Why Traditional Wikis Don’t Make Good Enterprise Knowledge Bases

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You don’t need to have heard about enterprise knowledge bases to know what wikis are. After all, it’s one of the most popular buzzwords in online, alongside ‘cloud computing’ and ‘responsive design’. Wikis started gaining popularity in 2006 as Web 2.0 applications, alongside blogs and podcasts.

The word ‘wiki’ was coined by Ward Cunningham and comes from Hawaiian, where it means ‘quick‘ – we’ll see in a moment why. They are essentially web pages that can be viewed and changed by anybody who has a web browser and access to the Internet. They are designed to be interactive and collaborative, rather than static pages that are created and controlled by one person.

Since Google released the Knowledge Graph in 2012, traditional wikis saw a serious decline. Wikipedia, for example, lost a whopping 21% of its page views the following year.

Even so, wikis are still great collaboration tools. They’re flexible, easy to use and allow easy linking between pages. They can be used to create a well-maintained business documentation, product catalogs and more. But they might not be the best option for enterprise knowledge bases, and here’s why.

1. Wikis discourage authorship

Since they have multiple authors – communities, to be more specific – thanks to the open editing page authorship, wikis are prone to containing incorrect information. They also discourage ownership, which is a pillar of creating a knowledge base that will truly help grow your team and your business. Authorship and ownership also help you identify experts and keep deep smarts within your company, even if they leave.

2. Their evolution doesn’t match the evolution of enterprises

Wikis can be characterized by one word: openness. However, this is not always a plus, since it gives rise to a concept called ‘Darwikinism’, which describes the “socially Darwinian process” that pages are subject to.

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That means that due to the swiftness with which wiki pages can be edited, they go through an evolutionary selection process not unlike natural selection, according a study conducted by the National Institute of Health. And this doesn’t match the evolutionary process of enterprises, which is defined by a slow and steady pace.

3. They are not as engaging as other enterprise knowledge bases

One of the main reasons why Wikipedia works so well is that it has over 100,000 contributors. According to the 1% rule that applies specifically to collaborative websites:

“90% of the participants of a community only view content, 9% of the participants edit content, and 1% of the participants actively create new content.”

Even though enterprises have a significant number of employees, the goal of a knowledge sharing platform is to involve and activate all members of a team.

4. Wikis aren’t helpful at discovering experts

Enterprise knowledge bases should make it easy to find out who the experts are on a specific topic, or what groups can offer information on specific subjects. As a manager or someone looking for information to solve a problem, you want see when the content was last updated, as well as who updated it.

5. Wikis aren’t optimized for consumers, but for curators of knowledge

In order to drive behavioral change in users, as well as sustained value from your investment in implementing a knowledge sharing platform, measurement and reporting are critical. How do you track:

  • Which knowledge topics are being produced, requested and/or consumed?
  • If there are any gaps in the knowledge strategy?
  • Who are the top users and what is their behavior?
  • Who are the users that should be leveraging wiki but aren’t and defaulting to email/IM?

Wikis can be excellent external knowledge-bases, with well-structured content, allowing Google to crawl and index everything with ease. Still, for internal use cases, their value is questionable.

And the list goes on:

6. Wikis don’t allow both public and private content for end-users, while enterprise knowledge bases maintain critical information confidential.

7. You can’t create user-groups, in order to share selective content, using wikis. With knowledge sharing platforms, you can choose which groups can view certain information, and then any member of the group can access its categories.

8. Since it’s based on the concept of open collaborative content, anybody can contribute to wikis. With knowledge bases, nobody can make changes to the content without you granting access.

9. Wikis don’t support user-levels and workflow systems, which enable an admin to contribute based on his access rights or privileges.

10. Enterprise knowledge bases usually have a solution suggesting feature, which prevent the creation of duplicate queries.

11. Wikis don’t support content search for document files with various extensions, like .doc, .pdf., .xls, .txt or .html. Thanks to the full text search engine that knowledge sharing platforms usually come with, they will immediately display content from documents in the search results.

12. Wikis don’t come with any protection against copying intellectual data.

What solution do you use for fostering continuous learning and employee engagement? Drop us a tweet at @QuandoraQA and share your secret weapon.

Looking for a great way to ask questions and build knowledge with your co-workers? Quandora enables simple, efficient knowledge sharing with your team, way more fun than a mailing list or a forum.

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