10 benefits of a wiki for businesses

A wiki can be a valuable, multi-purpose tool for staff to collaborate with their colleagues.  Your company can gain many benefits from running a wiki website and there are many ways to use them.  This flexible, accessible, easy to use solution is not one that should be overlooked.

wiki collaborators using laptop

What is a wiki anyway?

A wiki is a type of website that can easily be edited and managed by its users. Ultimately, it’s a collection of pages that can be hyperlinked together as required, providing a meaningful and organised way to store and share information.  Many people can contribute to a wiki, making it a highly collaborative tool that can be used for many different purposes.

They are created using wiki software, platforms that are specially set up to make the process of creating and editing simple and straightforward. Programmer Ward Cunningham developed the first such platform in 1995.  He wanted a quick and easy way to exchange ideas and share discussions with his fellow programmers.  So, he developed a user-editable website called WikiWikiWeb to do just that. His idea gained popularity and the humble wiki was born.


How can companies benefit from a wiki?

Your company could gain many benefits from using this type of user-editable site. From decreased costs to collaboration and learning, the wiki can often provide a powerful business solution. In fact, you might be surprised to know that lots of companies are already reaping the rewards. So, how might your company make the most of them?


1. A wiki encourages self-improvement and learning among staff

When team members collaborate on a wiki, great things can start to happen. Because they are responsible for providing and updating information, it motivates them to do their best. Consequently, these team members end up expanding their own knowledge through sharing, researching, and checking their facts.

Team members can use their contribution to a company wiki as a chance to shine.  Employees might view their contributions as an opportunity to establish themselves as an expert in the field.  Also, employee’s job satisfaction can gain a real boost. This is because they know they are adding value for colleagues and clients to benefit from.

In the workplace, teams need this level of engagement and motivation to strive for more and take ownership. Importantly, employees can take pride in the fact that they are making useful contributions to the company’s knowledge base. Most people will want to be seen to maintain, or even improve, their high standards.  All this helps employees add real value to the company.


2. A wiki website is low cost, sometimes even free

Companies need not be too concerned about the cost of setting up and maintaining a wiki.  This is because employees require no specialist knowledge for their setup and maintenance, so hiring technical help is not required.  Increasingly, wiki offerings are cloud-based and are available quite cheaply. The fees associated with wiki software are often very low. It is not unusual to pay only a low monthly fee per user, with some even offering a domain name.  If a wiki is only going to have a few collaborators, there are also some free options around.  Teams find these are a good introduction that will allow time to see if a wiki is the right move. 

You will find that many free options belong to wiki software that operates using the freemium business model.  This is where a limited version of a paid service is offered for free.  Many companies find that this is a great way to try before making a financial investment, getting a feel for both the software and their requirements. A popular choice here is Confluence, Atlassian’s business wiki platform. Confluence’s free version allows up to 10 users, albeit with a more limited set of features.


3. The flexibility of a wiki means it can fit in with your requirements

Your limits regarding what you can do with a wiki really depend on your requirements – and imagination. Each use case can vary wildly, with wikis having been used for everything from personal note recording to educational tools.  Many people say that the wiki’s simplicity is what makes it so powerful, as it can find purpose in many situations. 

Not all of your projects will be suitable for a wiki, but any that require collaboration along with information sharing and storage are likely to benefit.  Maybe you want to set up an intranet within your company without investing much upfront? You can rest assured, a wiki will do that. Perhaps you want to add another string to your marketing bow? That’s right – a wiki can do that too.


4.  A wiki can help promote products and services

Companies that use a business wiki for marketing purposes find that they bring increased customer engagement and more sales. This is possible because you can make a wiki public – it doesn’t have to be an internal company site.

Digital marketing experts will tell you, high-quality, relevant content that is published regularly makes an excellent contribution to a digital marketing campaign. When you use a wiki as another way to get authoritative content out there it is a great way to establish your position as an industry expert.  Consequently, your clients will look to you for answers – and hopefully for products or services too.

You can take this as an opportunity to provide useful information to clients about the sorts of questions or problems they might encounter.  This is where you will be able to link out to products and services that you offer.  In other words, you will find that a wiki can help to drive traffic and increase sales.


5. Wikis can grow with your needs

Since their inception, wikis have grown and diversified to become a versatile collaborative tool capable of integrations with other apps and services.   Cloud-based platforms, such as Confluence, now integrate with other project management tools. This means that they can meet the changing requirements that most business projects will face.

Additionally, you will find that a wiki scales well to accommodate a large number of contributors should this be required. Furthermore, the storage capacity offered by many wiki providers is fairly large and can easily and cheaply be increased as required. This means that you will never need to worry about progress stalling due to the limitations of this type of website. Nor will contributors need to limit their use of media-rich formats, enabling creativity to bloom.


6. Easy to learn and set up

The whole point of the wiki was for it to be a quick and easy collaborative tool. After all, ‘wiki’ in Hawaiian does mean ‘quick’. No special skills are needed to set up, contribute to, or maintain this type of site. Conversely, with some content management systems, a learning curve is involved. For employees with a non-technical background, it could take some time to learn other tools. Some people are fairly slow getting used to WordPress or Drupal, for example.

Setting up a wiki is easy for most people – as is contributing and editing. This means that there need be no lost time spent waiting for developers and designers to come in and set everything up.  Furthermore, your costs will be kept to a minimum.


7. Takes care of revision history for you 

Sometimes, contributors can get a little muddled.  When many people are tasked with collaborating on one site, things can occasionally go wrong.  Should this happen, a way to revert back to a point when things were working well is required.  This can save you much time and many headaches – arguments too, in some cases.
Most wiki software offers this ability to track revisions, giving you the opportunity to view every edit that’s been made.   Additionally, this offers your teams a great way to see how the site has progressed over time.


8. Creates a sense of community around your brand and helps gain insights

It is possible for you to create projects that include clients as collaborators. The details would, of course, depend on your particular industry and offering.  However, it’s easy to see how including clients and giving them a voice can help promote long-lasting relationships.

Your company will also benefit from gaining more client feedback. Additionally,  having it feed constantly into the planning and evaluation stages of a project management lifecycle can take things to another level. This will better inform the improvement of your projects as you iterate, helping provide outstanding products, services, and experiences.


9. Wikis can help you with staff training

Within your company there exists a wealth of expert knowledge.  When you bring new employees on board, the challenge is finding the best way to impart that knowledge to them.  Simply sitting the new starters down in a room with your existing expert staff is not always the best use of human resources.

Department managers, team leaders, supervisors… They will all have a wealth of vital knowledge to pass on to new starters. However, they will soon tire of repeating themselves – again, and again, and again.  You get the point. A wiki can be used to collect and link to the most pertinent knowledge required to fulfill a particular job role. Contributors will be happy to know they never need to repeat themselves again, freeing them to get on with their busy work.

Trainers and fellow recruits can also benefit from incorporating a discussion section into a wiki page, enabling interaction. This is great for addressing any concerns and answering questions that arise, as well as gaining feedback on the training materials.

Furthermore, new starters can access the required learning materials more quickly, without having to wait for expert staff members or trainers to become available. Your business can benefit from this by saving time and money, especially if used in place of a costly learning management system.


10. A wiki has the benefit of being easy to access and always available

Many wiki platforms are cloud-based, meaning that they are highly accessible and available. No software needs to be installed on a computer other than a web browser – combine that with internet access and you’re good to go.
Staff who may need to work remotely will be able to have unbroken access to the same, up-to-date versions of their wiki wherever they are. 
Consequently, a team’s ability to collaborate can flourish without worrying about having access to a particular computer or working on different versions of their wiki.
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