An internal company wiki isn’t just a convenience — it qualifies and quantifies information that could easily become “institutionalized knowledge.” Your internal company wiki must embrace the philosophy that no note is too trivial.
Your internal wiki is vital, and it must be concise, easily accessible, and frequently updated. Wikis are one of the best remote tools your company can use to increase communication and productivity.
The following eight features can transform your internal company wiki from “forgotten project” into “everyday resource” and not only shorten your training time but also help prevent employees from getting stuck during their work.
1. You Need Wiki Software to Create Your Wiki
If you’re a business with a large development team who has a lot of free time (congrats), then coding your own wiki might be a good idea. But, in general, it’s better for employee time to be spent editing and maintaining the wiki content rather than on the wiki code base. In other words, your team can focus on making the pizzas and not fabricating the oven.
With a hosted, third-party wiki solution, your team doesn’t have to spend time on troubleshooting, patches, updates, and feature creep. Here are a few recommended wiki software suites you might find useful for your knowledge base:
- Tettra: Tettra is an excellent knowledge-sharing and collaboration platform. It also integrates with dozens of other services, so you don’t have to start from scratch on all of your internal documentation. You can embed Google Docs, share from Dropbox or Zapier, and even integrate GitHub, Slack, Prezi, and Microsoft Teams (just to name a few). Engineering teams use Tettra to keep track of their code base and product specs, while marketing teams use it to keep track of project management and product launches.
- Bit.Ai: Bit.Ai is another good choice for your internal company wiki. Your wiki files can be customized with custom widgets, such as code blocks, math equations, and smart tables. It also integrates with the most popular professional communication and collaboration apps.
- ConcourseConnect: ConcourseConnect is more about community-building, but it functions great as a wiki and collaboration tool for businesses. It’s a bit of an all-in-one solution, which could be great for your business or could be overkill, depending on your current setup. But ConcourseConnect can help you set up and integrate blogs, employee profiles, wikis, your website, and collaboration and activity tracking all in one place.
Finding your wiki software is only the beginning; you then have to ask yourself how files are stored and shared on your internal company wiki.
2. You Need Comprehensive File Storage and Shared Access
Where are your wiki files stored, and how do employees add and edit these files? What kind of permissions do you have set up — who can edit what wiki entries? Do you really want nonprogrammers editing FAQs or wiki pages about code review or best practices?
Here are the file storage and access features you need:
- File attachment capabilities from multiple sources: People live on their Google Docs and cloud services these days. Your employees need to be able to upload, attach, or otherwise integrate files from their Evernote or iCloud, from their phone, tablet, or laptop right to your wiki.
- Large or infinite upload cap: Internal company wikis, when used properly, tend to become very large and comprehensive over time. Running into data caps is going to cripple your wiki. Before you commit to a long-term wiki strategy, make sure your employees can safely upload multimedia files on a regular basis without drama.
- Customizable Access Permissions: The ideal wiki or collaboration software should have some kind of tiered permission system so that everyone doesn’t have the same access. You should have, at minimum, permissions to view, permissions to comment, permissions to edit, and permissions to create new wiki files all at separate tiers.
Once you have your files safely stored and shared, employees must have the tools to share those files and work on them together.
3. Your Internal Company Wiki Needs Powerful Collaboration Tools
An internal company wiki with muddled or weak collaborative features is dead in the water — the whole point of a wiki is sharing knowledge with a large group. Remote teams especially need to collaborate effectively.
Whether creating wiki entries or integration files and content from other apps, the wiki software you choose should allow you to do the following:
- Document sharing: Obviously, editors should be able to share their documents on the wiki with people who have the right permissions.
- Comments: All those with permissions to view a document should be able to add comments.
- Suggest changes: When altering existing text, there should be an option to have text appear as suggestions. This allows for better collaborative editing because employees can see their coworkers thought processes and come to an agreement about the final text.
- Track changes: The wiki software you choose should be able to track changes not only to a specific document but across the wiki as well. It should record when changes are made, when new files and pages are added, and when content is removed. The people you put in charge of maintaining your wiki will find this feature invaluable.
- Integration with communication apps: Wiki software that can integrate with Slack or email is ideal. If changes to the wiki can send notifications to your existing team chat, you create an environment of accountability and transparency. It also always you to fix mistakes faster.
The next step is to figure out what goes into the wiki (and, more importantly, what doesn’t).
4. You Need to Create Guidelines for What Goes in the Wiki (And What Doesn’t)
Training and access to learning resources is key here: you must create clear guidelines for what deserves to be in the wiki.
Internal company wikis often fail because they become a tattered and confusing dump of unnecessary, contradictory, redundant, old, or poorly worded information. Instead, decide what should and shouldn’t go in the wiki, and disseminate that information to all employees. Making the wiki guidelines the home page of the wiki itself may be a good idea.
The actual rules are up to you and how you want to use your wiki, of course.
Is your wiki all about onboarding new employees? If that’s the case, wiki files and entries should be limited to HR documents, training material, and best-practices documents.
Is your wiki for project management? If that’s the case, your employees need to know that off-topic wiki entries will be deleted — a wiki entry on lunch places close to work wouldn’t be appropriate.
Is your wiki for unifying standards and best practices? It may be smart to create a schema with templates in advance instead of letting your wiki grow organically. For example, if you wanted everyone in your company to build a car exactly the same way, you may want to create sections for “Tires,” “Frame,” “Motor,” “Transmission,” and “Chassis” and have your main engineer fill them out.
If your company creates multiple products and services, all with the aid of different departments, you may want to consider separate workspaces to help prevent clutter.
5. Your Wiki Needs Separate Workspaces for Teams
Not every piece of information is useful to every team member, especially in a diverse or highly segmented company, which is why your wiki needs separate workspaces.
If salespeople have to wade through an endless swath of programming wiki articles to get to the CRM info, the wiki becomes less useful (and subsequently less used). Ditto for developers who have to scroll through customer management articles just to find the proper procedure for compiles.
Separate workspaces mitigate this wasted effort. When employees from a certain branch, department, or specialty log onto the wiki, it should park them in the section of the wiki most relevant to their needs. These digital workspaces also prevent notification fatigue — employees are only receiving notifications relevant to them.
6. Your Internal Wiki Needs a Search Function That Works
Your internal wiki can have the most meticulously constructed organization, but all anyone really wants is to “google” their problem. 43% of people go to the search bar right away before trying any other solution. Your internal company wiki needs a search bar that works.
Knowledge workers spend 19% of their time searching for the information they need to do their job. They’re also used to searching through their phones and their browsers. A functioning search bar gets information to employees faster.
They don’t have to learn the file schema of the wiki, and they don’t need any additional training. Someone looking for how to put in for a sick day can just type that into the search bar and be on their way instead of trying to guess if the article is in “Human Resources” or the “Orientation” section.
Search engines on wikis are hit or miss — there’s no easy way to tell right up front if their search feature is good. We recommend giving any wiki platform a full test-run before you buy or commit. If the wiki is available publicly (e.g., Wikidot), pick a public wiki and search common terms for the related industry. Are the search results relevant to your query?
If the wiki is a collaborating software, talk to a rep about getting access to a demo. Run that search bar into the ground — experiment. Can the search bar handle typos? Will it try to find something close to what you typed, or will it return zero results?
Do the wiki articles have keyword functionality? Can you tag each file with relevant topics? These features all make wiki search engines better, so keep an eye out for them.
7. Your Wiki Needs Regular Cleanup and People Assigned to Do It
Wikis can quickly become a tangled nest of broken links, old information, and redundant pages. An effective and long-lasting internal company wiki is the product of time and personnel dedicated to cleaning up the wiki and keeping it in tip-top shape.
This process is often called “wiki-gardening,” and you must assign wiki-gardeners to prune old pages, snip off broken links, and cultivate your training data into a trim and functional database.
Here are a few tips for wiki gardening:
- Assign at least one person as the regular wiki-gardener. For larger companies, two or three people should do the job.
- Set wiki reviews at regular intervals. Once a week or twice a month, your wiki gardeners should review all of the edits to the wiki.
- Compare the edits against your wiki guidelines, which wiki-gardeners should be intimately familiar with, and make changes to get the edits in line with standards.
- Wiki-gardeners should be known to the employees — if an employee runs across a broken link, an old page, or some other obvious error, employees should know to send that error to one of the wiki-gardeners to repair.
- Search for old or irrelevant pages. If a product or practice gets changed or eliminated, let the wiki-gardeners know right away. They can run a quick search for that product or practice and then make the necessary changes.
- Give your wiki-gardeners extra time. Depending on the size of your internal company wiki, being a wiki-gardener could be a job unto itself. Ensure that your gardeners have the time, compensation, and mental energy to perform this extra activity.
Once you have a clean house, you’ll want to make sure the door is locked. An internal company wiki without security or backups could be a disaster waiting to happen.
8. Your Wiki Must Have Security and Backups
An internal company wiki is going to quickly fill with sensitive and proprietary information — and it should; it would be useless otherwise. However, the means that a good internal company wiki must be secure from malicious intrusion.
The wiki must also have secure backups, because a good wiki is (a) valuable and (b) huge. One crash can’t undo all of the hard work it took to create and maintain.
Luckily, there are plenty of solutions to secure and back up your corporate wiki. Most wiki platforms have some variant, but here are the security features you need to look for:
- User login and employee info must be safe:
- IP filters can ensure all of your logins are from local/approved locations.
- Passwords should be hashed and salted.
- Logins should be secured with multi-factor authentication.
- The data going to and coming from your platform’s servers should be encrypted.
- Software should be regularly updated. How often does the wiki service or app get patched?
Your internal company wiki should also back up regularly. Either you need to do this yourself, or you need to find a platform that does. Check your potential wiki solution for the following. In fact, consider asking these questions directly to the rep:
- Are backups automated? Can they be customized?
- How often is the wiki backed up?
- Where is backed up to? Is that location encrypted and safe?
- During the transfer, is the data encrypted?
- Who has access to the backups?
- Is the backup data stored in multiple real-world locations?
- Are the backups overwritten, or are multiple versions stored?
- This is necessary to prevent a corrupted version or malicious change to the wiki from being written permanently.
Once you’ve been assured that your wiki is safe and has all the features you need, it may be time to finally commit and begin construction of your internal knowledge base.
An Internal Company Wiki Keeps Everyone on the Same Page
The benefits of an internal company wiki can’t be overstated. And it’s not even limited to companies: even educational facilities can benefit from online wikis and collaboration. When vital information is easily accessible, easily customizable, and easily added, all employees benefit.
Internal wikis prevent data silos from forming in your company, too, which makes your company more agile in a changing marketplace. Knowledge is power, after all, as the old saying goes, so why not empower your employees and your company with organized, up-to-date, and useful knowledge at all times?