Enterprise Wikis: Criteria and important topics in the evaluation of wiki software

Wikis for intra-company usage are becoming well established as both commercial and open source applications. This article gives an overview of criteria and requirements involved in the decision making process, along with a comparison of our proprietary Wiki Confluence System and its open source competitors, Foswiki and MediaWiki.

Critical in the evaluation of wiki systems are the requirements of the company- this is the first and most important thing to consider. There are numerous criteria to be taken into account when selecting the right system.

1. Open Source Software or Commercial Enterprise Wiki?

To start, a decision should be made regarding free open source wiki versus commercial systems. Is the company willing to use open source software? There are certainly professional and sophisticated open source systems that are backed by large and engaged communities. To some, Open Source seems “sexy.” Or is the company of the mindset that open source is to be avoided? This is a commonly held and legitimate position. In many companies there is a clear tendency towards one or the other direction.

2. Cost

Is the company willing to pay license fees for a wiki? What are the costs associated with each system? For commercial systems, one must take into account not only the cost of the software itself, but also the follow-up costs such as those for technical support or fee-based plugins if needed.

3. Availability of quality plugins

Extensions turn wikis into true corporate wikis. Are the proposed processes supported by appropriate extensions? Are the plugins established and reliable? Available extensions will need to be tested for stability and quality.

4. Community activity

The development of enterprise wiki software is important. Enterprise 2.0 is a rapidly growing field that will involve new challenges and opportunities. If there is no development community to pick up on trends and refine performance, the system quickly becomes outdated. Is free community support guaranteed? How many different service providers are there and how are they in terms of quality and depth of knowledge?

5. The wiki as a recognized solution

No company wants to be in the position to discover that a seemingly innovative new solution is anything but. Company wikis have been around since 1998, and it’s important to evaluate who is truly established and reputable in the market. References and experiences of other companies and service providers play a major role.

6. Technologies currently in use

What programming language is used (i.e. Java, Perl, PHP)? Is the wiki built around a database (i.e. mySQL) or around files? Should the wiki be integrated in a universal enterprise search? What will be demanded in terms of performance and scalability? IT often has its own set of conditions. However, experience shows that taking stances such as “Just Java” or “mySQL no matter what” don’t necessarily matter for later administration.

7. Functionality of the system

Functionality is a key criterion: the wiki is intended to reflect business processes and must be able to meet the requirements arising from daily work. Adequate time should be invested in the evaluation of functionality. Does the system have a sophisticated, flexible authorization concept? Can wiki areas be created? Can the wiki accept figures such as tables and charts? Does the system have a native WYSIWYG editor?

8. Usability and design

Employee activation and the generation of a critical mass of users are major factors in the success of wiki adoption. Employees are generally happy to work with wikis on a daily basis and come to perceive it as an integral part of company infrastructure. Will the software be able to meet central usability standards? Is the interface easy to use? Is the layout of the wiki well-adapted to the corporate design? How complex is the administrative side?

9. Ownership of the project

Is the enterprise wiki going to be used within a single department or universally? Will there be a trial period for the wiki initiative or a large-scale rollout for the business? What is the expected number of users? Scalability and conditions for a smooth transition into existing IT infrastructures play an essential role in wiki introduction.

10. Migration of data

Many companies want to have the option to move their data to other systems at a later date. Can the data be automatically migrated to another system? How complex would this move be?

11. Ease of administration

Crucial to easy system administration are fast backups, easily processed updates, short term response options, etc. The ability to run on different operating systems must be examined in the evaluation.

From our experience, the technology factor doesn’t play the most critical role in a wiki project (far more important are organizational measures) but this doesn’t mean that the technology is negligible. It is important to analyze in advance which wiki-launch best meets your requirements and figure out which system best supports the proposed processes. // SEIBERT / MEDIA can help you with this.

Thinking about wiki introduction? Interested in evaluating software? Need help with a current wiki project? We are experts in corporate communications and can advise you. More information on these topics can be found on our page about enterprise wikis.

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Additional information

Architecture of a wiki project: elements, sequence, procedure, rules
Wikis require custom design
Wikis are the glue holding Intranets together

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