October 16, 2009 by Martin Seibert 

Many companies are unsure of how a successful Wiki-project should be started and executed. This article will give you an overview of this topic and inform you of the basics. //SEIBERT/MEDIA/ offers transparent services. Ultimately, as the saying goes, we’re also just cooking with water, but we’ve also collected many experiences regarding the process for Wiki-projects, which we will happily explain here – regardless of whether or not you are currently executing a project with us, are planning a project with us, or simply wish to be more successful with your Wiki – without our help.

The process for a Wiki-project that we are implementing usually resembles the following:

1. Information- and orientation phase before starting

Before you begin your Wiki-project, i.e., during your planning and gathering of information regarding an optimal approach, many of the services of //SEIBERT/MEDIA are free of charge. We offer you a budget overview with an orientating project offer for Wikis, an overview of possible Wiki workshops, and compare for you the leading open-source Wiki-systems like Foswiki and commercial systems like Confluence.

Beyond this, we offer you study results regarding the adoption experiences of other companies, information about the motivation of employees as well as the meaning of an individual Wiki-design, and further informational materials – free of charge. In this phase, we would be happy to demonstrate the Wiki-software solutions and their differences. In addition, we can provide you with a free test version within the framework of a workshop, so that you can try out and test the systems.

2. Workshops and Planning and Preparation

Often we structure and plan – together with our customers in collaborative workshops – which services are necessary in Wiki-projects. These workshops can take place at our location in Wiesbaden as well as together with your project team on location at your company. Naturally, we also offer Webinars and training sessions on the Internet. For these, we would be on the telephone and simultaneously be watching a screen. However, the personal appointments at your company are in our experience the most effective.

3. Placing of an order with //SEIBERT/MEDIA

So, you have entrusted //SEIBERT/MEDIA/ with the management of your Wiki-project. This could be a comprehensive and complete project management, from strategy consulting to conception, design, implementation, and adaptive programming to operations and the operational security of your Wiki. However, we are also happy to provide individual services and to come on board as a complementary specialist.

4. Project Kickoff Meeting and Planning of the Wiki-piloting

The beginning of a Wiki-project is an important phase, as companies should here attempt to gain some speed and develop the Wiki more and more into a real magnet for information. To accomplish this, much work is required regarding content; therefore, significant participation and integration is required of our customers. Decisions regarding who will take part in a Wiki-pilot and which tasks are to be assigned to whom are – in addition to the structuring of the project’s procedure – important elements of the Kickoff Meeting.

5. The Wiki-Pilot Project

We call the first phase after the Kickoff meeting the “Wiki-pilot project”, during which the company’s employees – often in concert with a professional – undertake the structuring and establishing of the first contents. In this phase, you need a so-called “adder” (according to one study that identified this type of Wiki-user), who helps you to bring as many relevant contents as possible into the Wiki in a structured way, which should help it become interesting and attractive for all of the employees in your company. This is a basic prerequisite for a successful Wiki-pilot: It is first and foremost the content that gives your Wiki purpose.

6. First Best-practice Examples in your Company

The most important goal of the Wiki-pilot is not to create the complete mirror image of your company’s collected knowledge into the new digital information system. This is an oft-repeated misconception. It would be far too much work and, as a whole, of doubtful importance to have a few employees digitize all of the knowledge of every employee and prepare it for digital use. The goal of the Wiki-project is first and foremost to establish “successful examples for the use of the Wiki”.

The best-case scenario: Your employees and participants in the Wiki-project run around in the company, saying: “So we have this new Wiki-system. Now we’re doing this and that. Before, that was so difficult and led to so many problems. With the Wiki, it’s become really fast, transparent, and efficient. You should try it out in your department sometime.”

7. Organic Expansion of the Project

When the Wiki-pilot is successful, the above-described mouth-to-mouth propaganda takes hold. If this – contrary to expectations – does not occur, then you should consider restructuring, changing, or even completely restarting your Wiki-pilot. With the oral propaganda at your back, you could begin establishing small pilot-projects in individual company divisions. There too, the goal is that the best practices of the Wiki should be implemented at an individual department level, thus showing all participants how valuable a Wiki can be in day-to-day operations.

Please never underestimate this growth phase. It’s about much more than just “forcing” the Wiki into as many departments as possible; rather, it’s about ensuring that more and more people enthused by the idea of the Wiki find the right way to use the Wiki:

A successful Wiki changes patterns of behavior and established rituals. Therefore, forced participation isn’t helpful. But overwhelming success is.

And once again: If you can’t get it to the point that your Wiki spreads itself through your company, just go back to the pilot to check and revise it. Never annoy employees who are skeptical of the Wiki and the changes it implies by offering them suboptimal solutions and compromises. The blockades and defensive postures that may be caused by this are difficult to overcome at later phases. In this all-important phase of the project, far too many companies work alone, thus missing out on the valuable experiences of Wiki-advisors. Initiate contact with us when you are in this phase. We have many informational documents that can help activate your employees as well as practical examples for the establishment of best practices within your company.

8. The Rollout of the Wiki to More and More Employees

After the Wiki-pilot, you should be on the lookout for employees who are more open to the Wiki. You should help these employees to start their journey and to establish best practices for their own individual needs. If you are successful in establishing that the Wiki is helpful for the daily business processes, then you have good cards for the establishing of the Wiki as a successful knowledge management system.

9. Stop signs and Exclusions Zones for Old and Worn-out Paths

As soon as you have found innovative waves, for example, to replace e-mail and paper documents with a controlled and transparent Wiki-based process, it will annoy you when the old, worn-out paths are still used. If you have a better way using the Wiki, a way that you have tested and found successful, then you should begin to erect metaphorical stop signs and exclusion zones for the old and worn-out paths.

Yes, we would even recommend that your company forbid the further use of these suboptimal processes. Still, such directives require content-based information, reasoning, and argumentation. There are often practical and good reasons for holding on to the status quo. These must be examined, analyzed, and dispelled. To accomplish this, we recommend following Fredmund Malik’s example: Be very skeptical when changes in important processes are accepted within the company without any discussion. Whatever is not actively discussed is either unimportant or not correctly thought-through.

10. Internal Marketing Campaign for the Wiki

The more successes you can show in the company, the more use your Wiki will experience. You will feel an ever-increasing need to give all of your colleagues access to the Wiki and wish that everyone would use the system a great deal more. In principle, this is a never-ending process. But you can support it with an internal informational- and marketing campaign.

//SEIBERT/MEDIA/DESIGN can develop for your company posters, pens, and notepads that refer to the Wiki and the special advantages it has in your company. In this vein, one of our customers requested the production of pens and notepads on which were written: “I’ll put that in the Wiki: wiki.companyname.de.” This measure is intended to remind employees who, for example, are taking notes while out of the office that knowledge should be shared with others in the Wiki, that it must be transparent and available. And such an action need not be expensive at all:

  • Cost for pens: €268.00 for the production (for example, 500 count, Senator “Challenger”, 1-color) and €240.00 for the professional design (rough estimate including services)
  • Cost for notepads: €409.90 for the production (for example, 500 notepads, A5-size, 50-pages, 4/0 color) and €400.00 for the design (rough estimate including services)

In the following article, “Architecture of a Wiki-Project: Customers’ Frequently Asked Questions”, we answer questions that complete our explanation of these topics.

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