In the last few posts, I wrote about how you can use Enterprise 2.0 tools to improve various processes related to product development. I think that Wiki is an easy collaborative platform. I also think that Wikis have a great potential to be transformed into something that bigger from which smaller enterprises can benefit. At the same time, over the past few weeks, I tried to experiment with Wiki platforms.
My initial proposition was to use Wiki as content space to keep information for collaborative usage. I don’t think this is a very new and fresh idea, but I wanted to see how it would be possible to use existing tools without significant modifications.
Below is my conclusion regarding the weak sides of the Wiki story for product collaboration:
1. Information Access. The biggest advantage of Wiki is simplicity. But this means that Wiki is completely flat. You don’t have any way of organizing access to information rather than creating of pages / sub-pages and links between them. When you deal with short flat pages it works well. When you start to add more complex content, it becomes unusable. I found that the simplest way ,to search for information was a browser embedded search (even though theChrome search is quite good, it wasn’t very simple to find what I needed. If you have multiple Wikis, you have the problem of information being separated and not accessible across Wikis.
2. Content Maintenance. It’s very simple to insert information and update a Wiki. Butm at the same time, you have to take care of all the information there. This means that you can’t maintain your content with rules and logic. This is not a good way to organize it. You need to take care of the content or else it turns into garbage very quickly.
3. Updates. I didn’t find any way to maintain automatic and dependency in updates of content. This is creates cumbersome situation when I need to update information I already put in wiki, but keep history of my updates. Quite straightforward requirements in our space, but hardly can be achievable out of the box.
4. Integration. This disappointed me very much. The only way to integrate Wikis is to put hyperlinks on the relevant information. But what if this information is located in other systems / storages and formats?. I didn’t find any way to mashup information inside a Wiki page. Although Web Parts or similar functionality is available, it breaks the page into segments and is not as good as what I want.
5. Structural Information. This is a higher degree of content maintenance, but a very important one, in my opinion. Product information is highly structured by nature. Maintaining this information only by URL/links mechanisms is not trivial. So, the structure of information is probably a very desired feature.
Therefore, what is my conclusion? The Wiki collaborative mechanism is very nice and simple. It provides a very affordable way of collaborating and co-editing information. It seems hard to balance between the benefits and burdens of Wiki on the user.. I’d like to hear your opinions and experience of applying Wiki technologies.