Wikis Are Alive and Kicking in the Enterprise - Page 2


Why has Motorola taken to the new platforms? "One reason is generational. Another is our affinity for technology. People take to it because were an engineering-based firm," said Redshaw.

Singh added: "Part of the culture is to look up documents. People say, Go look in the wikis."

Motorola is not alone. Networking software maker Novell has also taken to wikis in a big way, starting a couple of years ago when an engineer installed a wiki server under the desk of Lee Romero, manager for knowledge and collaboration services at the Waltham, Mass., company.

Romero subsequently came up with an enterprise wiki strategy, setting up a corporate wiki for all employees.

"It promotes openness for both reading and authoring; its a collaborative environment. Its much more efficient than when the work product is a document, said Romero. "It really promotes a culture and approach that is a lot more open. And the tool is more efficient in the way that people work together."

Now Novell has three kinds of wikis: the enterprise wiki, based on Media-Wiki, which has open access for reading and editing content; a TWiki-based wiki for Novells engineering team that includes access control; and "renegade" wikis, most of which run on TWiki, and about which Romero knows little, but which the company tolerates.

"Its hard to monitor and manage them when we dont know where they are or whos using them," said Romero.

Romero estimated that about 20 percent of Novell employees—approximately 1,200 people—read enterprise wiki content every month. Of those, perhaps 250 employees edit content monthly. Novell is dedicating four servers to host wikis, at a total cost of about $30,000. Romero estimated that the IT support required is about one-quarter of one persons time per year.

At Novell, the engineers wiki is not used for collaboration on source code, for which Novell uses specific tools. "Its more at the level of disseminating ideas," said Romero, adding that discussion of future products is restricted to specific groups.

Meanwhile, software maker Chordiant, of Cupertino, Calif., has opened up its developers wiki to customers, the better to create software that suits their requirements. A little more than a year ago, the company selected wiki software from JotSpot and embarked on an experiment that quickly became a company strategy.

"Were reinventing software development to be a continuous conversation between Chordiant and our customers," said Greg Biggers, director of product strategy for Chordiant and product manager for the customer-and-developer wiki project called Chordiant Mesh.

Chordiant sells what it calls "customer experience management software" to banks, insurance companies and telecommunications companies.

"This presents a more transparent process to customers than they have ever seen. The new level of transparency may be shocking at first," said Biggers.

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"Before, a product manager would talk to customers and bring ideas back, then come up with requirements. That took 18 to 24 months. Later, a product pops out. Then the sales manager presents it to customers. At best, its 75 percent of what they wanted, but even then, its no longer right by the time it ships," said Biggers.

Chordiant has paid JotSpot $50,000 for the initial software license and pays an additional $10,000 for hosting per year. JotSpot manages the servers remotely. Chordiant Mesh currently has 800 users. As at Novell, only design ideas are exchanged in the wiki, not the software code itself.

"It wasnt easy to achieve. We love the democratization of wikis, but we need some control over the communities," said Biggers, explaining that to operate effectively, Chordiant Mesh needed different levels of permissions, including per page and read-only.

But, Biggers said, the wiki project has generated new business. "The entire initiative is looked at quite favorably," he said. "Strategically, its a success. We have reduced our overall IT spending on the infrastructure for software development."

Next Page: Not everyone gets wikis.