Thursday, July 31, 2008

Use of Wiki by Investment Bankers

A wiki is a server program that allows users to collaboratively contribute content to a website. Editing is done in a web browser using a user-friendly editing tool not too dissimilar to a stripped-down version of MS-Word. But a wiki is more collaborative. A wiki may contain the writing, edits and additions of many, many users. Any user can edit any other users’ contributions.

The most famous wiki is which is an online encyclopedia authored by many.

Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW) is the international investment banking arm of Dresdner Bank. Headquartered in London and Frankfurt with offices all over the world including Sao Paulo, New York and Tokyo, DrKW employs approximately 6,000 people worldwide.

DrKW installed a wiki of their own appropriately called DrKWikipedia which is accessible from the intranet. DrKW installed their first wiki in 1997 to better link their large number of employees across a wide geography of locations. The wiki has since evolved into an enterprise application. The wiki is powered by Socialtext.

the DrKW Global Head of IT JP Rangaswami gave the opinion that the intranet is very important for employee collaboration and also for adhering to legislative securities legislation.

The wiki is used as a communications tool, a collective discussion tool, and as a repository for documents and information. Socialtext has a case study that documents the wiki’s use and success:

“The wiki has changed how team members are working and managing their projects. Before, it was common practice to create a traditional website for each project - with all the attendant problems of version control, multiple authors and HTML editing. Now, the wiki allows everyone in the team to upload information more easily. This encourages more collaboration and transparency through facilitating the sharing of email conversations, small snippets of information and ideas which would otherwise have either been communicated in person (an effective but non-persistent methodology) or have completely fallen through the cracks.

An important role of the wiki is to track project development so that the team and management know what progress is being made on projects regardless of any individual's geographical location. This has raised awareness across the team of what each person is doing, the status of each project, and what actions need to be taken.

DrKW is a global entity, and Socialtext has helped to bridge the many offices together across time zones and cultural divides. Because different cultures react in different ways to different communications media, it has been essential to not only provide a variety of ways for people to communicate, but also create a central intranet area where they can easily share information. Socialtext also enables individuals to edit the intranet without having to wait for a central team to update an HTML page.

JP Rangaswami gave expresed the belief that the true value of Socialtext has yet to emerge.

"Hidden within the wiki is a drive towards creating an internal glossary that will transform life, so if someone doesn't understand something they can look it up and find it defined not by a dictionary but by someone else doing a similar job."

This Wikipedia-style usage will cut down the training time and start-up costs of new hires as it will help them to understand internal and external jargon and terms more easily. It will also simplify the roles of people writing in other locations and languages. English is the language of DrKW at present, but in the future Rangaswami foresees multilingual support.

DrKW recently rolled out to over 4000 users, but it is allowing takeup to develop gradually, providing informal training to encourage rather than enforce usage. Indeed, emergent use is accepted as a valuable part of the spread of wiki culture - one team's first use of the wiki was to organise their coffee rota, which they had previously done by email. Reducing email use even in such a seemingly trivial manner has a positive knock-on effect on users' productivity and ability to manage their workload by reducing the volume of non-essential messages. It also provides an innocuous "practice run" that can facilitate the adoption of similar strategies in situations closer to core aspects of work.

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