Not Everyone Gets Wikis
Biggers said Chordiant showed Chordiant Mesh to a U.K. bank that responded by signing up the company to develop three applications for its lending business. "Its easy to get addicted to this ad hoc way of collaborating using wiki technology," said Biggers. Not all companies are densely populated with techies and Generation Y workers, however. The nature of wikis as a shared platform takes getting used to for some participants."When people start using a wikisometimes people get it and others do notsome people feel comfortable with the idea that their work is edited by others. Others feel reluctant to add or make changes. If a manager has written something, they might not want to change it," said Chris Wagner, associate dean and professor of IS at the City University of Hong Kong, in China.Novells Romero concurred. "People are interested in the idea, but not everyone wants anyone to read their content or change their content," Romero said. "It involves a mind-set and culture change. But once people start using it, their mind-set changes. They come to realize we can all be trusted." Are wikis actually a waste of time? Click here to read more. Chordiants Biggers said the adjustment to a collaborative mind-set requires commitment. "You cant half-collaborate on something; youre either collaborating or youre not," he said. With shared content, there is the possibility that some users could post irrelevant or offensive content. Romero said that has not happened at Novell. "We have never had a problem with people posting inappropriate things," he said. Madeline Weiss, president of Weiss Associates., a consulting company in Bethesda, Md., and director of the advanced practices council for the Society for Information Management, an organization of senior IT executives, said social forces can shape wiki content for the better. "Its a sense of authorship. You can see who made the change and when. If I change a wiki, my name is on it," she said. With a persons name and reputation on the line, people are unlikely to post material irresponsibly. However, that caution could be inhibiting if contributors fear their additions to a wiki arent good enough, Weiss said. A greater obstacle to wiki adoption is a corporate culture that doesnt encourage people to change other peoples work. "Will the other person think I am critiquing or criticizing? That is the bigger thing to overcome," said Weiss. "Having your manager say I really like your addition to the wiki would be positive reinforcement. When managers do it themselves, they become role models. Little by little, you can change the culture." Despite their versatility, wikis are not well-suited to some uses. Motorolas Redshaw said that presentations to a broad group of employees ought to be made by other means, such as e-mail, and that real-time interactive collaboration is best done by instant messaging or by telephone. And direct person-to-person interaction should never be abandoned. "Theres not a substitute for face-to-face and live human communication, although some people may use it for that. Sometimes easier will trump better," said Redshaw. For the future, Redshaw and Singh plan to build on the Open Text and TWiki platforms and tie them to Motorolas Microsoft Exchange e-mail backbone and into mobile devices. That will be in line with the larger goal of enabling Motorola employees to work smarter. "Were now using information [in a way that] is informative and preventative. We want to get to proactive and dynamic," said Redshaw. "We want to get it to answer the question, What is it I dont know that I should know about this?" Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.