Ways to Wiki: Project Management

Bookmark and Share Monday, January 4, 2010

An ongoing series to cover the many ways wikis can help collect and organize information for your business, team or community group.

Use a wiki for project managementProject Management is a general discipline that applies to almost every industry and business type. Service companies tend to look at project management through the lens of directly serving their clients, while product companies use projects to implement internal goals.

In both cases, tools to help automate the communications and planning aspects of managing a project abound. The most common of these tools are project software, like Microsoft Project, and communications tools like email and conferencing.

Like most internal business processes, these tools leave open an enormous gap of need: an information repository that supports many-to-many communication. Too many companies rely on the collective (but not interlinked) email inboxes of their employees, and maybe a shared folder on a network server to store the endless documents, versions and notes created throughout the course of a project.

One of the defining characteristics of a project is the idea of a team. All of the team members need access to that repository of documents and notes relating to the project they're working on. A wiki makes a perfect solution to that need.

Consider some of the ways wikis can be applied to the task of getting a project done:

  • Use a project wiki, or a section of a larger wiki, as the central repository of information for the project where team members can submit information and see what each other has submitted.
  • Store meeting notes, project documents, work products - all searchable and versioned when updated.
  • Have each member of the team maintain a page on the wiki where they update their open/completed/inprogress tasks daily or weekly. This can greatly improve the efficiency of regular "stand-up" status meetings.
  • Especially for web projects, wikis make a great way to mock-up screens right within the wiki, using comments on the page for client/stakeholder feedback. Or you can easily drop in images created by a prototyping tool like Balsamiq.
  • Use the wiki as the mailing list for the project - if everyone on the team is registered on the wiki, use the built-in "email all users" tool instead of doing this manually from email. Point people back to the wiki instead of encouraging back-and-forth over email.
  • As discussed recently in The Disposable Wiki, consider using one-off wiki sites for each project. When the project is completed, archive it for future reference. You can even maintain a project template wiki to use as a starting point and update it with lessons learned during project life cycles.

It's important not to try and replace all other tools with a wiki. For example, if your business relies heavily on the complex scheduling provided by professional project software, by all means, continue to use it. Think of the wiki instead as a replacement for any email that requires a response (and could easily end up being a 4-way thread locking valuable project information up in your inbox) and as a place to share the output of more focussed tools (like Balsamiq) with the rest of the team.

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