As colleagues move from the next cubicle to the next continent, companies and workers have been finding new ways to instantaneously share files and ideas across many parts of the globe to make employees more productive. Some companies solve this problem by using Dropbox, Chatter, Skype, or other online systems and productivity apps that allow them to send documents and files to each other seamlessly. But one file-sharing system is particularly well-suited to ongoing projects: the wiki.
Wikis allow employees to collaborate on projects and work on the same document from different locations. Here at Prialto, we use Confluence—a wiki program by Atlassian—not just as a collaborative space, but as a virtual library of the company’s knowledge base. Prialto’s wiki has sections on company best practices, technology how-tos, and training regimens for many positions (including our virtual executive assistants), to name a few.
Collaborating with a Wiki
A wiki is a type of content management system that allows users to create new files and add instantly to existing ones in the cloud. It differs from similar systems like blogs or online file vaults in that there is very little initial structure, allowing editors to establish a configuration and format that best fits their needs. Below are just a few pros and cons of other applications often used for online collaboration.
Wikis can be very effective in streamlining the onboarding process for new employees. A wiki can serve as a training aid for all new hires—no matter what office they are joining—and can help standardize the process and put the necessary training information into an easily accessible format. For companies with satellite offices that aren’t constantly supervised by top-level management, a wiki can be an important resource for employee engagement activities such as training videos, guides, and quizzes that allow managers at headquarters to track a new hire’s progress. This allows necessary information to be disseminated instantly, consistently, and all in one place. Furthermore, the living nature of a wiki allows feedback from trainees or minute changes to be incorporated effortlessly, constantly perfecting how your people are trained.
A wiki can also function as a useful filter for employee questions before they are directed to their managers—a virtual employee handbook, of sorts. The convenience of having the knowledge base of the company at every employee’s fingertips translates into time more effectively spent for your managerial staff. Frequently asked or simple questions can now easily be answered with a quick search in the wiki. Instead of spending time answering requests, management is able to spend more time on complex issues and strategic decisions.
Utilizing a wiki for your company can also cut down on the wasted time that often comes from a startup environment, where everyone in the building is taking on different roles. You don’t want your top salesperson wasting hours learning how to configure his CRM, or your COO spending time trying to figure out how to use the company’s expense management tool. Having a reliable source of reference for a wide range of issues can eliminate time spent on reinventing the wheel, especially on IT issues specific to your company. Creating a company culture in which additions to the wiki are not only encouraged, but expected, allows problems to be solved faster—clearing up issues from Salesforce integration to password management with clear, concise step-by-step directions and easy to follow diagrams.
There is always trepidation about adopting new applications and tools for your company, even one as potentially effective as a wiki. Below are a few common questions regarding using a wiki for your company.
- How much will it cost? Given the overall utility a wiki offers your company, the price tag is extremely modest. Baseline costs for some hosts, including Atlassian, start at around $50 for 15 users and scale with increasing users ($100 for 30 users, etc.) up to 2,000, where you get a price break.
- Is setup complicated? With an easy-to-use format that allows editors to create pages instantly and with a myriad of different structures, setting up your wiki can take as little as five minutes. Creating user manuals and other more in-depth features require only a cut and paste from another application or a bit of typing in easily formatted pages. Yes, someone on your team will need to spend some time upfront to migrate existing company content into the wiki, but once it’s there it will be easier than ever to update.
- Will my team actually use it? Putting good content on your wiki is one thing, getting your team to use and add to the wiki is an entirely different challenge. Integrating it as a functional part of your team’s processes can help with adoption, as well as establishing rewards and expectations for employee usage.
- How secure is a wiki? With a wiki, folders or files that a person isn’t authorized to access will not show up on their pages until the administrator invites them. In addition, there are varying levels of security (editor, read-only, etc.) that can be assigned.
How much your company decides to integrate your wiki into your employees’ daily workflow is entirely up to you. Still, as with most things in life, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. With numerous functions that can increase productivity almost immediately, we think that your ROI on this piece of technology will make it one of the best tools you can adopt for your company and grow your business.