Tag Archives: wiki

London Wiki Wednesday

The London Wiki Wednesday sessions are back in full swing.  I’ll be attending the next one being held on the 1st October at The British Computer Society who are providing the food, beer and wine.

If you’ve not been before you can check out the format on the London WikiWed wiki.

I’ll probably be doing a 5 min talk on the wiki integration work we have been doing with the Knowledge Plaza folks.  In fact, I’d like to see a dedicated session at some point discussing the finer points of wikis inside of broader applications.

See you there!

Franchise and Grow Your Business with a Wiki

How ideas set out in the E-myth combined with a wiki can improve your business

Having moved from being a full time Project Manager with Pfizer, to freelancer to setting up Applied Trends. I’ve been reading even more business books than usual.

Over the summer traveling back and forth to Brussels I read the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. It’s one of those books most Entrepreneurs pick up at some point.

One of the core topics in the book is to treat your business as the first of 5,000 franchises. This is the prototype. In developing this prototype you must design, document and continually perfect a central operating manual which details every aspect of how to run the business. This operating manual could actually be a number of manuals for different levels of staff, but the point is that you must have something that describes the procedures and processes for consistently delivering whatever it is you deliver.

One of the examples cited is that of a successful hotel where every detail is managed by such an operations manual. From the way the beds are made, to cleaning checklists, recruitment procedures, how to order supplies, what to say to the guests when they arrive to the phone numbers of local restaurants….it’s all in the manual. The author talks about his delight in how such a consistent and well delivered service is provided every time he stays at the hotel. Every member of staff knows exactly what they are to do and every detail seems to be practiced, refined and perfected on a continual basis.

Documenting procedures and practices is nothing new, and this book has been around for years. What is new is how technology can make this approach easy to apply, and how easy and cheap it would be to maintain. However before I step into the technology, let me give you another example of how successful this approach can be.

A friend and collaborator has recently performed some consultancy for what is now a very successful law firm in the UK. What’s unique about this firm is how they whole heartedly adopted the E-Myth approach as a mechanism for growing the business. Normally for a law firm in this sector the company structure would be something in order of 1 partner to 4 associates. This number is largely dictated by the the amount of management level guidance and oversight required per associate. However, the firm has grown to 5 partners with a total of 40 associates. That’s double the norm. They achieved this by documenting every detail of how the business operates in a series of interconnected Word documents. They used a Word document per process or procedure and hyper linked them together to allow the reader to follow through a set of processes without knowingly seeking out and opening a number of different files. When an update was required, it was simply a matter of opening the relevant document, making the change and saving it back to the central repository. Associates are required to use the ‘manual’ as a first port of call for any procedure or activity they do not know off by heart, thus freeing the partners up to manage more staff and business.

Of course, you can all see where I am going with this. What I’ve just described is a crude wiki. The law firm unknowingly developed a kind of wiki as their E-Myth inspired operations manual.

Doing this in a ‘real’ wiki would be much easier and would allow a greater level of flexibility, accessibility and scalability. In some ways most wikis set out to be a kind of operations manual. Whether it’s for a project, a team, an entire company or your own personal wiki. They are used to store information to guide and help others in the quest for knowledge or to perform a specific task.

During my time with Pfizer we were developing Pfizerpedia, a company wide wiki with very few content limitations. One day this resource could be THE go to guide for achieving anything in the company. Point a user to it and let them learn. At no point has anyone suggested it would facilitate growth similar to that of the law firm, but why not!? Done properly and by the right people, a wiki like this could facilitate many things if not just the ability to distribute knowledge and guidance to those who need it.

So, since the barrier to implementing the ideas put forth in the E-myth have been lowered, why not identify an aspect of your business to ‘franchise’?

Wiki Collaboration – Visualized!

This is taken directly from the Wikinomics blog – brilliant.

 

Wiki Collaboration

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I think this one sums up the power of wiki collaboration better than any 1,000 word essay ever could. The model is courtesy of Chris Rasmussen at US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. I presented this slide during a talk I gave at Nokia today and someone pointed out that the happy faces on the left probably ought to be frowning — he had a good point. “

Your Corporate How-to Wiki

howto

Have you seen WikiHow?  It’s a customized MediaWiki implementation tagged as ‘The How-to Manual That You Can Edit’.  I love it for the following reasons:

  • It has a very clean and neat interface
  • Recent how-to articles are shown on the left
  • A featured article takes prime position on the front page
  • Submitting an article is very nice.  You are given pre defined set of fields and the ability to add extra fields.  This ensures all how-to’s are uniform and in a familiar format.
  • When creating a new how-to it auto suggests existing content before letting you submit your own unique how-to

So what’s the deal with the corporate how-to wiki?

Well I’ve been working on a corporate wiki implementation with Andy Roberts (whom I got to know through LinkedIn, proving the service is indeed useful) and have been looking for inspiration on how to get the best from the software. 

The WikiHow version of MediaWiki has inspired me on a number of fronts.

  • A corporate how-to wiki (dedicated or part of another) would be a valuable tool
  • The clean interface really draws me in
  • The featured article with image works really well.  Producing this can be part of the wiki gardener role.
  • The article creation template keeps all how-to’s simple and readable.

So what would go in this corporate how-to wiki?

  • how to book a hire car
  • how to book travel
  • how to claim expenses
  • how to submit a ‘xyz’ report
  • how to request IT resource
  • ho to hire
  • etc, etc,

This would work especially well in a large company. 

Do you have any sort of ‘how-to’ in your company?

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When SlideShare Meets MediaWiki

I’m a big fan of both SlideShare and MediaWiki so was pleased to learn of a MediaWiki extension to embed your slide shows straight into a wiki page. 

Now that SlideShare has private sharing, this means you can embed company slides in the corporate wiki without making them public to the wider world.

I’m still waiting (hoping) for Jonathan Boutelle to announce a true behind the firewall version of SlideShare, but for now this will keep me happy :)  Actually on that note, we were looking at building a SlideShare type tool within SharePoint….I’ll have to check up on what happened with that.

See Jonathan’s blog for more details.

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Getting started with the corporate wiki

I’ve already covered some of this in my last post It’s not always obvious, but a friend who works in local government IT recently asked me “how do you get started with a wiki?” He has just installed an instance of MediaWiki for his department, and is faced with ‘blank page syndrome’. So here are a few ways I hooked into the corporate wiki and in turn inspired others follow suit:

  • A personal bio describing who I am, what I do and links to current work/involvements
  • A link to the personal bio in my email signatures and presentations
  • Meeting agenda’s (link sent with invite)
  • Meeting minutes
  • Project outlines
  • Project landing pages (or shop fronts) linking off to all project resources/info
  • Status reports
  • Definitions of work
  • Definitions of systems
  • There’s lots more, but you get the idea…

The personal bio was the catalyst for my rapid wiki take-up. Having links to blank pages for things I am working on really got the ball rolling and provided the starting point I personally needed. It also helped me get a lot more organised (which there is always room for).

I think this post will get renamed ‘Getting started with corporate wikis part 1’ as there are loads more examples I can drill down on, but for now I hope that helps you Toby!

It’s not always obvious

For the last year I have been evangelising the use of wikis, blogs, social bookmarking etc both within and outside of my current work assignment. For example I’ll often suggest using a wiki when a project team is just about to go off and start a new Word document, place it in the corporate document repository, send round the link and take it in tunrs to edit, followed by a painful review cycle. Following my recommendation I’ll usually distill the benefits and applied usage of wikis in general and for the particular scenario in question. I usually manage to convince people to give it a go, or at least take a look, but this wasn’t always the case.

It took me a while to really appreciate the power of wikis behind the firewall, and it wasn’t until I’d built up a handful of project pages which linked to various parts of each other and external sources, that I really started to see how wikis will transform information sharing and collaboration within a company.

Wikis are now default for me and I tend not to go near MS Word if at all possible. Everything from my bio, project documentation, status reports, project outlines, team to do lists, agendas, minutes and project resource catalogues are in the wiki.


To me the benefits are now obvious and the concept of company knowledge just sitting in a corporate repository with ‘check in’ and ‘check outs’ and layered security seem alien. However, I completely see why probably the vast majority of corporate IT users don’t instantly see why they should default to using a wiki, at least in the early information gathering stages of their work.

So I’ve started to build up a collection of usage scenarios and real life examples within the corporate wiki to pull out of my back pocket during a ‘sales pitch’. Something simple like a project landing page with descriptions of work streams, links to team member bio’s and a list of upcoming and past meetings will do. Then actually edit one of the pages in a ten second live demo, and you should have them hooked.

If you are out there evangelising any aspect of Enterprise 2.0 at your company, build up some of these real life examples, as the benefits are definitely not instantly obvious to most users. This included me at one point, and I know it includes a large section of the IT community at the companies I have contact with.

See also Microsoft Word is Dead by CorporatePunk.

 

Wiki Wednesday – April 2007

I presented at Wiki Wednesday last week. The event was good and was at Microsoft’s HQ in Soho. I gave the presentation at the bottom of an emptied out swimming pool which was a bit surreal! Here’s a write up which appeared on Technorati and here is the actual presentation.

http://www.slideshare.net/slgavin/wikiwed-outlook-wiki-plugin