Wikis that work: Four IT departments get it right

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

That number may be starting to change. A March 2008 Gartner survey (subscription required) of 360 US-based IT organizations indicated that wikis and?blogs were being used by more than half the organizations surveyed.

Ironically, one of the biggest reasons companies are holding back on corporatewide deployments may be due to the success of that most famous wiki, Wikipedia. "When you first hear about a wiki at work, the thought is it's a freewheeling, utopian, almost hippyish Wikipedia where people get into edit wars, have huge disagreements and where there have been well-known scandals," Mader says.

In order for a wiki to be successful, it has to mimic the workflow structure that already exists in an organization. In addition, Mader says, enterprise wikis must integrate with common network services like LDAP, which facilitate accessibility, and must support permission sets, which allow managers to limit access to information by individual or by job title.

There are other factors required for a wiki to work its magic, even within IT organizations that are typically more progressive about adopting new technology. A corporate culture that values collaboration and knowledge sharing is critical, as is a champion who has the clout within the IT group to encourage wiki use.

Participants need to be willing to go out on a limb by sharing ideas that are still in progress. "With traditional solutions, people only participate if they feel they have the complete story," says Wagner. "With a wiki, we're saying even incomplete ideas are good. Yet no one wants to look less than fully informed in front of their peers or superiors."

But as early adopters like Enel, NYK, ShoreBank and SAP build on each wiki success, wiki fans say it's only a matter of time before the technology ushers in a whole new way of working in the enterprise.

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Beth Stackpole

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