Document management for any project of significant size can quickly become a nightmare. While things may start off fine, it doesn't take long for e-mails to follow divergent paths; spreadsheets and Word documents to get passed around with no one quite sure who has the most recent version; and meeting notes to be stored on someone's machine who then goes on vacation. That's where a wiki comes in. A wiki is a form of collaboration software that solves all of the previously mentioned problems yet remains simple enough for non-technical employees to use.
While wikis are capable of handling conversation, they are better suited to handle collaboration. Their forte is handling a series of unique documents as their content evolves and to provide an organic means of organizing that information. Because of the growth of networks, the cost of publishing and sharing information has decreased substantially which make wikis implementations well suited for corporations. Prior to wikis, an expensive enterprise application would have been required for sophisticated information management. Wiki software is also available as open-source making the software itself essentially free to acquire.
InformationWeek has identified these situations where using a wiki is appropriate:
- You want to establish a company intranet quickly and cheaply without sacrificing functionality, security, or durability.
- You want to publish a range of corporate documents in one universally accessible location and let employees manage those documents with a minimum of effort, lag, and risk of redundancy.
- You want to manage and organize meeting notes, team agendas, and company calendars.
- You need a project management tool that is cheap (if not free), extensible, and accessible through any Web browser.
- You need a central location where shared documents can be viewed and revised by a large and/or dispersed team.
And these situations where a wiki may not be appropriate:
- You need to use complex file formats. Some wiki platforms can support only text or HTML files. Consider using a PHP/SQL-based wiki platform that can handle robust file types. Avoid wikis based on PERL.
- You don't have a staff member who can take responsibility for its use. A wiki is only as good as its ontology (or the search engine it uses). You will need somebody who can establish conventions for naming pages and maintaining links.
- The collaborative format isn't appropriate for your group or workplace. Peer review is not always the best solution for content management.
- You're looking for an exchange of views. Wikis are not the best tool for airing opinions or carrying on conversations. If that's your primary goal, use a blog instead.