The WAN and the wiki generation, Part 2

* Why use a wiki for collaboration

In the last newsletter, we discussed how age can impact the adoption of a new technology and we also introduced the concept of a wiki. Today, we will discuss why a company would use a wiki for collaboration vs. using an enterprise application such as Microsoft’s SharePoint.

According to Peter Thoeny of StructuredWikis, large scale business processes are typically implemented by the IT department. This includes processes to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, to deploy a CRM application, a traditional content management system, or the like. Those systems have a long procurement and development cycle. Peter also pointed out that teams of workers follow both formal and informal workflows to accomplish tasks. For example, there is often a paper-based process, such as rolling out laptops to employees, maintaining a status board of a call center, or signing-off software for export compliance. The IT department typically does not have enough resources to implement lightweight applications to automate those processes.

The fact that IT organizations tend to focus on large, centralized projects is nothing new. The growth of the mini computer industry was driven in large part by departments who could not get what they wanted from the central IT organization, but could afford to deploy a mini computer and use it to satisfy their own requirements. Of course, the next step in the evolution of computing was the deployment of the PC, which also was driven by users wanting to not be limited by what a centralized IT organization could provide.

Our research indicates that the majority of companies are reengineering one or more business processes and that IT organizations are beginning to use the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to reengineer some of their processes. According to Thoeny, a wiki lends itself to support evolving processes. It does this by enabling employees to document processes in the free-form wiki way, with linked pages maintained collaboratively. It also does this by creating structured wiki application with forms, queries and reports that automate those processes.

The next newsletter will discuss some current production use of wikis, point out the impact of this on the enterprise WAN and will define what is meant by a structured wiki and the wiki generation.

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