In an era where knowledge management 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. However, many businesses are discovering that there are disadvantages of using corporate wikis when it comes to effective knowledge sharing and engagement.
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.
Unfortunately, when not well-maintained, wikis can become difficult to navigate, search, and collaborate within, ultimately leading to content chaos and a poor user experience.
Modern knowledge management platforms bring together internal company information with functionality that goes far beyond that of business wiki software. Equipped with robust search functionality, rich publishing, configurable categories, and more, knowledge management platforms allow users to capture, share, and search for information effectively, helping teams work more efficiently.
When you compare the two types of solutions, business wiki software is simply no longer the best option when it comes to capturing, organizing, 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 of 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.
Modern knowledge management solutions strike a much better balance between allowing all employees to contribute and ensuring those contributions are composed of quality, up-to-date information. For example, leaders can use content curation tools to identify duplicate content, flag content for review, and schedule those content reviews. They can assign moderators to 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 company 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 management solutions, however, have the tools to prevent that. Admins can track who is viewing content and how much time they spend with it. They can also proactively schedule time-sensitive content to unpublish when it goes out of date. So, if there is a piece of content that isn’t helpful or has become stale, you can archive it and make room for something more useful.
3. Content Sharing Is Limited
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 management platforms provide more convenient ways to share content internally across teams and departments, as well as externally with customers or 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 management 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 management 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—and with some tools (including Bloomfire), you can also take advantage of automated tagging, 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 videos—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 management 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.
6. Information Is Not Updated Regularly
It is possible to keep information updated in a conventional wiki–if you have admins who can dedicate significant time to manually maintaining the platform. Depending on the volume of content and how frequently it needs to be updated, this can be a full-time job–or even require the support of a full team of people. It gets even more complicated if updating the wiki requires admins to know how to use wiki markup.
And if you don’t have the resources to regularly update wiki content? Information in the platform will quickly go out of date, and users will abandon the platform. Or those who do still use the platform might inadvertently use outdated information to make a decision or help a customer, which can have significant negative repercussions for your business.
Knowledge management platforms like Bloomfire use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, which allows contributors to add and update content without needing to know wiki markup or any coding languages. Content can also be automatically scheduled to unpublish or be reviewed by an admin. This significantly reduces the lift required to update content, making it more manageable for admins on an ongoing basis.
7. Analytics Are Limited
Wikis tend to be pretty bare bones when it comes to additional functionality and may not offer built-in analytics around content engagement. And if your wiki doesn’t have analytics, content engagement essentially becomes a black box. You can’t tell what content is being viewed the most or least, what terms people are searching for most frequently, which team members are most engaged with your content, and so on. As a result, you miss opportunities to spot knowledge gaps and optimize the content in the platform.
A knowledge management platform with built-in engagement analytics and custom reporting gives you valuable insights into how people are using content, what has been most (or least) valuable to them, and where there may be opportunities to develop useful new content or knowledge assets.
Business wiki software had its moment, and we applaud it for all it was able to accomplish during its time in the sun. However, if you’ve found that the disadvantages of using a corporate wiki are starting to outweigh the benefits, it’s time to move on. Keep up with the times (and your competitors) by investing in a knowledge management solution that allows your employees to quickly and efficiently curate, organize, store, and share valuable company knowledge.
This blog post was originally published under the title “Corporate Wikis Are Dead.” It was most recently updated and expanded in December 2022.