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Corporate Wikis Are Dead

July 31, 2017
Written by Bloomfire Admin

In an era where new and improved knowledge sharing technology is constantly emerging and evolving, some companies still rely on a wiki to get their employees the information they need, exactly when they need it. Sure, at one point in time (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, making customer support faster, and streamlining training and onboarding. But we’re here to tell you it’s the end of an era.

Since knowledge has been around, there has been the need for a tool to store that knowledge where those who need it most can easily access it. The human race has produced some impressive solutions in our time: cave drawings, hieroglyphics, your grandmother’s recipe tin, and then corporate wikis (in that order). And for a while, wikis got the job done.

But the universe continues to expand, and knowledge sharing solutions continue to improve. Corporate 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 contributing content to a wiki is equal, meaning anyone can say anything, without permission and approval from experts on the subject. Everyone has different knowledge they need to contribute. However, miscommunication of information is a challenge when there is no hierarchy of authorship.

New knowledge sharing solutions strike a balance between allowing everyone to contribute and ensuring those contributions are composed of quality, up-to-date information. Leaders have content oversight and curation tools, that allow them to approve information and answers to questions while not restricting anyone from providing their input. Social learning relies on trusting your team, but equality of authorship does not override access to the most current and accurate product knowledge.

2. Too Much Clutter

If your end goal looks something like an attic packed so tightly with boxes of photo albums and retired Christmas decorations that finding what you need is impossible, wikis are for you. If your end goal looks more like a well organized, curated, and easily searchable collection of relevant and current company knowledge, it might be time for a new solution.

The best knowledge sharing solutions empower content curation. Leaders can track who is viewing content, how much time they spend with the content, and who exactly is engaging with it. So, if there is a piece of content that has become stale or out-of-date, you can archive it and make room for something more useful.

3. Sharing Content Is Nearly Impossible

The best you can do with a wiki is post a piece of content and email a link to relevant parties (and we all know how much fun searching through thousands of emails for an old document is).

Top knowledge management platforms allow you to share content internally across communities and departments, as well as externally with clients. They notify others within your community when someone makes a new contribution, and have space for comments and questions directly underneath the document. This way, everyone benefits from the conversation surrounding content, and not just those included in an email thread. Meaning, if questions arise about any given document, they will only need to be answered once.

4. Search Is Traditionally Terrible

Tagging content in wikis ranges from bang-your-head-on-your-desk difficult to impossible, so organizations are forced to rely on simple 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 lacking content to send to prospects, marketing producing content that isn’t reaching sales, and the list goes on.

With the ever-expanding wealth of information available today, global search is more crucial to empower employees to do their best work than ever before. So look for a solution that allows users to tag and categorize content, making searching and locating information at a moment’s notice a breeze.

Corporate 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 show that just doesn’t know when to bow out gracefully (cough, American Idol, cough). 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.

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Comments
  • James Scott

    Hi Mark,

    Our company is already a Bloomfire customer, but we have a situation that calls for a more wiki-esque style form of collaboration. We have articles that are about ever changing standards and technologies for our industry. This is not static information, and nobody can be an absolute expert due to the ever evolving nature of it. This means that electing a champion for content oversight is an effective bottleneck for collaboration!

    What we would like to see is a method of opening up a post so that anybody within the company can edit it. As everyone would have an account, everybody would be accountable for the edits, with an ever developing version history so we can roll back if need be. Perhaps a toggleable function between “approve by default” and “queue for approval” so that more rigid content oversight could be used.

    Your thoughts?

    • This is an interesting question. I think it’s a message about trust, and if the people who you work with can be trusted.

      In a situation where information is constantly changing there needs to be a mechanism to propose changes. The github model is a great example. Comments can be made, but it a change is proposed then it can be approved by the maintainer of the repository. This still has the problem of ownership if someone leaves an organisation. If Bloomfire is about accumulating/investing in knowledge capital for the company, then if the posts belong to a person then it’s hard to feel a sense of shared investment.

      The “content oversight” you mention works well in orgs that have many people who can’t be trusted with knowledge capture, but in the vast majority of the situations I find myself in it would be better to notify the owner that a change has been made or proposed.

      ‘Owning’ content feels really dangerous in a number of ways!

      • Blogfire

        Excellent points Ben. Trust does play a vital role in the success of any knowledge sharing platform. However ownership is essential in ensuring content is accurate and up to date. It is a fine balance.

        • I still maintain that ‘ownership’ is a pernicious concept. A good example of this is your reply to my comment. If this was an important issue and not just some nerds flaming each other, then a 6 month delay in responding to a comment on a system that has an ‘owner’ would mean that the organisation would be at risk from incorrect or outdated information for that whole time.

          Perhaps it would be more valuable to think of something where only the owner can change the content as a ‘knowledge broadcast’ system, whereas something like a wiki, or even stack overflow with it’s poster and editor structure, would be true sharing?

          • Blogfire

            Haha! Yes agreed. Ownership has the potential to limit progress and the attempt to ensure the info is only high quality could prevent updated info from getting approved.

    • Hi Mark,
      Even though it is a well written article, I still feel that SaaS wiki software are providing a lot more. I use ProProfs.com for my company’s wiki solution and some of the limitations you have mentioned are not faced by us. For example: “Although everyone contributing to a wiki is “equal,” there are times you want content oversight – even with roles and responsibilities., In the tools that we use, there is a feature called workflow, which sets the process of publishing and editing articles. So, any content that is added, will not get published before the administrator reviews it. Infact, there are many wiki software that are coming up with various new features to resolve the problems associated with the coordination among employees.

      • Blogfire

        It’s nice to here wiki’s are refining these weaknesses. Thanks for sharing. Keep us posted.

    • Blogfire

      Sorry for the delay. This slid through the cracks. Email with our support team (suport@bloomfire.com) regarding the best way to give everyone editing rights to a post. I believe there are some work arounds for what you’re looking for but we would need a bit more info to advise on the best solution.

  • Hi Mark,

    Even though it is a well written article, I still feel that SaaS wiki software are providing a lot more. I use ProProfs.com for my company’s wiki solution and some of the limitations you have mentioned are not faced by us. For example: “Although everyone contributing to a wiki is “equal,” there are times you want content oversight – even with roles and responsibilities.”, In the tools that we use, there is a feature called workflow, which sets the process of publishing and editing articles. So, any content that is added, will not get published before the administrator reviews it. Infact, there are many wiki software that are coming up with various new features to resolve the problems associated with the coordination among employees.

  • Stefan Timm

    This is an excellent post, especially the section on search. One might argue that an intranet is doomed to fail as long as search is not as powerful and exhaustive as web search.

    The article seems to suggest that there are nowadays better alternatives to wikis.

    Which are those?

  • Karol

    Any recommendations for a replacement? We’re looking to migrate our current knowledge base from the horror of Google Sites, which has all the problems you mentioned and more, but it’s hard to find anything good in its place that wouldn’t cost us an arm and a leg.

  • Edward PhotoBomb Brown

    So… you outline some strong complaints with no mention of a solution.

    • Blogfire

      We recommend modern knowledge management platforms with robust search features. Thanks for commenting!

      • You just did it again. What modern knowledge management platforms?

        • ah ok. So I Googled it and Bloomfire shows up. So I guess this isn’t the place to ask 🙂

          • Blogfire

            Yes we have a bit of a bias. 🙂

    • Chris Rutledge

      More important (I believe) than the platform is the methodology behind the approach to knowledge management. Check out Knowledge-Centered Services (http://www.thekcsacademy.net/kcs/). Some of its reporting functionality has some technological requirements, but it’s platform agnostic. You could use paper, pen, and Post-Its if you wanted.

      Disclosure: I don’t work for them or get any recompensation, but I am a certified practicioner, so I have some investment in the system.

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