Today's Best of Mike Series post comes from April 7th, 2005. It is apropo to the project I am currently leading at work and was interesting to re-read these thoughts from 4 years ago. Enjoy!
The Way of the Wiki
What's a Wiki you may ask? Check out it's definition at perhaps the greatest example of them all – Wikipedia.
My job as a technologist is to figure out innovative ways to allow non-technologists to perform their job functions better. In the old IT model, we focused on centralized processes – forcing people into certain models. There were many good reasons for this – supportability being one of the keys (that's just another word for control).
Along came the concept of alignment. IT departments became concerned with whether their initiatives were meeting the current needs of the organization and whether they were structured to fit the overall strategy of the company. Knowledge management caught on to some extent, and companies used products like Lotus Notes to enable collaboration to take place on a grander scale. Conversations could be turned into documentation and shared with the masses. But this technology still relied on centralization.
We are now entering a phase where IT departments won't be focused on alignment, but rather convergence. I think you will still have a core IT group focused on internetworking, storage, server farms and support – but the analysts, developers, technical writers, etc will be more integrated into business units rather than centralized in IT. Granted, this will probably take a long time, but it is a move toward decentralization and is clearly putting technologists at the edge of the network.
Moving collaboration and the supporting structures to the edge of the network is one of the first challenges we face. If you untether the developers and so on from their IT silo, they will need tools to allow them to quickly construct their support mechanisms. These tools need to be lightweight and fast.
I think the wiki will be one of these tools. And I'm not sure that a formalized IT process will actually bring it in the door. Compare the way of the wiki to the way Blackberrys entered the enterprise. Most IT shops I know did not embrace the Blackberry at first. It was the demands of their business users that brought them in the door. We were then left scrambling to do risk analyses, training, and infrastructure upgrades in order to support this "disruptive" technology.
I'm looking to avoid incidents like the one the Blackberry brought about. I am evaluating each of the problems we see in the environment against all of the tools that are sitting on the landscape and I think I have found one that a wiki system just might solve.
Recognizing change is the first step toward embracing it.