SharePoint and Wikis

I recently had a chance to hear from Stewart Mader about the best practices for using wikis inside an organization. As a heavy SharePoint user, I had not jumped in too deep with wikis because the support is pretty poor.

I like to think that I’m an advanced Office user, but having dived into the Office object model before, I know there’s huge portions of the product that I’ve never used. In fact, most people never use those options in Office. This is where the disconnect between SharePoint and wikis comes into play.

SharePoint is first and foremost an Office product. It is the highway for you to drive your tricked-out Office documents. But most users are stuck in first gear. They write short memos or reports in Word, bullet-laden PowerPoint presentations, or csv style Excel spreadsheets. While SharePoint will surely add value, you’re driving down the highway in first-gear.

It can be hard for us to look at tools we use every day and admit that we aren’t experts with them at all. I think every entry-level Information Worker job requires “familiarity with Microsoft Office”. However, the majority of workers can’t do things like resize a column in Excel, or sort and filter. It sounds absurd, but it is true. If you are at all interested in career development, I encourage you to visit the Microsoft Office learning site, and choose one class, or book to increase your skills. It will pay off.

What about users who don’t need this level of complexity? We can agree that these tools are rich, but what if you only need those top 10 features (save, bold, italic, spell check, …). I think this is where wikis are most valuable. Think about the work that you create day to day. If you’re a Project Manager, you’ll need a tool like Project or Primavera to do scheduling and cost analysis. What about meeting agendas, project documentation and contact lists? These are excellent documents to store in a wiki.

I’ve discussed both sides of this approach. If you’d like to have your cake and eat it too, there are plugins to expose your Wiki in SharePoint. This allows you to use a best of breed wiki for collaboration, and rely on SharePoint to handle your complex Office documents. Everything is available and searchable from one place. Ciao.

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