Using a wiki to manage unstructured data in your business

You know Wikipedia – yes it is very structured so why mention it? Actually it is not structured at all. It is a mere collection of information scattered across pages, categories, tags and indexes. The way the data is presented is about as free format as you can expect.

Ok – so maybe it isn’t truly unstructured data but it is unstructured enough to be useful to someone who is trying to manage a bunch of information about their organisation without buying terribly restricting software.

Have a look at MediaWiki – the wiki that Wikipedia uses and have a look at Redmine wiki – it has some additional project stuff attached to it and uses slightly different technology (ruby-on-rails as opposed to php).

The thing about wiki’s that excite me is that within a few minutes you have a publishing platform that can capture anything from your working process documentation to those training videos that are laying around the office. I’ve even seen some resourceful people use them for discussion forums on projects.

I have recently used wiki’s to kick-start the documentation process for the multitude of policies and procedures a company has to deal with. The good thing about his is the automatic version protection with the historical stuff in place. Also being able to protect a page was useful but the most useful thing was the fact that people can change things that are wrong and it is effective immediately within the organisation – it is wonderful. With the plugin to print books I can produce process and procedure manuals at will so those people who still rely on paper to communicate get to be happy too.