April 7, 2006 7:22 AM   Subscribe

How can I convince my employer to use a Wiki?

We have a situation where I work and I think a Wiki would be an ideal tool. We're doing a massive SAP implementation. We buy and manage 4 million items spread across three supply centers located in three states. This is a five year project with rollouts of new users, items and functionality occurring every 30 to 90 days. The training effort is terrible. I've been on this project since October 2000. At that time we had a development enviornment, a production enviornment and a training enviornment. We abandoned the training boxes because they were too expensive and unwieldy and replaced them wih 'E-learning' or 'RoboDemos' which are Macromedia Flash movies that sort of show where to click.

Anyway, when the users get their passwords and logins and actually go live, they have no clue what to do. We - my team - provides post go-live support. We're spread really thin and as more users are added, our numbers are not growing so we're spread even thinner. There is on-line help, but it's hopelessly out of date and the process to get it updated is cumbersome.

What happens is end users in specific areas develop their own 'manuals' or 'job aids' that apply to their specifc process area. The system gets used in different ways depending on whthere one is buying food, clothing, medical supplies,nuts & bolts, etc.

What I want to use the Wiki for is to get all this knowledge in one place. The stuff ranges from pdfs to word docs to PowerPoint slides, but wnat to get it all in one spot where people can see it, edit it and correct it as the thing evolves.

This is DoD activity, extremely conservative and reluctant to change and this is not likely to get an immediate green light and warm embrace. Help me build a case. I know the software is open source, i.e. free and that is a selling point. What else?
posted by fixedgear to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The best things I've ever done at work were situations where I did the initial development without any explicit approval (the latest, coincidentally, was a wiki).

If it's a good thing and you know it's going to be a good thing, get it to the point where you can demonstrate it before you try to sell anyone on it. Any middle manager will be excited to take credit for having the vision that they didn't actually have once it has become a success.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:33 AM on April 7, 2006

Best answer: A lot of corporate types are familiar with Lotus Notes. The knowledge bases that people can create in Notes is one of it's strong selling points. Wikis can do the same thing, with next to none of the cost. I can't find the original Wiki: The Lotus Notes Killer? article, but if you go through this pretty decent presentation by the Twiki folks you'll probably find lots of useful arguments, and there are excellent reference links to boot!

Once they understand that a Wiki is mostly a user driver knowledge base, then you just need them to understand that it is a web application just like any other.
posted by furtive at 7:36 AM on April 7, 2006

Thanks for asking this: we're going through a similar implementation where I work (not SAP in this case though), and I've suggested a user wiki for capturing some of the more "folkloric" business processes that are being ginned up out there, but haven't reall been able to raise any interest in the right places.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:50 AM on April 7, 2006

My suggestion: Just build it. Don't call it a wiki or any other geeky web term. Just give it a compelling URL that your folks will remember and start putting YOUR stuff out there. Show it around, and hope it takes off...
posted by jwhowa at 8:31 AM on April 7, 2006

Just give it a compelling URL that your folks will remember and start putting YOUR stuff out there.

One thing to keep in mind - if this involves the DoD (Department of Defence, I presume?) there are probably some huge security concerns to bear in mind. Putting any sort of corporate information on a public server wouldn't be a good idea - you may want to keep the wiki on the intranet or a network share.

I second (third? fourth?) the idea of just going ahead and putting the wiki together. If anything, it can serve as a reference point for you and your team, and if it's truly useful it'll spread from there.
posted by gwenzel at 8:43 AM on April 7, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, that is sort of the issue: I could find some web based public host sort of thing just to do proof-of-concept but the real thing must be behind a firewall, on our Intranet, etc., and requires cooperation of the IT folks. A whole 'nother issue.
posted by fixedgear at 8:53 AM on April 7, 2006

When I developed ours, my secret was stressing the user-level features. "[...] provides cross-referenced, categorized and indexed knowledge management [...]" "[...]Capable of absorbing communal knowledge and experience through a two step process of initial capture followed by standardizing grammar and semantics by KM staff[...]"

If you don't have the cooperation of the IT staff, it will probably be difficult to develop a POC, though. If policy allows, perhaps you could set one up on your own computer?
posted by boo_radley at 9:08 AM on April 7, 2006

If you have to spin it to your managers before you build it, furtive nailed it: you're not recommending a wiki, you're recommending a knowledge base. Then go through whatever your usual process is for putting together requirements for a new service and finding software that meets those requirements.

You might even find that a wiki doesn't meet the spec, and you need some sort of more hierarchical knowledge base, of which there are also some OSS alternatives, or you might find that a wiki meets your needs, at which point management is on-side.
posted by mendel at 9:17 AM on April 7, 2006

I could find some web based public host sort of thing just to do proof-of-concept but the real thing must be behind a firewall, on our Intranet, etc., and requires cooperation of the IT folks.

I think plenty of wikis also have a standalone mode, so you could do the proof of concept on your own computer (assuming you have the permissions for that at least) if you are concerned about security. I know moinmoin at least has such a mode.
posted by advil at 10:05 AM on April 7, 2006

mendel: I found that mediawiki provided good hierarchical organization through nested categories. Mediawiki's the 800lb gorilla of wiki, and there not too much it hasn't been able to do for my organization.
posted by boo_radley at 10:38 AM on April 7, 2006

Response by poster: All good so far, thanks. I marked furtive's answer as best because Accenture, our 'partner' uses Lotus Notes and will understand the analogy and that Twiki link talks about using a Wiki at SAP. Two big selling points.
posted by fixedgear at 11:10 AM on April 7, 2006

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