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Where content meets technology

Aug 27, 2008

Wikis Not Word! Gaining adoption through psychological warfare

Your company has a perfectly good wiki but your (otherwise intelligent) co-workers insist on emailing you Microsoft Word documents to review. Your gentle guidance has been ignored. Your snarky comments have been equally ineffective. What do you do? I suggest the following method. Try it (at your own risk) and let me know how it works.

A co-worker has sent you and four or five other colleagues a MS Word document that summarizes some research that he did. The document contains some simple headings and paragraphs. You have a lot of ideas and feedback to give but, rather than give it all at once, you trickle it out and have your co-worker feel the pain of merging your edits.

  • Draft 1: Re-Format. Don't really change anything, just format the heck out of the document. Change the styles around. Send it back with a cryptic filename like [irrelevant name]_[your middle name]_final.doc. Mail it with a note saying that it looks good and you had some slight wording changes. Leave it up to your co-worker to figure out that nothing has really changed.

  • Draft 2: Re-Organize. A day after the first draft, take the original document you received and re-organize it. Re-order the sections and a few sentences here and there. Make sure that you turn on "track changes" so that the whole document is a multi-hued mosaic of change notifications. Name it [original filename]_new.doc. Send it with a note saying that you discussed it with another colleague and got some new ideas but "it is really coming along!"

  • Draft 3: Edit. This is the version where you provide your real feedback. Start with your Draft 1. Make your edits. Name it [original filename].doc. Send it with a note saying how excited you are about this project and have been "thinking about it non-stop." Schedule a meeting to go over it and ask that your colleague send out a merged final draft for everyone's review. During the meeting, walk through everyone's feedback. By this time, your colleague is probably totally fried and is ready for a new way of working. At the end of the meeting, innocently say something like "you know, this might have been easier if we had worked in the wiki."

This method works even better if you have a co-conspiritor working with you doing the same thing. During the process, watch out for signs of mental instability or fragility and remove all sharp objects from the office. Make sure that the Employee Assistance Program posters are visible and well placed.

All humor aside, sometimes the only way to change people's ingrained behavior is to offer an alternative that is substantially easier. It has to be a big improvement because old habits are hard to break. Starting to use a wiki can be hard for people accustomed to Microsoft Word. They will initially get frustrated and resort to what they know. If you can't eliminate the learning curve of a wiki, you can expose the inefficiency of collaborating without one. The next time they launch Word, they will remember their painful experience and think twice.

Apr 24, 2008

J. Boye: Wiki in the Enterprise

Because of the inherent simplicity of the technology, wiki projects are less likely to fail in implementation than WCM or ECM projects. However, many companies still struggle to get the desired value out of their wiki initiatives. Purely managed and abandoned wikis have become yet another set of silos for information to hide in.

Janus Boye and Dorthe Jespersen's new report Wiki in the Enterprise contains a very well conceived and written analysis of what it takes to successfully implement a corporate wikis. Their research is based on interviews with enterprise wiki adopters and personal experience. It covers:

  • the positioning of wiki's in the content technology marketplace and the benefits that they promise

  • real world experience the impact and challenges of adopting wikis

  • recommendations for executing a wiki initiative

Their advice covers the cultural and organizational aspects of information management that are so often overlooked in technology-oriented projects. If you are considering using a wiki to support collaboration or information management in your company, and rightly understand that success is not a matter of technology, you should definitely read this report.

Feb 29, 2008

Google Sites and Sharepoint

CMSWire has a nice little article on Google Sites and MOSS. The general gist is that, while not as capable as MOSS, Google Sites may be just good enough for basic websites and collaboration. The absence of some advanced features may be compensated for by the simplicity of the platform. Sometimes just good enough is exactly what you want.

Over on the Sharepoint side, I just read Michael Sampson's excellent report The 7 Pillars of IT-Enabled Team Productivity: The Microsoft Shareport 2007 Analysis. The report uses Michael's 7 Pillars framework to evaluate Sharepoint. Not to be a spoiler but MOSS doesn't do so well.

I am not convinced that you want one platform to try do do everything but Michael assumes that this is Microsoft's goal (it certainly isn't building a robust WCM system). So, it seems that Sharepoint is caught in the middle. It is not the silver bullet, one-stop-shop for enterprise collaboration, and it is not the simple, cuddly tool that everyone loves to use. That is not a very fun place to be.