In my previous post I introduced the idea of using a process framework for managing the wiki implementation. Here’s some more detail about the concepts behind each of the framework’s processes:
- Identify ‘needs’: This requires focusing first on the business needs, collaborative behaviours and capabilities to be developed, then on identifying the technologies which can support those needs/capabilities.
- Plan: Having identified a wiki as a suitable technology, its implementation and management must be considered. This should balance planned and emergent approaches to foster learning and allow patterns of use and self-sustaining behaviour to evolve over time, whilst providing direction/purpose to co-ordinate and guide efforts towards a shared vision of what is to be achieved. Consideration should also be given to the practical applications and purpose(s) of the wiki, how it will fit with existing technology systems and work processes, and the nature of facilitation (e.g. initial structuring and seeding of the wiki) to support and sustain use.
- Adopt: Wiki ‘adoption’ refers to the stages through which users typically progress before committing to a new technology, with different adopter ‘types’ progressing through the stages at different times and speeds. Rogers’ Model of Technology Adoption Categories below illustrates the characteristic responses of adopters to technology innovation:
Typically, those users become aware of a technology’s potential and then develop an understanding of it, which can lead to testing through trial use, and if successful, to its application in everyday work, before full adoption across the organisation as a key element in work processes. Whilst that path may not be linear, recognising the different stages may help to identify support/transition mechanisms to ensure each user-category is more likely to adopt the wiki, and help avoid its rejection, which may occur during any stage of the adoption process. In particular, the issue here is how to strike the balance between voluntary grass-roots adoption and directive use to encourage participation, raising considerations about the nature of training, teamwork, use of facilitators, support for different communication styles and unlearning of old habits regarding overuse of inefficient/ineffective technologies.
- Maintain: Closely related to adoption is wiki growth and propagation of good practice throughout the organisation. Issues here relate to managerial support, content management and wikis’ integration with other systems and work processes. Of interest here is whether managers have in fact absorbed the advice from industry and academic literature indicating they should be directly involved in the implementation by leading by example, mandate and reminding, reducing barriers to use, encouraging experimentation with the wiki and monitoring its use for ideas and best practices then propagating them throughout the organisation. Content management is also a key issue. Since wiki content should become more useful, structured and navigable over time if people are updating, linking and tagging, consideration needs to be given to the mechanisms which best encourage that type of behaviour.
- Evaluate: Of interest here is whether, and if so how, businesses are evaluating their wiki implementations. Such evaluation can be a mechanisms for encouraging feedback and learning from the implementation process, and allowing for revisions to implemenation plans, and wikis’ design, usage and maintenance. Measuring users’ progress through adoption stages and how often people are using wikis will provide some elementary figures on wiki diffusion and infusion in the organisation, and may provide grounds for investigating any barriers to the implementation process. However, more difficult issues relate to evaluation of wikis’ impact on bottom-line performance and development of organisational learning practices. Measurements focusing solely on bottom-line performance improvement in terms of accelerated project cycle times, reduced email overload and search costs may provide some hard data to support ROI, but they do not consider more important effects of wiki management/usage on organisational learning and collaborative capability development. Not only is it more difficult to establish direct causal connections between wiki management/use and improvements here, any evidence would be in the form of people’s opinions/perceptions.