A wiki is a Web site that promotes the collaborative creation of content and can be edited by anyone at any time. Informational content can be created and easily organized within the wiki environment and then reorganized as required. Wikis are currently in high demand in a large variety of fields due to their simplicity and flexible nature. Documentation, reporting, project management, online glossaries and dictionaries, discussion groups or general information applications are just a few examples of where the end user can provide value. The major difference between a wiki and blog is that the wiki user can alter the original content while the blog user can only add information in the form of comments. While stating that anyone can alter content, some large-scale wiki environments have extensive role definitions, which state who can perform update, restore, delete and create functions. Wikipedia, like many wiki-type projects, has readers, editors, administrators, patrollers, policymakers, subject matter experts (SMEs), content maintainers, software developers and system operators, all of whom create an environment open to sharing information and knowledge to a large group of users.

Wikis are making inroads inside the corporation where they are eliminating many barriers to communication. Companies such as Disney, AT&T, Nokia, Kodak, Intel, eBay, Emory, Motorola and Novell are integrating wiki-based technology into the daily activities of doing business. With the constant focus on cost cutting, wiki technology allows the end user to update information without the need for technology resources.

The ease of use, rollback, editing and common usability framework are all key in the mass adoption of this technology. McKinsey reported that organizations are seeing a faster pace of specialization, globalization and technology change.1 The old strategies for efficiency improvements don't apply to employees whose jobs mostly involve tacit activities. These tacit activities create an environment where agility is paramount. Executives will have to learn how to compete, innovate and manage in a world where clear lines of authority and roles are blurred at best.

How can you use a wiki in your current environment? Wikis need to be placed into perspective and utilized for relevant content. The most basic use of a wiki is to replicate the functionality found in Wikipedia and create a corporate dictionary. All organizations use jargon and acronyms; we assume that everyone knows what they mean. IT may be the world's worst group at this: disaster recovery (DR), customer relationship management (CRM), master data management (MDM), etc. Other organizations are using wikis to track meetings or collaborate on presentations. Wikis can be used for documentation purposes in user guides, manuals and business processes. Instead of emailing updates to the technical writer, which require editing and approvals, wikis allow front-line employees to update the information in real time. This ensures that the most important, relevant and timely information is available and not subject to corporate friction.

Adopting a wiki to manage knowledge can pose new opportunities and significant challenges. It is important to understand that responsibility for content, growth and quality is the metadata manager's. A wiki places less emphasis upon centralized control, strict discipline and extensive monitoring of the systems to manage knowledge in the organization. Unlike Web 1.0, this new technology encourages user participation and derives its greatest value when large communities contribute content.

How can you integrate a wiki into the data management area? What are some ways in which a wiki could be used? Here are 15 examples that might trigger your own suggestions:

  1. Collecting and collaborating on the business requirements for the enterprise metadata repository.
  2. Establishing a corporate dictionary for naming standards and term definitions.
  3. Meeting agendas, notes, attendees and attachments.
  4. Professional profiles used to locate data SMEs and like-minded data professionals.
  5. Status reporting (project, personal, program, depart-mental).
  6. Data tier definitions and defining consistent data descriptions.
  7. Repository user manuals, user guides and best-practice documentation.
  8. Data management policies and procedures.
  9. Along with RSS, notification of upcoming events, data loads and repository release announcements.
  10. Error reporting, tracking and resolution sets.
  11. Defining and describing data standards, metamodels and enterprise structures.
  12. Defining and documenting data transformation rules (business view) in real time.
  13. Describing data storage and utilization architectures.
  14. Documenting the data tiers and data access alternatives.
  15. Documenting front-line data quality trends to provide early problem notification.

The basic difference with the wiki-based approach versus the traditional command-and-control model is the collaborative nature and the emotional loss of control that we all feel. The integration of social technologies will alter the basic foundation of data management and perhaps return it to its rightful place in the organization.

  1. Scott Beardsley, Bradford, C. Johnson and James M. Manyika. "Competitive Advantage from Better Interactions." The McKinsey Quarterly, 2006.

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