Many companies, particularly those with knowledge-intensive workforces, probably grasp the benefits of wikis as tools for learning. Many of these same organizations, though, likely have a few concerns about these solutions, such as how much control over information they can give up and how they get people to use it. Enterprises looking for an example of how a corporate wiki can overcome these and other obstacles should look to how computing company Intel pulled it off.
About two years ago, a senior product support engineer at Intel suggested on his blog that it would be “cool” to have something like Wikipedia that was used internally by company personnel. Josh Bancroft, another employee at Intel, picked up that ball and ran with it. Using the same open-source software that runs Wikipedia.org and many other similar sites, he built the organization’s wiki, dubbed Intelpedia.
Several of the company’s employees began posting entries to Intelpedia shortly after it rolled out. They wrote on subjects that ranged from Intel history to project updates. Support for the tool grew quickly among Intel’s workforce: Today, Intelpedia boasts more than 5,000 active authors, 20,000 pages and 200,000 page views per day. In fact, it’s the second most frequently visited site by Intel employees — the first being the main page of the Intel intranet, which also is the default home page for employees’ Web browsers.
Interestingly, this development was entirely organic. There never was a corporate-level push to drive people to either create or even use the site. Moreover, there isn’t a rigorous set of rules surrounding use of Intelpedia. The site has just two constraints: First, all posts must adhere to corporate policies. (Specifically, this relates to keeping sensitive information or intellectual property secrets from competitors and the general public.) Second, any entry must be of value to at least one other employee.
The success of Intelpedia raises a few questions. First of all, how many of Intel’s 20,000 pages were created by experts? Well, that depends largely on how the term “expert” is defined. Second, how many of these 5,000 active authors are recognized in the hierarchy as “experts?” That question can be answered with another question: If their entries are adding real value to the organization, who cares?
Also, how many of the 20,000 articles on Intelpedia are ones that had been previously identified as critical by the organizational hierarchy? Given that they didn’t exist elsewhere and had to be created, probably not many. By simply providing an enabling toolset, Intel generated 20,000 pages of content. In other words, prior to the wiki, there were 20,000 pages of material that employees felt compelled to share, but couldn’t due to the lack of a platform.
While the training department at Intel is no doubt large and productive, it’s unlikely they would be able to produce 20,000 pages of cross-referenced material in less than two years, and certainly not without sacrificing all their other responsibilities.
As the boomer generation begins to retire, how much value will Intel derive from having documented 20,000 pages of expertise in advance? How many of these articles might have come from expert boomers? Perhaps Intel could even convince some of these boomers to continue with Intel in consultative roles to contribute and maintain specific subject areas within Intelpedia.