Note: We periodically update blogs to reflect the latest trends, research, and best practices in knowledge management. This blog was updated and expanded on November 20, 2019.
In an era where knowledge sharing technology is constantly emerging and evolving, some companies still rely on business wiki software to get their employees the information they need, exactly when they need it.
A wiki is a website that allows users to collaboratively add and modify content. A popular example of a wiki is, of course, Wikipedia, which is a public-facing collection of over 5 million articles. Any person can create and modify the content within those articles (provided they understand how to use wiki markup).
Business wiki software provides an internal wiki for companies where employees can add and edit information about internal company processes, best practices, and company collateral. Like Wikipedia, company internal wikis allow all employees to add and edit content at any time, without restriction.
A company internal wiki is designed to house all the knowledge that an employee could possibly need to find in one place. And sure, at one point (long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away), wikis were the best available option for connecting employees in the workplace, maintaining and sharing up-to-date product information, identifying experts, aligning sales and marketing, enabling faster customer support, and streamlining training and onboarding.
But we’re here to tell you that era is ancient history.
Since the beginning of time, humans have needed tools to store and share knowledge. As a result, the human race has produced some impressive solutions: cave drawings, hieroglyphics, your grandmother’s recipe tin, and then corporate wikis (in that order). And for a while, wikis got the job done. Now, however, there’s a better solution: knowledge sharing platforms.
Knowledge sharing platforms bring together internal company information with functionality that goes far beyond that of business wiki software. Equipped with robust search functionality, rich publishing, AI-generated tagging, and more, knowledge sharing platforms allow companies to curate, house, and share information effectively, helping teams work faster and more effectively.
When you compare the two types of solutions, business wiki software is simply no longer the best option when it comes to curating, organizing, storing, and sharing company knowledge. Here’s why:
1. No Content Oversight
One of the wiki’s greatest strengths is also one of its most significant weaknesses: there is no hierarchy of content contribution. Each employee who contributes content to a company internal wiki has the same set or permissions, meaning anyone can add information without approval from experts on the subject. So, someone in customer service could add erroneous information about how to handle a complex customer issue — and unless your company routinely monitors and moderates those additions, another employee could act on that information, assuming it is an approved company process.
When there is no hierarchy of authorship — in other words, when there is nothing that dictates who should contribute information and what they are responsible for adding — miscommunication of information becomes a serious risk.
New knowledge sharing solutions strike a much better balance between allowing all employees to contribute and ensuring those contributions are composed of quality, up-to-date information. These solutions equip leaders with a range of tools to help avoid the challenges of company internal wikis. For example, leaders can use content curation tools to identify duplicate content, flag content for review, and schedule those content reviews. They can approve information and answers to questions, which ensures that only relevant, accurate information gets published without restricting anyone from providing their input.
Yes, knowledge sharing should involve everyone on your team, but equality of authorship should not override the importance of current and accurate product knowledge.
2. Too Much Clutter
If you envision your company’s collection of internal knowledge as an attic packed so tightly with boxes of photo albums and retired Christmas decorations that finding what you need is impossible, business wiki software is for you. If your vision looks more like a house that Marie Kondo has recently organized, you may want to consider a different solution.
Business wiki software inherently encourages clutter. Beyond allowing all employees to submit any information they want, corporate wikis often fail to include good organizational tools. As a result, outdated content stays in the wiki — alongside any new content — creating an unorganized mess and a minefield of inaccurate information.
Knowledge sharing solutions, however, have the tools to prevent that. Company leaders can track who is viewing content and how much time they spend with the content. So, if there is a piece of content that isn’t helpful or has become stale or out-of-date, you can archive it and make room for something more useful.
3. Sharing Content Is Nearly Impossible
To get the most use out of your information storage method, your content needs to be shareable. The best you can do with business wiki software is send a link to a certain piece of content to relevant parties. While that may work initially, if an employee or team needs to go back and reference that information at any time, they have to dig through their emails and try to pinpoint the exact correspondence that included the link. It’s not efficient or effective — and it could result in employees not using the right information, or failing to use the information at all.
Top knowledge sharing platforms provide more convenient ways to share content internally across teams and departments, as well as externally with clients. The platforms notify users when someone makes a new contribution. In addition, these platforms allow you to categorize content by author, tag, content type, and more. Users can follow certain authors, tags, and even search terms to make it easier to go back and find certain information and know when something new is added within that label.
In addition, knowledge sharing platforms allow users to contribute comments and questions to specific pieces of content. This enables everyone to benefit from the conversation surrounding each piece of content — not just those included in an email thread. That way, if questions arise about any given document, they will only need to be answered once.
4. Search Is Traditionally Terrible
Tagging content in corporate wikis ranges from bang-your-head-on-your-desk difficult to impossible, so organizations are often forced to rely on folder-based search to locate the content they need. This shortcoming results in Customer Support moving at a glacial pace as they struggle to find information, Sales failing to find content to send to prospects, Marketing producing content that isn’t reaching sales, and so on.
With the ever-expanding wealth of information within every company, deep search is crucial to empower employees to do their best work. Knowledge sharing solutions offer much more robust search functionality. Users can tag and categorize content, making it easy to search and locate information at a moment’s notice — but with some tools (including Bloomfire), you can also take advantage of AI-generated tags, so you don’t have to waste time manually tagging content.
In addition, the best solutions offer deep search functionality, which indexes every word in every file — including words spoken in video files — so you can be confident that each search produces the most accurate results. Advanced solutions even use natural language processing, which allows the search engine to deliver relevant results even when the exact keyword doesn’t appear (the search engine may take into account plural words or words with different stems, for example). This helps users find what they’re looking for even when they don’t know the exact keywords used in the document.
5. Lack of Content Variety
Some wikis require hard coding just to add basic text content, which poses an initial barrier to publication. And even if you have a system administrator who is skilled at adding text content to a company internal wiki, the software may not allow them to easily publish other content types. And for many businesses, alternate content types are critical. For example, new customer service employees may learn best from audio recordings of past customer service calls. Or, new sales representatives may need to watch a video of an experienced sales rep giving a presentation and handling customer objections to see his or her facial expressions, hand motions, and body language. With business wiki software, you may only be able to add pages of text — not videos or audio files — unless you invest in additional or custom functionality.
Knowledge sharing platforms, on the other hand, allow you to publish multiple content types, including videos, audio files, slide decks, images, charts, and text, so you can include the most accurate information in the most effective format.
Business wiki software had its moment, and we applaud it for all it was able to accomplish during its 15 minutes of fame. But don’t be the old uncle who still brags about his high school state championship, or the TV show that just doesn’t know when to bow out gracefully. Keep up with the times (and your competitors) by investing in a knowledge sharing solution that allows your employees to quickly and efficiently curate, organize, store, and share valuable company knowledge.
R.I.P. corporate wikis, R.I.P.