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What Is MediaWiki And Should I Use It For My Organization?

Many of us are familiar with Wikipedia – the online, ever-growing encyclopedia.  Wikipedia is developed on the understanding that open collaboration without bottlenecks provides the widest range of accurate information. What you may not know is that Wikipedia also developed MediaWiki – open source software that organizations and groups can use to build a knowledge […]

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December 18, 2012

MediaWiki LogoMany of us are familiar with Wikipedia – the online, ever-growing encyclopedia.  Wikipedia is developed on the understanding that open collaboration without bottlenecks provides the widest range of accurate information.

What you may not know is that Wikipedia also developed MediaWiki – open source software that organizations and groups can use to build a knowledge base.  Some of the most successful organizations are using an internal MediaWiki to store institutional knowledge and share expertise.  If it can work for them, why not you?

Why Wiki?

Have you ever wondered how you are going to transfer information about a project to a new resource?  Or how to keep important information up to date?  A wiki may be the answer.

Here’s why using a tool like MediaWiki could make a difference:

1.  Knowledge is power
We’ve all heard this adage before, but it’s still a good one.  The more knowledge you have, the better prepared you are, the more likely you find the opportunity, the better chance you have to succeed.  The more people in an organization with knowledge the better the company performs.  A wiki helps because many people can access the same information anytime they want to, without having to request information from other resources.

2.  More accurate information
How many of you received a printed document of company benefits on your first day, only to find out the information is already out of date?  How effective is incomplete information and the resulting search to find the accurate information?  Wikis allow constant updates, so information is more likely to be accurate and up to date.  It also doesn’t rely on one person or one team to check and update the information; anyone can do it.

3.  Open collaboration
Reducing bottlenecks and increasing efficiencies is common knowledge in the business world.  Why not apply these foundations to knowledge?  The more people share, the more people contribute, the more efficient and effective our institutional knowledge.  Dispersing the ability to share and document knowledge directly correlates to an open, transparent, and efficient business.  Wiki’s make this happen.

4.  Expert knowledge becomes Institutional knowledge
This is huge.  In every organization, there are some people who have a wider breadth of understanding or a deeper expertise of knowledge.  These people can be extremely effective in helping an organization succeed.  But what happens when that person leaves for a new opportunity?  Or calls in sick?  All that expert knowledge is inaccessible.  However, if the information is stored and shared among colleagues, the expert knowledge becomes institutional knowledge that can be shared across the organization.

This Sounds Great; What’s the Catch?

Here’s the big hurdle you face starting a wiki:  You have to be open-minded and willing to change.

Many organizations are built around protecting knowledge.  It’s common practice to confirm information with multiple people before sharing.  Sometimes that’s required.  But sometimes it’s just scary to put yourself out there and realize others can view your contributions and improve upon them.  Remember that a group knows exceptionally more than one individual.

The main concern I hear is “what happens if someone puts false or malicious information on my page?”  My answer is simple: you’re in a professional environment.  People don’t come to work thinking “how can I be malicious today.”  People come to work to contribute, to build, and to succeed.  By opening up information and breaking down barriers, you create a transparent environment.  Transparent environments attract better talent, improve existing talent, and are poised to take the next big opportunity.

Still in Doubt?

Wiki’s may not be for everyone, but some important government agencies are embracing the concept.  Here are a few examples of organizations using wikis to share knowledge:

Do you know anyone using MediaWiki or a similar tool?  How is it going?

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