What makes a wiki work well?

Ross Dawson blogged recently on research by the University of Massachusetts into Social Media use in the 500 fastest growing, private companies in the USA.

The longitudinal study suggests that Social Media use is not just increasing within this business sector, but was more prolific in general when compared with the Fortune 500. Privately owned companies seem to be more open to social media technologies.

My experience bears this out in Australia. Two companies I am involved with in Melbourne fit the findings. The private one is using social media and the public one, although taking a few pokes, has yet to gain executive support to get even a pilot under way despite some interest being shown by middle management.

Maybe it's the organic implementation model that's to blame? While I am somewhat generalising, the public company is looking for turn-key solutions to business problems that can make reportable results to their stakeholders. The private one failed first with forums, adopted IM and evolved usage guidelines to handle the issues the multiple time zones can bring. Then a small wiki which started as a project information management tool has become a key tool for several divisions and is starting to do double duty as a company Intranet.

From a research perspective, my study of five Australian SMEs is showing some similar findings. The "Inc. 500" study notes that not only is the adoption "being driven by strong familiarilty", but the number of companies claiming Social Media technologies are "very important" rose from 26% to 44% in a single year.

Likewise, my study indicates that where wiki technologies have been implemented and perceived successful, the actual implementaiton time is very quick; in one case just two months from adoption to full usage and distributing the workload of the documentation project from a single writer previously to a collaborative effort of 17 operations staff.

Social Media seems to be more than just a business fashion. Several studies, including my own are now uncovering real business benefits to these technologies and the cultures of community and collaboration they engender. It will be interesting indeed to see how the continue to evolve over the next few years. I am also interested in how the continuing development of public Web 2.0 solutions will effect the Enterprise 2.0 landscape through both
1) the devlopment of new interfaces/tools/solutions, and also
2) via users becoming more familiar with the use of them.

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