Wikis can improve the utility of e-mail

Wikis not only make it easier to manage projects, but also can significantly reduce e-mail traffic in an organization

E-mail is a fantastically useful tool for many applications, but project management using e-mail as the primary communications vehicle could use improvement.

Some of the deficiencies of e-mail for managing projects include the fact that only specified recipients are included on the distribution list for updates, and lots of 'spammy' messages are sent (e.g., the 'Thanks!' messages that are often sent via Reply All in response to delivery of a draft document or other message).

A better way to communicate is through the use of a wiki, a permissions-based Web page or Web site that permits users to add various types of content, modify existing content, add Web links and perform other tasks. Wikis make it easier for groups to collaborate on projects and other work by improving the efficiency of communications between members of the group.

Using a wiki to manage a project, for example, anyone with access to it can view previous communications between participants and add content for everyone to see, allowing an organization to realize the benefits of 'persistence' of messages. Using e-mail for managing a project would restrict communication only to those individuals who had been copied on e-mails or who had received forwarded copies of messages. Replies would be sent to everyone, getting lost in many recipients' mailboxes instead of being organized by date, subject, etc. in a single interface.

From a purely functional standpoint, wikis not only make it easier to manage projects, but also can significantly reduce e-mail traffic in an organization. For example, instead of a message sent to 10 people, each of whom can respond back, generating up to 100 messages in response, a message or document can be posted to a wiki with reduced impacts on bandwidth and storage requirements.

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Michael Osterman

Network World
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