Will Wikis replace the traditional KB for Web self-service?
Yes, ultimately, I think that they will.
I just wrote up my 2008 Web Self-Service trends, and I am now becoming convinced that Wikis are the new knowledgebase (KB):
“Though discussion forums dominated the Web 2.0 conversation in 2007, look for wikis to grab some of the spotlight in 2008. This easy to access, search and edit “living document” is a logical replacement for the maintenance-intensive traditional knowledgebase. A key new process for 2008: identify ‘best practices’ as they emerge in discussion forums and migrate them to the wiki library.“
My trends stem from a startling metric from the SSPA Benchmark database: Successful visits to Web self-service declined 4% in 2007, from 44% down to 40%. There are many reasons why self-service success is declining (faster product lifecycles, rising complexity, broader customer audience), and I now think that throwing more money at the traditional “KB and search” approach is not the solution. Sure, many companies need to overhaul outdated self-service, and heaven knows better search technology would increase accuracy of many sites. But I also think we need to look beyond our current self-service paradigms.
Judging from the member success stories about customer adoption and call deflection from online customer discussion forums, Web 2.0 is clearly part of the solution. And when you identify useful content in a forum, what do you do with it? Migrate it into your old knowledgebase where no one may ever find it again, or instead have popular discussion threads morph into entries in your Wiki on how to implement, use and upgrade your products? With tagging, Wiki content can be easily categorized without the overhead of a complex content ontology.
There is more detail available in the research report, and I’m sure I will be writing more about this topic in 2008. To get started with wikis, consider these recommendations.
- Start internally. Wiki vendors report that most customers start with wikis internally to better understand the technology and processes, identify best practices, and then introduce for external use. This also allows the wiki to build up a good library of content so customers have something substantial to use from Day 1.
- Leverage existing processes. As with any self-service technology, ensuring customer adoption is critical for success. SSPA Research recommends that when introducing Web 2.0 elements to self-service, start with existing processes that lend themselves to Web 2.0 automation. This provides a built in set of users and accepted processes.
- Look to younger agents. When first starting wiki initiatives, draft some of your 20-something agents for the initial team in lieu of your current content SMEs and knowledge administrators. Forums and wikis may represent a major paradigm shift from traditional KM practices, and the project will have difficulty getting off the ground with too much “but we’ve always done it that way.”
Are you using Wikis in your support environment (even internally)? If so, how is it going? Please add comments or send any thoughts via email. And as always, thanks for reading!