This post was co-authored by Brian Davis, CMS’s Wiki Administrator

Imagine an online resource available 24/7, one that has all of your business’s essential documentation, automatically notifies staff when a critical update is made, and eliminates cumbersome stacks of binders and memos. Did I fail to mention it saves time, frustration, and is free to use?

This mythical resource is a Wiki.  Most of us use wikis on a daily basis.  If you want to know the name of the David Hasselhoff song that topped the charts in Germany, or if you need to find words spelled with a “Q” which aren’t followed by a “U”, Wikipedia is the go-to source.

Something so great in our personal lives easily transfers to greatness for our business life. To begin understanding how you can utilize a wiki for your business we’ll refer to the definition by the inventor of the first wiki, Ward Cunningham: 

“A wiki is the simplest online database that could possibly work.”

What’s better than simple when dealing with the management of business documentation? 

What’s better than a database for searching and documenting critical information? 

Let’s address the use cases, benefits, and trials of utilizing a Wiki for your business.

Documentation that can be hosted on a wiki includes:

  • Training Manuals
  • Rule Addendums
  • Meeting Notes
  • Employee Handbooks
  • Newsletters
  • Troubleshooting Guides
  • Bug Tracking
  • Progress Records
  • Project Management
  • Procedural Instructions
  • Error Logs

Benefits of Utilizing a Wiki for Your Business

Adopting the use of a wiki for business documentation changes a company. Documentation that is up to date and transmits business practices consistently propels a business forward.  It does this by keeping everyone on the same page.  

One Source To Guide Them: Staff will only need to go to one source to access all of the resources necessary for their job function.   Wikis allow businesses to easily segment information and link to critical supporting information.

Ease of Use: If you know how to browse the internet, you know how to move through a wiki.  Employees will understand how to navigate your wiki with little to no training.

Eliminate Printing Costs: Businesses will see a significant savings in the cost of printing training manuals and associate handbooks for new employees. 

Immediately Available And Accessible: The most up to date and accurate versions of rules, policies, procedures, and guidelines are available to every employee, all the time.  

Minimize Mistakes: Staff no longer have to rely on memory for seldom used procedures.  No more wasting time finding up to date copies of rules or reading through outdated guidebooks for how to perform a task.    

No More Memos: When a change to a process is mandated, every employee automatically has access to the new method, without needing to print updates for everyone.

Items to Consider Before Adopting a Wiki

Although there are many benefits to utilizing a wiki for your business documentation you need to consider the following before starting:  

Labor: Dedicated effort will be required to get processes uploaded to the wiki.

Transition Time: A company’s body of documentation won’t just appear into a wiki overnight.

Adoption: Not everyone will be ready to accept the new method; employees who do not see the advantages will need to be convinced.

Administration- Someone will have to monitor and manage the wiki. Content won’t update itself!

Infrastructure: Wikis require a database to work off of and a network to be browsed through.

One Source to Bring Them All and in the Documentation, Bind Them

Wikis are a brilliant choice for a documentation solution, regardless of company size. Clearly communicating to employees how to do what needs to be done is vitally important. Good documentation is the most effective method for doing this and a wiki is an excellent choice.

Using a wiki for your business fosters consistency of product, unity of vision and saves money.  That’s more than just good business practice, it’s just good sense.

Here are some links to help you get started:

Latest version of the MediaWiki software
http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Download

Installation Guide
http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Manual:Installation_guide

MediaWiki Handbook
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Help:Contents