How a Marketing Firm Implemented an Enterprise Wiki

Using a wiki from Socialtext, a social software vendor, CoActive, a New York-based marketing firm, has been able to take critical work out of e-mail boxes and put it into one transparent, searchable portal.

By C.G. Lynch
Thu, June 26, 2008

CIO — Neil Callahan, President of CoActive Digital, had a simple idea for implementing a wiki at his New York-based marketing firm. He would start with a small group, let them populate it with helpful information such as meeting notes and presentations, and then hold it up as an example to other departments. Those groups, in turn, would create their own wikis.

But moving towards a new tool like a wiki for collaboration, especially when people are so used to exchanging information over e-mail, can be just as big a cultural challenge as it is a technical one. E-mail has been the staple of communication for many firms for well more than a decade. As a result, Callahan says, it's critical to have a business leader own the project and encourage wiki adoption. It also helps, of course, to pick a wiki with an easy user interface so users won't shy away from contributing to it.

Picking a Social Software Platform

Large vendors such as Microsoft with its SharePoint platform have added social software to their offerings, but Callahan says such products (SharePoint in particular) required too much time and effort to implement, especially for a company with only 300 full-time employees. "There is just too much policy and governance management with SharePoint," he says. "We weren't going to kid ourselves into thinking we needed that. We aren't going to put people in the penalty box if they don't adhere to some governance or policy."

Instead, Callahan picked Socialtext, a company which makes wiki software designed for businesses. The Socialtext user interface allows people to edit and manipulate information with no HTML or coding experience. Power users — people who edit frequently — can employ a variety of shortcuts to upload links, documents and other information with greater efficiency.

While Socialtext offers customers the choice to host the data on premise, Callahan opted for a software as a service (SaaS) model where the vendor hosts the data, citing lower maintenance costs. He also says he feels comfortable with the security the vendor provides.

"It's encrypted and protected, and we could put a VPN [virtual private network] around it if we needed to," Callahan says. "But we're not putting financial statements and employee salaries on there or anything."

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