A new route to better collaboration and knowledge transfer

by Richard Broughton – 14th July 2011

In any business, regardless of size, it is the employees who know most about how the company runs, how to get things done and all the little things which make their job more fulfilling and productive. The same can be said if your organisation seconds people around the world – who better to explain the lay of the land than those who have been in the same situation? If you are a smaller business, operating in one location, it is easy to share this information with everyone you feel could benefit but what if your business employs hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of people? How to ensure that all the information contained in the minds of your colleagues is shared?

Consider this scenario, you have just opened a small office in New York  to manage your US business interests, but after a year you decide to send half your UK workforce over to the Big Apple to manage all your international sales. Suddenly hundreds of staff members are now in a new city with little or no understanding of the practical challenges they will face, both work related and recreational. Historically, a relocation pack could be produced. Often designed by the HR department, it would contain helpful information and contact numbers, etc… but it is effectively a closed document, unable to be changed depending on an individual’s circumstances and experiences.

So what is the alternative? MTM was recently asked this question when one of its clients made the decision to relocate its corporate headquarters to Germany. Following the successful relocation of the organisation’s management team, a larger proportion of its employees were offered the opportunity to sample life on the continent. With that in mind, the company approached MTM to devise a simple but effective platform to share information, somewhere both the organisation and the team already on the ground could share their knowledge and experiences with those fresh off the plane. And not only that, the client also wanted those arriving to be able to pose questions, which could in turn be answered by those who’d been in the situation for some time.

The solution

After careful consideration , MTM presented a series of ideas, ranging from a micro-site designed specifically for those who had moved to the new country, to a dynamic online Flash based application, where users searched a question database and viewed predefined answers gathered from an extensive survey of those already on the ground.

Neither option quite captured the sense of collaboration and peer-to-peer sharing MTM and the client wanted to create and convey so a third option was chosen. This was a self-contained, locally hosted wiki site, developed by MTM using open source technology, specifically for the client. This route allowed anyone to pose a question, create a response or add their own views to an existing topic but with the advantage of being specific to the client and with added security to ensure only company employees and their families could use the site. The open source nature of the wiki package also enables useful add-ons, such as translation services and video embedding, which have been developed by third parties, to be used.

For those not familiar with a wiki based site and how it works, Wikipedia themselves define it as: ‘A wiki is a website that allows the creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified mark-up language or a WYSIWYG text editor. Wikis are typically powered by open source wiki software and are often used collaboratively by multiple users.’

So what are the benefits to your organisation over other platforms?

Wikis can serve almost any purpose and examples of their use include community websites, corporate intranets, knowledge management systems and note services. Wikis provide an incredible opportunity for sharing knowledge between company colleagues, those working within the same industry – regardless of organisation, designers and developers, teams working on a specific project or even as a tool to maintain relationships with the community in which your organisation operates.

The flexibility of the wiki platform, combined with web professional development means the control stays with you, the administrator. You are able have the final say over almost every aspect of the site’s functionality (levels of access). For example, you can define editing rights to permit changing, adding or removing material. Others may permit access without enforcing access control. Other rules can be imposed for organizing content. And that is one of the best things about a wiki; if you want everyone to be able to edit all the content, fine. If you would prefer that only a select number of administrators are capable of making changes, also fine. If you would like a number of core articles to be restricted but allow new members to still pose questions or respond to an existing question – not a problem, you are in control.

If you have a requirement to cost effectively communicate with your team or a desire to create a programme for collaboration and discussion, give us a call and let MTM demonstrate what this globally accepted and understood platform could do for your business.