Wikis that work: Four IT departments get it right

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

Mindful of that adage, SAP's Software Developer Network (SDN) wiki, a reference and collaboration tool for more than 1 million independent SAP software developers, employs a point system to encourage participation and recognize its most active and valued members.

Under the SAP Contributor Recognition program , members are awarded points for every technical article, code sample, blog post and wiki contribution they make. SDN employees rank wiki posts based on their content and value to the community.

Top contributors get recognition among their peers on the SDN Web site, and the points they accumulate can also be traded in for a variety of giveaways, including the top prizes such as free admission to SAP's TechEd developers conference . In addition, SAP makes a donation to the United Nations' World Food Programme 's Food for Education initiative. is the donation based on points accumulated? individually or in total?

The point system was designed as a bit of competition to increase the quality of answers to the 5,000 to 7,000 posts that come into SDN daily, according to Mark Finnern, chief community evangelist for SAP SDN. "The pace of answering questions wasn't the problem, the problem was the quality of answers," he explains.

Previously, using a more free-form community system, "People who had the knowledge were putting out answers that were getting shorter and shorter because the same questions were asked again and again." Now, the wiki's ability to create structure and put tags around the content makes it easier for participants to locate the information they need than at online forums and other venues, Finnern says.

Making wikis work

Despite their promise, companies have been somewhat slow to adopt wikis on an enterprise-wide scale. According to a September 2007 Enterprise and SMB Software Survey by Forrester Research, only 3 percent of 1,017 North American and European enterprise decision makers said they were planning a large-scale, strategic wiki implementation in the next 12 months, though 10% said they were experimenting with smaller, pilot wiki projects.

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Beth Stackpole

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