Chances are, you may be familiar with wiki by way of Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia fed by contributions from thousands of people. A wiki is a web page that multiple users can collaborate on--it's generally basic in design and easy to use. Now, like the blogging phenomenon, wikis are starting to work their way into businesses.
Alan Flohr, senior vice president of sales and business development with Informative, a Brisbane, California-based customer influence management company, got firsthand experience bringing wiki into a business when his CEO asked him to give it a try. "We're in a cutting-edge area of marketing. We deploy technology that helps our customers get closer to their most influential consumers," Flohr says. "We use wiki [internally] to help speed our time to market and to communicate with our team."
Informative uses a hosted solution from Socialtext, a pioneer in group productivity solutions that uses wiki pages for collaboration, communication and publishing, allowing companies to accelerate project cycles and develop a group memory. After more than six months of using wikis as informational tools, Informative plans to more fully explore the software's collaborative aspects.
Since using the wikis, which are password-protected for security, Informative has seen a drop in the amount of group e-mails and intranet traffic required to get projects done. Ross Mayfield, CEO and co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Socialtext, says wikis have two main benefits: boosting group productivity, and acting as a business knowledge base where information is logged and easily accessible. The constantly-changing nature of wiki means it may never be completely finished, but it does remain up-to-date.
Mayfield says candidates for wiki use include businesses that generate a lot of documentation through groups, are team-project-oriented or seek a collaborative writing environment. Just freeing your inbox from the heaps of CC'ed e-mails and boosting productivity can be worth the investment. Socialtext, for example, offers a free 30-day trial and starts at $995 per year for five users. Free open-source wikis are also available for the more technically adventurous. Says Mayfield, "We're finally building tools for the way people want to work."