By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-05-22 Print this article Print

CustomerVisions BizWiki provides users with a polished set of tools for creating and managing content collaboratively, although some of the administrative features are a bit raw.

The Wiki-based BizWiki is a hosted application that allows companies to manage documentation in the context of relationships with business partners and customers, as well as internally.

Introduced in April, BizWiki can get to be expensive—as much as $5,000 per month for an unlimited number of named or logged-in users. However, during eWeek Labs tests, the application provided very good content creation and editing tools, along with good workflow for managing content revisions and approval. Managing the system, though, could be a bit obtuse at times.

The father of the Wiki speaks out on community and collaborative development. Click here to read more. BizWiki segments content by containers, each of which describes the type of content and the contents audience. We could also define content state in three ways: as draft; live and not public; and live and public.

Its BizWikis content-level controls that give the application the stuff it needs to effectively manage information by audience—useful for applications such as managing a knowledge base.

Through the level control, we could define the role of a given user as a function of how he or she relates to content. For example, we could create a partner level to provide a way for partners to contribute changes to a knowledge-base article without giving them outright control over content and workflow.

Content state also factors into workflow—for example, when a user contributes an article but lacks publish rights, the article is defined as a draft and becomes available for promotion by a user with higher permissions.

When it comes to creating content, BizWiki really shines by providing flexible content editing and formatting tools for users. BizWikis WYSIWYG editor is one of the best weve seen. In tests, the editor made it relatively easy for us to create and insert tables, use rich text styles, add images and audio, and link out to other content.

In addition, BizWiki makes it easy for users to take a Word document and publish it as an editable document with rich formatting intact.

Much of the responsibility of managing BizWiki content is going to lie in the process of entering and managing metadata; here, training and reinforcing best practices will be essential to success.

The content editor is field-heavy when it comes to metadata and enforces a couple of decisions about elements and styles that likely will trip up novices. In addition to allowing users to link to content directly in an article, there is a dedicated section for linking to other BizWiki content as well as fields for adding multiple links to any Web content or Web-accessible document at the end of an article.

One minor irritation we found with the product was the size of the fields dedicated to summary, change and other metadata. The fields rob more real estate than is necessary and could either discourage the entering of information because of their large size or encourage entering more data than is necessary, spoiling search results.

We liked the ways in which we could manage content consumption, questions on content and revisions to content. We particularly appreciated that the service supports both RSS and e-mail-based notification of content updates and that users can set up the home page so it displays messages regarding updated and new content.

Administrators can manage the site universally, with the ability to add branding to an account, create templates, set page styles and manage users.

BizWiki supports user roles through the level metaphor, but it could use some group-based management capabilities. We could fine-tune rights only at the user lever during tests.

For example, if we wanted to assign access privileges for publishing, reporting, administration, work messages and message supervision, we had to do it at the user level, rather than add users to a group with those permissions. Wed also like to see CustomerVision add the ability to import users from a file.

We could define page styles through a form, as well as develop templates using the WYSIWYG editor. Although we found these tools useful, here, again, some additional tools could save administrators and users time. For example, it would be nice to be able to copy or import a style, as well as copy templates.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

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