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Enterprise 2.0: Wikis in SharePoint 2010 Pt. 1

Switching gears away from Records Management for a bit, I’d like to take some time to look at some of the Enterprise 2.0 features of SharePoint 2010. This post is going to be the first in a short series looking at wikis, and how they can be used in an enterprise scenario:

In recent years, a new trend in information has emerged where content is generated by users and for users, instead of originating from a single source or author. This movement, commonly known as “Web 2.0,” allows information to easily flow from the bottom-up as well as from the top-down, with the people who are actually using the information determining what is correct and what is useful.

Similarly, the idea of “Enterprise 2.0” is also starting to emerge in many organizations as a way to capture knowledge from the bottom-up as well as from the top-down and allow other previously unrelated areas of the organization to be able to access and leverage that information.

However, when it comes to selecting the solution platform, unlike the general web, businesses looking to implement this type of solution cannot simply provide multiple options and allow users to gravitate towards the platform that suits them best. Other considerations must be taken into account, such as cost, IT support, and other business systems that may need to be integrated.

Because of these reasons, SharePoint would logically seem to have many advantages over some of the other Enterprise 2.0 platforms in the market. For starters, SharePoint may already be implemented in the organization. And if not, it has name brand recognition and can be sold as a combination solution for many other enterprise projects as well, such as a company portal or for records management.

But while SharePoint has proven its ability to serve as an enterprise content management solution, its “E 2.0” capabilities remain inconclusive. For example, MOSS 2007 was the first version of SharePoint to feature an out-of-the-box wiki library. The wikis in MOSS 2007 did feature some of the characteristics wikis on the internet, such as Wikipedia, so prolific and widespread, including WYSIWYG editing and the ability to link to other wiki articles, even if they haven’t been created yet. But as a whole E 2.0 solution, SharePoint took a fair amount of criticism from Web 2.0 advocates.

In Tomas Van Der Wal’s article “SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools,” he states, “What is clear out of all of this is SharePoint has value, but it is not a viable platform to be considered for when thinking of enterprise 2.0. SharePoint only is viable as a cog of a much larger implementation with higher costs.”

In this series of posts, we will examine the Enterprise 2.0 features of the newest release of SharePoint 2010, focusing on the upgraded wiki libraries, and discuss the improvements that have been made over MOSS 2007 and where there are still opportunities for value added.

New features in SharePoint 2010

At first glance it might not seem that the new wikis in SharePoint 2010 are a drastic overhaul from the 2007 version, but in reality, the new features in 2010 add much more functionality and value over the previous version.

Tagging and Liking

“Tagging” and “Liking” are features that can be applied to all SharePoint content in 2010, not just to wikis, and can be used in conjunction with wikis to tie content together and make information more discoverable.

When a page or wiki is “liked” by a user, it simply means that he or she has determined that the information provided was valuable. The only step needed to be taken is to click the “I Like It” button at the top of every page. Users can then view a list of the most “liked” pages or wikis to see what information has been deemed most valuable by the people who are actually using the information, not just what has been passed down and promoted from, say, management or marketing. In addition, users can also view what pages or wikis a specific co-worker has “liked” in order to discover more content specific to a particular job function or department.

Similarly, pages or wikis can be tagged with appropriate keywords to tie related but distributed content together by searching for tags or clicking on them where they appear in the page. Users can also use tags to go back and find previously visited sites or wikis, and can add notes where more information is needed beyond the keyword.

In addition, keywords can also be suggested at the application level or site collection level through managed metadata, in order to provide some consistency in tags.

Keywords were available in SharePoint 2007 but had to be added from the list view. SharePoint 2010 improves on this by making this feature more easily accessible through the “Tags & Notes” button at the top of each page.

What makes these features so valuable is that they are simple to learn and easy to use. In any “2.0” solution, user adoption is key, as the system gains exponentially more value the more users use it. The use of “tagging” and “liking” in SharePoint provides value to both the individual user and the organization as a whole, which should greatly facilitate user adoption.

Linking to documents from a wiki

Once again, what seems like a small change actually adds a lot of value to teams and organizations incorporating wikis into their SharePoint sites. Wikis in SharePoint 2010 can now link to other items and documents in the site, not just other wiki articles.

Benefits of this feature include:

· Users will be able to supplement the information being documented in the wiki with references to documents in the site

· Users can provide context to the documents that are on the site

· Users will be able to find the documents on the site that are relevant to the wiki topic they are researching

In the next post, we will start to look at some of the more common criticisms of MOSS 2007 as a E2.0 platform with respect to wikis, and look at whether or not those issues have been addressed in 2010.

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