Category Archives: content

How to enable active collaboration with your wiki

What a wiki cannot do

Being a Confluence wiki user for several years, I have experienced the following difficulties:

  • I have to email people after posting pages/comments to get their acknowledgement/approval/comments
  • I got difficulty tracking which pages/comments that I need to reply after a few days elapsed

There is a lot of extra work duplicated between the wiki and emails. And when people conveniently reply to the email instead of posting to the page. The collaboration and knowledge leaves the wiki back into the emails.

As such, I observed that a lot of wikis are mostly used for passive collaboration like knowledge bases, FAQs and intranets.

However, Ad Hoc Workflows plugin for Confluence patches the gap and enables Confluence with the capabilities of:

  • assigning of tasks
  • defining workflows

How we use it

I will share one of the scenarios on how we use the Ad Hoc Workflows plugin to collaborative actively.

  1. After each meeting, one of us will draft the meeting minutes into our wiki
  2. Upon the completion of the draft, the author will assign the attendees a task to review the minutes
  3. We will receive an email notification to inform us of the task with a link to the wiki page
  4. Likewise, we can also see a list of our outstanding tasks on the dashboard for follow-up
  5. We will go to the wiki page to make minor changes or post comments
  6. Once everything is ok, we will mark the task as completed
  7. The wiki page is then marked as approved once everyone has completed their reviewing tasks

Another example

It can also support more sophisticated workflows as shown in the video below.

For more information, check out Ad hoc Workflows’ official website

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One of the most dreaded tasks – writing documentations

Almost every people hates writing documentation. It usually takes place only after everything is done where it is very difficult to recall all the tiny details. And it is likely that nobody else will read it since the person who wrote it has all the knowledge in their head.  That’s why a lot of technical people dread writing documentations.

Sarah Maddox has given an very useful and interesting presentation with tips on making documentation more useful and engaging.

By increasing the engage-ability of the documentation, it increases the value of the documentation as

  • more people is likely to read the documentation
  • more people will be encouraged to contribute to the documentation
  • more people will be encouraged to keep it updated
  • more people will share their experiences too

A wiki helps to increase the engage-ability of the documentation by

  • making it easier to create documentation during the project rather than end of the project
  • making it easier to search (with a in-built search engine)
  • making it easier to share and link related information (with threaded comments on the same page)

You can download the slides together with her notes at her blog.

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Championing Improvement Initiatives for Your Company

Margaret Heffernan posted an interesting article on How to Champion an Idea: Tips from the Invention of the Post-It Note

Post It Notes were invented 30 years ago, but it wasn’t a huge success upfront and a lot of people were sceptical about it. Nevertheless, Geoff Nicholson persisted and that’s why we have Post-It being used pervasively around us (including the sweet love story in the video below).

The key ideas being shared are:

  • Actions speak louder than words
  • Start small to get buy in
  • Get valid use cases and measure benefits to help in your justification
  • Don’t give up

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Is Social Media for the Enterprise

Social Media is leading a revolution in the way we communicate and a “Content Explosion” on the Internet.

From the video above, we can see that it is going on strong growth in personal use and many organizations are also trying out.  There are also stories about bosses complaining their employees productivity going down when a lot of time is spent on Facebook or important information being leaked out.

For those who can see the value and use it to their advantage, it is definitely going to make a difference to their organization. Even the US military thinks that the pros outweight the cons by lifting off the ban on Facebook.

Social Media is a double-edged sword. For those who are willing to give it a try, these are my recommendations

  • have a clear idea what are your objectives to adopt Social Media (Begin with the end in mind)
  • assess on the risks/costs versus the benefits
  • provide policies or mechanisms to mitigate your risks
  • provide clear guidelines and expectations upfront on the usage
  • start on a small scale to assess the suitability for your organization first
  • start internally if you are very concerned with the security of your information

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5 ways to increase your business success

Adele Sommers, Ph.D (Author of the award winning “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” success program) has highlighted the pain points faced by many organizations today

Many of us struggle daily with absent or incomplete facts and data within our own organizations, or in relation to communications from vendors and service suppliers. Sometimes we can feel as if we’re running around like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to locate even one piece of timely and accurate advice!

In her article – Don’t Let Information Gaps Sap Your Business Success, she listed down 5 ways to close the information gap:

  1. Compile a set of complete and current knowledge base of information required for
  2. Enable your customers and employees to access the information easily
  3. Simplify those complex processes
  4. Give personnel access to job support systems
  5. Troubleshoot any clogged communications

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The value drivers for next-generation businesses

Dion Hinchcliffe in his latest blogpost – The value drivers for next-generation businesses asked whether businesses are focusing on what really matters and nicely summarized the value drivers of next-generation businesses which I agree totally. I have list some of the points and my comments on it.

  1. Strategic control over valuable data – Information is power. A lot of enterprises are archiving a lot of data, but more can be done to unleash its usefulness by making it more easy to digest and reuse the information.
  2. Peer production – By tapping on the power on teammates and feedbacks from the clients, companies will be able to be more efficient and provide what their clients really value.
  3. Self organizing – With so much information flowing around nowadays, it is a big overhead to attempt to organize the information. It is also a challenge as information can be classified under more than 1 category.  It should be done as a side effect of work given a properly planned framework that can be evolved.
  4. Mass Self-servicing – Time is money. If your clients need to spend 10mins on the phone menu and 10 mins to wait for your operator to answer their call, they are more likely to look for another service provider. Studies have shown that people are more than happy to self service their request through the web instead of requesting through a phone. It is a win-win situation where businesses can reduce their cost and yet their customers happier.
  5. Ability to dynamically adapt and rapidly respond to current needs – Companies might want to look in principles-driven processes and extensible IT solutions to enable themselves to evolve.

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The Forgotten Promise

The truth about using paper

Do you know paper uses 2 of our most precious resources? It takes 6% of a tree and 5,000 litres of water to produce 1 ream of paper?  And do you know a mature tree can absorb 21kg of carbon dioxide per year? Do you know 5,000 litres of water is equivalent to 21,000 glasses of water which can last a person for 7 years? And today, 42% of the world’s industrial wood harvest goes to paper. And trees are our valuable resources in absorbing carbon emissions.

At the beginning of the IT revolution, creating a paperless office was touted as one of the key benefits of IT adoption. However this did not happened and it was forgotten.  According to a 2001 study by OECD, pulp and paper production has increased 300% over the last 30 years and the usage is expected to increase at an average growth rate of 2.8% each year. It is estimated that we will use over 420 million tons of paper in 2010.

Little known facts about recycled paper

People are getting more environmentally conscious and paper recycling has increased these few years. However there are a few known facts about paper recycling.

  • Not all the paper end up being recycled
  • Contaminated paper cannot be used for recycling
  • The fibers in the paper can only be recycled up to 4-6 times
  • Recycled paper still need water and energy to produce
  • The waste from the paper recycling process (e.g. inks, usable fibers, etc) are either burnt or buried underground

Other benefits of going paperless

Apart from being more green, there are also other benefits of going paperless:

  • Save storage space – one 100Gb hard disk can store 900 metres of books on a shelf
  • Save time – on filing and organizing the papers
  • Reduce business cost– on buying paper, ink and others
  • Easier to search – searching for a piece of information electronically is much faster
  • Easier to duplicate – how much time does it takes to photocopy a report
  • Easier to transport – it is a chore to carry an encyclopedia to work everyday
  • Easier to distribute – how much time is spent distributing documents around the office

Other initiatives of reducing paper usage

A lot of organizations are aware of these benefits of going paperless and are taking proactive actions in doing that. Here are some examples:

  • Singapore government replacing physical forms with e-services for citizens
  • Newspapers providing electronic subscriptions for news
  • Companies providing the alternative of sending bills electronically
  • Companies like HSBC and Citibank sending electronic newspapers in place of physical newsletters
  • Google is working with libraries to digitize the books to make it more accessible
  • Amazon and Sony are coming up with innovative ebook readers like Kindle and Reader

The time is right

While it is not possible to eliminate the use of paper in office, reduction of paper usage is possible today with several developments in technology.

  1. Popularity of laptops over desktopLaptop sales have overtaken desktop sales with prices of laptop going below $1,000. More and more office workers are using laptops.
  2. Laptop going smaller and lighter – It is much easier to carry them around.
  3. Availability of wireless networks in office – There is no need for messy network cables in meeting rooms.
  4. Availability of information repositories – Enterprise wikis and shared file servers allows the most updated documents to be circulated and access in real time.
  5. Information linking with web applications – Related information can be accessed through a link rather than flipping through the pages to find the required information.
  6. Broadband infrastructure available A lot of people have broadband subscription at home. Some of them even have mobile broadband subscription. This enables them to access to the internet or office network (via VPN) and access to information easily at their fingertips.
  7. The convergence of devices – Besides PCs and laptops, information is also accessible through mobile devices like iPhones and Sony PSPs.

How can we do it?

It is possible that offices can reduce the usage of paper. All it takes is just a little change in the way we work.

The first way is to think twice before you send a document to the printer. Ask yourself how long the printout will be useful to you before it lands into the bin. Are you going to refer to it after tomorrow and are you going to print another updated version soon?

The second way is to move away from the concept of documents, as documents are designed for printing and implicitly encourage people to print it. In order to move away from this age-old tradition, we need to have an alternative where the electronic form is more useful than the printed form.

A good alternative will be wikis that is made well-known by Wikipedia. The features of wikis are so useful such that they have been enhanced with features for business use.  Enterprise wikis provide more value when the content is read on the screen than the paper:

  1. Useful and related information can be linked together or accessed easily
  2. Relevant discussions can be tied together to the content, making it easier for sharing information
  3. Information can be searched easily and fast
  4. Rich media like videos and interactive widgets can be embedded
  5. Change history are recorded
  6. Provide the most up-to-date information by ensuring a single source of information
  7. Allows identification of authors and subject matter experts
  8. Timestamp provides clue whether information has expired
  9. Ability to enforce viewing/editing permissions
  10. And it is still possible to print out or generate PDF version of the information

Reducing paper usage with IT is a possibility

With the technological developments, it is now a possibility for IT and businesses to renew on its promise to reduce paper usage. All it takes is just a more environmental conscious mind for management and workers to tap on these green technologies.

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