Many of you will work in distributed teams where you have project team members located in a number of offices. This can be a real challenge for communication. Even a large team based in one city may not all share the same office space. How do you share knowledge with people who are not based locally, without expensive travel or taking time away from the day job to host knowledge sharing sessions? A wiki is one way to help tackle the communication challenge for distributed teams. Read on to see how project management software can leverage wikis to improve project collaboration.
‘Wiki’ comes from the Hawaiian word meaning ‘quick’. It also stands for ‘What I Know Is’. Essentially, it is a collection of linked web pages about a topic or series of topics. In project terms, you could have a wiki for a project, or your Project Management Office could set up an enterprise wiki at the portfolio level. Project team members can access the wiki, create new pages for new information or update existing pages with new information.
If that sounds complicated, it’s really not at all. If you can type a document in a word processing package, you can use a wiki. There is no complicated coding required and you can create, update and search pages straight from your web browser.
Wikis in practice
Let me give you an example of how this works. One project manager we know has created a project wiki. Her project is to implement a new IT system for around 2,000 staff, and the wiki is kind of like a Frequently Asked Questions database. Each time someone asks a question, a wiki entry is created, so that in the future other people with the same question can search the wiki and find the answer themselves – the idea is to take the burden off the project team and share information.
This project manager has also created a number of sections for the project team – technical information, data about server models and IP address ranges and so on. This is updated when the project team has new data, or when things change. As a result, they aren’t looking back through emails to find the latest situation, which is risky as they could pull up something that is out of date. The wiki gives everyone the same version of the project status.
Through their wiki, they have also created a great knowledge repository to hand over the operational team once the new IT system is live. Keywords on the wiki pages link to other pages, so the wiki has become like a little website in its own right. People can navigate around the wiki, clicking on topics to get more information, and this will be a great benefit to the IT help desk team when they have to take customer queries when the project goes live.
Working around the world
Wikis have another advantage for distributed teams. They are not synchronous communication. By that we mean that you don’t have to have people there at the same time, like you would on a conference call. Someone in the Sydney office can update the wiki and when the London team come into work later that day they have instant access to the latest changes.
Your project wiki becomes the first place to look for all the relevant project data, wherever you are in the world. Users can upload images, documents, other project artifacts or even videos so that their colleagues always have the latest information to hand.
Wikis allow you to search knowledge
Wikis typically have great search functionality, so you don’t have to worry too much about setting up a good information architecture to begin with. Pretty much the only rule is not to duplicate pages, so if you are going to give multiple people in the project team access to create new pages, ask them to check to see if something on the topic exists already before setting up a new page.
Of course, if you can add a bit of structure to your wiki, your project team will thank you for it later. Try to group relevant topics together, such as status updates and meeting minutes, and use hyperlinks on the pages to ensure it is easy for people to navigate between wiki entries.
A good way to do this is to add simple links to each relevant entry saying something like ‘back to all videos’, ‘go to main meetings page’ or similar.
Some wikis, like the functionality that comes with EPM Live Project Wiki’s, allow you to subscribe to updates through an RSS feed so that you can keep up with all the new entries, and click through to topics that interest you.
You’ll never miss any project updates again!