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First Look

Krissi Danielson

MindTouch: The Wall Street Journal Discovers Enterprise Wikis

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Listen to the entire 29:46 podcast Download file

     Agenda and Resources

1. Wikis in the Corporation

2. Horizontal Communication

3. MindTouch's Deki Solution

4. Justifying Wikis

5. Wikis in Five Years

Learn more about wiki solutions at
MindTouch's Web Site

Read a complete transcript of the podcast here.

Learn more about ebizQ's BI in Action Virtual Conference

Note: Kenneth Liu and Steve Bjorg will respond to comments posted below.

Kenneth Liu and Steve Bjorg will regularly respond to any comments posted below.

Wikis are a hot thing right now for consumers, as anyone who's ever used Wikipedia knows. You can also add businesses to that list, as evidenced by a Wall Street Journal article that focused on the use of wikis in the enterprise.

The article included quotes from a slew of 'First Look' guests -- MindTouch CEO Ken Liu and Steve Bjorg and the SAP's VP of Community Mark Yolton. Liu and Bjorg detailed at great length how wikis are also playing crucial roles in enterprise integration.

Liu and Bjorg noted how MindTouch recently launched a Web site called WIK.is that aims to provide scalable wikis to consumers and businesses alike. But on the enterprise level, wikis come with their own set of challenges that demand consideration.

Managing Wikis

One concern involved in wikis is that they might lead to undirected collaboration and proliferation of unstructured data. That's a big topic with any new communication technology, says Liu, and wikis fundamentally open communities up and give people a voice -- and that's great, but may call for some adjustments in attitude. Companies will differ greatly in the way they choose to handle it.

"This is a bottoms-up form of communication as opposed to a much more traditional centralized expert driven-down sort of communication," he says.

Bjorg agreed, pointing out that when everyone has a voice, cacophony results if there's no coordination. Companies need to have a common thread for how the wikis are to be used across projects, as is the case for any new tool.

"I think it boils down to this: the wikis for the index information is there. Is it better that you can find information even though sometimes it seems to be not optimally organized, or would you rather have information not available at all to you?" he says.

Horizontal Communication

Wikis have the potential to change corporate communication to a  great degree, similarly to when email first hit the market. Whereas emails tend to just live in a person's inbox, wikis offer the possibility to put information into a central location to revisit in a few weeks or months to see the state of affairs or to polish the information for a project that you're working on.

MindTouch integrates email with wikis, says Liu. "What we've done is to take the main form of corporate communication between people, which is email, and then integrated it with wikis with one click of a button, basically," he explains.

In part, this eliminates some of the multiple point-to-point model of project management, because you can essentially enter a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or similar file and immediately put it into a wiki space for others to access -- almost forming an assembly line of communication.

MindTouch's Deki Virtual Solution

MindTouch's Deki solution was named after the Japanese word for smart or intelligent, and Wiki is Hawaiian for "fast," so Liu felt that the name of the product embodied the spirit of Web 2.0. Deki is an enterprise wiki software solution that works as a virtual appliance to corporate customers.

The interface for Deki is similar to a lightweight word processor in a Web browser with similar icons, along with an Outlook connector, features like page permissions, invitations, and tracking of the entire lifecycle of the document and sharing security permissions.

"It really has all those attributes that make it a collaboration and a repository for people to share documents," said Liu.

Packaging the software as a virtual appliance makes it easier for IT people to deploy it, rather than having to follow a long list of instructions, adds Bjorg. Virtual appliances mean than an IT person can download the software as a single file containing everything, including the operating system, the web server, the SQL database, the indexing engine, and the platform. Updates and upgrades are automatic since the virtual appliance is connected to MindTouch's systems.

Sometimes virtual appliances escape the classic ROI-based IT project model that takes months of calculation and planning before deployment, so some companies are able to go ahead and try applications like MindTouch Deki with minimal planning.

"It takes nothing more than the double-click of the file to basically launch this entire environment on your server," says Bjorg. "There's absolute zero risk of disruption to existing running software because there are no shared parts between the virtual appliance and your physical appliance."

Pricing Model and Updates

MindTouch Deki is free for the first five users, but without support, without the Outlook connector and without software updates.

"If you want to get those things, you have to pay for the full license and we start at $995 for the first five users and then go up from there," says Liu.

Updates are being issued fairly regularly with minor fixes every few weeks and two to three major feature upgrades per year, which are included with the licensed version of the software. So far, market reception is fairly positive.

"We have had hundreds of downloads right now since we've launched the product almost two months ago," says Liu.

Wiki Justification

Some companies might wonder about the ROI of something like a wiki deployment, but advantages may emerge over time, says Liu. Wikis are a type of management software and may not be compatible with traditional hard dollar ROI calculations, but companies that have deployed them find it saves a lot of time and heartache to be able to find information easily.

"If you want to spend time to document how much time did you save in getting this document, you can guess and do all those calculations," he says. "Nowadays with the fast moving nature of what we have and all the software flying around, I think less and less people are gonna spend time to find out what savings you just made, because you just proved it yourself here."

Rather than focusing on justifying wikis, Bjorg says the right question is how do you justify not having a wiki.

"They're so simple to deploy; they're so useful. Anybody who starts using it, virtually immediately says wow, this makes such a huge difference," he points out. "Any responsible IT manager should be pushing the company to deploy these tools internally. It promotes communication, and it promotes transparency."

Wikis in Five Years

So where will Wikis be in five years? Bjorg says they could evolve in many different directions and foresees that wikis will come together with blogs and forums because they work together well.

"We're already seeing glimpses of that today with mashups and web APIs that are emerging," he says.

Every company should build the best tools that it has set out to build, and MindTouch hopes to build the best wiki tool. Bjorg believes that wikis provide an incredible data mine and will continue to look like they are today but will grow in richness of experience and ease of information retrieval.

"That's where we're going to see tremendous progress still, and that's what's gonna fuel much further adoption of the technology," he predicts.

For much more on the topic – including a case study – listen to the full 29:52 podcast.

Join ebizQ producer Krissi Danielson for interviews with the innovators, movers and shakers behind emerging enterprise software solutions.Have a solution that qualifies? E-mail Krissi at krissi (at)ebizq.net

Krissi Danielson

Krissi Danielsson is a podcast producer with ebizQ and contributor to ebizQ's SaaSWeek site. View more

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