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How to Launch an Internal Wiki

Kristen Craft | July 18, 2019

An internal wiki, sometimes called a knowledge base, can be one of the most important assets you can leverage as you grow. It’s not just a record-keeping tool: it is the ultimate repository of important documents and information. Wikis enable collaboration among employees and create a culture in which information is discussed, recorded, and freely shared. Because everyone has access to the information they need to do their jobs well, internal wikis contribute to innovation, efficiency, and increased productivity. Here are some factors you should consider when creating an internal wiki for your own enterprise.

Why Should You Use an Internal Wiki?

It consolidates information. Valuable information about your company, such as its policies, history and customers, can be scattered in emails, various network drives, on printed documents, (or worse, simply in an employee’s head). With an internal wiki system in place, new, current and remote employees will have immediate access to documents like training materials, technical notes, best practices, business policies, Frequently Asked Questions, customer support documents, checklists and more. Not only can employees learn from this growing repository of knowledge, they can also contribute to it.

It develops a sense of community and promotes collaboration. Wikis typically maintain a record of original contributors and any subsequent edits. This style of open collaboration can be appealing to your workforce and encourages them to communicate with one another and participate in the wiki project, providing a comprehensive snapshot of the enterprise with input from multiple perspectives.

It preserves vital knowledge. Employees who decide to go work elsewhere or retire take with them their years of experience, which can be difficult to replace. This knowledge can include important research, minutiae about important projects, on-the-job experience, and more. An internal wiki can be used to collect this important information so that when employees leave, what they know does not leave with them and is available for existing or future employees.

Why Google Docs Isn’t an Effective Internal Wiki System

Many startups adopt Google Docs as a tool for fostering collaborative documentation and improving the usability and efficiency of team information. It has a number of benefits, including accessibility wherever there is an internet connection and being usable at no cost. However, at a certain point, most companies tend to graduate from Google Docs, seeking a more robust solution.

The word processor/editor has a number of limitations and drawbacks that make it an inadequate substitute for an internal wiki system:

  • Poor search functionality
  • Users are unable to dynamically embed content, like lists of documents in another document
  • Inability to provide convenient URLs for documents
  • Inconsistent and inefficient styling for cross documentation
  • Document searching and linking capabilities are not as efficient as those for a wiki
  • Inability to construct a nested hierarchy of content
  • Inadequate version control

How to Pick the Right Internal Wiki

The type of platform you select for your internal wiki directly affects whether people will use it when they need to access information. Think deeply about why the wiki is needed and how it will be used. You should consider:

  • Whether you need a wiki for internal or external use
  • The number of people who will be involved in developing the wiki
  • The resources it takes to set it up and maintain it
  • What security measures should be in place

Wiki Products. Creating your internal wiki on a platform like Tettra may be ideal if you prefer not to get too technical or don’t want to dedicate IT resources to building something custom. Products like Tettra host the wikis on their servers and provide features, templates, and integrations for greater efficiency. There are many free wiki options that also have paid-premium versions that provide access to all of their features. At Tettra, we have a knowledge management system that integrates the information you already have in Google Docs, Slack, GitHub, and other sources.

Self-hosted wiki. Another option is to host a private wiki on your enterprise’s intranet, server or online hosting service. While this option does require engineering resources, it is definitely manageable for many teams, especially those with big budgets and unique requirements. This option offers more flexibility for teams with specialized use cases.

How to Get Started with an Internal Wiki

There are different approaches to building a wiki, but the key characteristics of the final product should remain the same. An internal wiki should:

  • Facilitate objective and real-time collaboration and communication
  • Support the easy editing of wiki pages
  • Be formatted so that documents are easy to scan
  • Allow fast and easy linking between wiki pages
  • Have a management system capable of storing all of a team’s documents and files, including videos, PDFs, images, etc.
  • Superior search capabilities that allow users to locate what they are looking for easily and quickly
  • Safeguard the information in the wiki from individuals who lack the proper authority to access or modify the information

Sharing knowledge is an important feature of wiki, but being able to do it quickly and efficiently is also important. Pay particular attention to the following aspects of the wiki to make sure that it is easy to explore and read:

  • Navigation. Table of contents and indexes are necessary for users to have a peek at all of the descriptors, sections and categories in the internal wiki.
  • Hierarchy and sectioning of content. Content should be prioritized from general to specific with the use of sections and subsections.
  • Search optimization. Searching should be effortless. Users should be able to browse through pages and find what they are searching for easily and quickly.
  • Categorization. Pages can be organized into categories and subcategories.
  • Crosslinking. The use of hyperlinks can connect relevant content by connecting sections with subsections and linking articles listed in the same or related categories. It is one of the key features of a wiki.

How to Get Other People on Board with an Internal Wiki

Helping people get comfortable with your internal wiki is paramount to its success. People who are unfamiliar with wikis may be reluctant to modify pages that have been created by someone else. However, the effectiveness of an internal wiki lies in the collaboration and engagement of all employees, and it’s worth the effort and time you may spend pitching the wiki to them.

In order to foster usage for your wiki, make sure that the objectives are clear and relay this to the employees. You should explain in detail what a wiki is, how it works and how it benefits the company and the employees themselves. Clear instructions regarding how to use and contribute to the wiki should also be provided, with examples, if possible. To alleviate the concerns of employees who might worry about creating or editing content, you should communicate that any mistakes can be easily corrected, since systems like Tettra maintain a changelog.

Growing Efficiently with an Internal Wiki

If your team is growing fast, make sure you scale efficiently with organized knowledge transfer. An internal wiki can alleviate the pain point associated with hiring and onboarding new employees. It also helps teams as they begin to navigate remote-friendly policies, or the complexity of having multiple offices. This efficient approach to growth offers a lasting competitive advantage over other companies that aren’t documenting knowledge.

Some companies pride themselves on building a culture of documentation. Entrepreneur and attorney, Ryan McKeen, describes this as a “wiki-driven culture”. Because his entire team uses Tettra to document and find important information, they’ve been able to grow and scale faster and more smoothly than they otherwise would. Ryan cites Tettra as playing a major role in their company success story.

Managing knowledge at your company with an internal wiki such as Tettra is an investment in your team’s future success. You can preserve and cultivate key information in order to make better decisions and grow efficiently. An internal wiki can be instrumental in feeding a work culture of innovation and continuous learning.