I got asked this question during a presentation earlier this week. It’s a simple question with a complicated answer — here’s why: Historically, whenever any new enterprise tool has appeared on the landscape, its proponents have told everyone that it was the next big thing (think KM systems) and would obsolete everything else so they should get on board as quickly as possible. Every time, without fail, this has not been the case. KM has largely not lived up to the extremely high bar set in its heady early days.
So when I answered the question, here’s what I said: in some cases it will replace and obsolete other enterprise tools, but in other cases it will coexist and work alongside — even in complement with — those other tools. Think that was a politician’s answer? In some ways it was, because if I said the same thing that’s been said countless times before — that it would unilaterally obsolete other tools — I would have immediately discredited myself because people know that’s not true and get scared when they hear things about a wholesale switch from one way of doing things to another.
In another way, it wasn’t a politician’s answer, because multiple tools can coexist and letting people choose can help them be more productive and enjoy what they do. Furthermore, when you introduce the wiki to your organization, there’s no need to immediately shut down and remove all other tools — that just sends a jarring and bad signal when the real benefit of the wiki is it helps return other tools, like email, to their optimal uses. Here are two examples where the wiki can coexist with other tools for the better:
Wiki + Email:
If you’ve been emailing meeting agendas, put them on the wiki instead and you’ll reduce the volume of emails asking you to do time consuming things like fix or add to agenda items. When the agenda is on the wiki, others on your team can directly make changes themselves, then send out an email with a link to the agenda–containing wiki page. You’ve just reduced the email associated with that meeting to just one outgoing message, and the reduced volume means less work for you and people will likely pay closer attention to it since their inboxes will be less crowded.
Wiki + Website content management system:
Many firms use a content management system to power their websites, and the system is usually managed by one person, or a small team of people. The rub: they’re constantly overloaded with requests to edit the content of pages and have a difficult time keeping up with them in a timely fashion. A great way to solve this is to put the website content in a wiki space, with a wiki page corresponding to each page on the website. Now, people can edit the content on the wiki as needed, and just let the web publishing people know when it’s ready to go on the website. This reduces the web publishers’ workload from making lots of changes (which often requires emails back and forth to get content, ask for clarifications, etc.) to just copying the updated content over to the content management system.

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