Monthly Archives: August 2006

Wiki use in global enterprise settings

Just considering the possible use of a massive wiki for tech help agents in an enterprise setting.  Any thoughts anyone out there might have would be of interest.

For now, some of the considerations I have would be:

  • flexibility of legacy inputs
  • what kind of SW?
  • use for decision trees, or trees of any kind?
  • measuring use for agents and customers
  • limiting and recognizing abuse
  • governance issues (multitudes, I’m guessing)

I’m convinced through painful experience that global companies with a vested interest in a uniform customer experience and support options will have to have some kind of JIT publishing process and collaborative sharing processes to create a global MindShare at the agent level.

Further, it’s about the only way out there to actually collect and leverage tacit knowledge. But can it be done and measured and proven to be as effective as I think it can?  Don’t know.

Community, wikis, blogs and info share

Community is the smallest unit of health. To speak of the health of an isolated indiviudal is a contradiction in terms,” said Wendell Berry in his speech Health is Membership. I live in a wonderful neighborhood in West Seattle, and am surrounded by a network of people who over time have forged a real community in an urban environment–almost unknown these days. Lucky me!

I have another community that helps me navigate a vast and expanding universe of knowledge and experience. When I first started working at amazon.com a bunch of years ago, it seemed like what was back then somewhat disparagingly referred to as that “world wide web” thing, we all used to wonder at the palpable buzz that was growing by the second as peope discovered this expanding digital universe.

Some people would wonder that I could compare the neighborhood I live in physically with the neighborhood I live in digitally, but they really feel like equal parts myself. Like in my mind, I’m having conversations with Susan and Tom next door about what’s going on with our 90 year old neighbor Cliff, as well as conversations with X number of people thru wikipedia about wiki use in a corporate setting–both the same in my mind, both vibrant and alive. Shared knowledge and experience.
The level of information out there is simply mind-boggling and I feel a similar buzz from those early days at amazon. What is truly interesting at this point is how that information is shifting, restructuring, creating nodes, shifting again and rearranging itself continually. In the midst of all this change, patterns emerge and those patterns reflect this connected community as it grows and evolves and continually finds its new networks.

Are we isolated with our computers and our virtual networks. I don’t think so.

This is the silly part: at the end of the day when I leave my desk, I almost want to wave goodbye (alright, yes, I’ve done this but only once! I swear!) to my open screens. I know, I know–that’s too weird and yet I’ve spent time with this palpable and vibrant digital community and somehow want to make the connection physical like I do after visiting with a neighbor. Ours is a fluid universe of virtually and physically networked communities–an expanding mass of shared knowledge and experience.

There’s a buzz out there

Seems like wikidom is reaching critical mass–you can just feel the buzz.  The other night, just after I’d finished a day of exploring various corporate examples of wiki implementation (and there are a too many examples to choose one–here’s a sort of ugly example of a big entrenched company that’ found it way to wiki), I turned on the Cobert Report and there was Stephen giving his “Word of the Day” schtick.

What was the work of the day?  Wikiality.  As in Reality but Wiki style.  And on the air, he pulled out his laptop and changed an article about Oregon in Wikipedia.  I thought: this is now officially Critical Mass.

Course, he was having some fun with it and I suppose some of the more serious guys at Wikipedia didn’t care for it when it finally came to their attention…about 3 or 4 minutes later.  He is now banned from using Wikipedia.  Still, he declared his love of Wikipedia on prime time TV and that can’t hurt traffic any.

Wiki = better corporate culture and customer experience?

Previously I noted in passing about the article in the New Yorker about Wikipedia–great stuff that has received a lot of attention and brought Wikipedia into the mainstream. Love to know what Wikipedia’s metrics for the last week have shown regarding that attention.

Anyway, I’d also noted that Digital Universe offers a very different approach to collaborative knowledge, social networking etc. As I’m trying to apply the wiki concept to the knowledge management of a global company with extreme complexity, a lot of questions come up regarding the two approaches, one being more or less a self-governing free for all, the other being a collection of portals maintained and controlled by subject matter experts as gate keepers.

Of course the global company in question would prefer the controlled model, it makes them feel much more secure that all hell won’t break loose and it suits their command-and-control style of management to a tee. So at first, I was leaning towards the Digital Universe model, but now…in fact, I’d really like to see them give the wikipedia model a try for these two reasons:

Those using the knowledge base are also those who interface with customers. They know what the most current problems are, what the work-arounds are, what’s needed, what works. They know it like the back of their hand. As Peter Drucker pointed out often enough, the frontline workers are the keepers of truly useful knowledge. They have every reason to make sure the knowledge they have at their fingertips is the best, most correct and most useful. They have every reason to make sure their co-workers also have that information so they don’t have to clean up the mess left behind by someone who did the job poorly the first time. They also have every reason to want the recognition they deserve for the knowledge they’ve acquired. In all of these cases, a wikipedia answers the call.

Further, the customer would prefer that frontline worker have as much useful, applicable and timely information as possible, as quickly as possible. That would mean a quick answer to their problems and that’s pretty much all they want.

So, none of this is rocket science but to get a large, entrenched company to recognize the worth and value of this radically new frontier of shared knowledge and JIT publishing…now there’s some magic.

How threatening is a many-to-many publishing? Maybe pretty dang threatening, it could be a game changer. But in exchange, you’d have fresh energy, real motivation to “get it right,” and direct relationship with excellent frontline customer experience.