announcements to others, but if you’re looking to have a multi-way discussion, where multiple people are reviewing, revising, asking and answering questions, then email really stinks. I’m guessing that I don’t have to give you too many examples of why – but just think about the last time that you got edits on a doc from more than one person, had to integrate them and recirculate for approval. How easy waas that? And guess what? This is how most work is done in most businesses. This simple problem in itself is, perhaps, the very best reason to choose your favorite social collaboration tool and use it. Your entire company will thank you – once they get the hang of it.

2. Emailing documents around also stinks – nobody knows which is the latest version, those powerpoints are big, too easy to loose them.

again – the email stinks thing, but it really does. And maybe you have some document management software – how well is this solving this problem for you? Its part of the problem, but not nearly enough.

3. When I leave, I’m gone.

Most of what I know isn’t in a document – its in the conversations I have, the comments I make and the documents I create. When I’m gone, I can leave you a few gig of email and docs somewhere – good luck sorting through it all and finding any value in it. But if that’s all part of a collaborative community, it becomes searchable, it remains in context, and can be easily connected with other people in the company for continuity.

4. When I arrive I’m lost.

How long does it take you to figure out how things get done in a company? The org chart can help. Some. But its not nearly enough. Knowing who knows what and who does what is a matter of building relationships and trying things out, and having an effective network of people to query and being able to see the results of other people’s queries. Social collaboration tools can be an enormous help – without them, you’re basically stuck with email and the org chart. Maybe a “helpful” HR orientation. If you’re insanely lucky, you might have a mentor or a manager with 5 minutes time to spend with you.

5. I have no idea what you’re doing.

I go about my job and you go about yours. Sometimes we’re trying to solve the same or similar problems, searching for similar resources and compiling them together. Sometimes we’re communicating with customers, planning events, initiatives, research. And we don’t have any idea that there’s someone to share the work with, or to grab some great stuff from, because we have no idea what the similarities or synergies are. We might hear rumors through other people, and if we’re lucky, we hook up and get some value from the relationship. If we have time and luck. Businesses need to do better than depend on time and luck.

So – I love nothing more than to discuss the long term effects of collaborative cultures and make assurances about how you’ll innovate more and increase agility and capability once you’re fully down the road with social collaboration. But its hard to prove that’s what happens. And its also unnecessary.

All you need to know, is that email is the biggest waste of time – not because you’re getting unimportant messages, but because it doesn’t help get the necessary work done,  it doesn’t help people know what’s going on, and ideas, information and documents that travel via email get lost without fail.

Social Collaboration tools do not need to solve every challenge you’ve ever had, and they won’t. But they’ll get you out of working in your inbox. All it will take to prove it is a good days work with them.

Uncle Sam wants to share: Social Collaboration in the Public Sector.

The public sector is leading the charge in adopting collaborative technologies. Why?

1. They are mission focused – their goal is not profit, but service. In the case of the real leaders and innovators, the military and intelligence communities, their mission is life and death. They are keen to embrace methods and technologies that further the mission.

2. They are complex bureaucracies – the Federal government employs some 200,000 people. Policies and processes can be complex and less than agile. People within these bureaucracies must rely on their knowledge and relationships to improve effectiveness.

3. They must do more with less. The mission of government rarely shrinks, but their resources do. The resourcefulness and dedication of civil servants is what drives them ever forward.

4. The leadership of these agencies recognizes the talent within and the complexity of the mission.

5. Obama told them to. He’s demanding a new perspective of government effectiveness and how technology can enable it.

So – who’s sharing what? A very short list of examples, pulled from a very long list of initiatives:

1. The intelligence community is sharing via A-Space and Intellipedia, and its next generation, Intellipublia, among other initiatives.

2. The army is sharing via The Warfighters Forum and has instituted a set of 12 Principles to support collaborative, knowledge-growing, organizations.

3. The State Department is working to get embassy personnel up to speed quickly and retain knowledge as they rotate through different assignments with Diplopedia.

4. The Navy is using Tripwire, among other tools.

There are a dozen more great examples of government adopting collaborative concepts and technologies. What are they hoping to gain?

1. Effectiveness

2. Situational awareness

3. Retention and reuse of work, knowledge, process and capability.

4. Leveraging the full passion of committed employees.

Join me on Friday at 1pm eastern time for a review of how some of Open Text’s latest technology helps meet these objectives with an easy to use, easy to deploy application to support collaboration in the public and commercial sectors. Go ahead and register here.

I hope to hear from you on this webinar, and here, on this blog about your challenges, successes and questions about how social collaboration can make your organization more effective.