Attack the collaboration emails

March 11th, 2010

I've seen on many projects how email communication is still the number 1 choice when it comes to online communication. The gigabytes of requirements, specifications, meeting minutes, user documentation, test cases send in emails must be staggering.

Yet it is probably one of the least effective forms of communication. It can get lost, you never find it when you need it, you're never sure who has the last version. I have done my fair share of consolidating feedback from multiple sources on the same document, only to find out that after I finished, there was another feedback with revision marks in my inbox.

The wiki page == the document == its url == its history

The key thing that makes wikis what they are is the simple truth that there is no other instance of the wiki page than the one pointed to by it's url. So project team members and the organization's management can only mail a pointer to the thing, not the thing it self.

How to set up a wiki for a project?

The most basic partitioning you can do is divide your projects into areas, each with its specific features, audience and content. I have see following categories in the more successful project wikis:

  • Customer information
    All that is linked to the customer, contact persons, contracts, security guidelines.

  • Team information
    Who is who, skype id, msn-names, mobile numbers, flickr user name, whatever topic you are unlikely to find in the company address book.

  • Project requirements
    The heavy stuff: requirements, specification, PID (Project Initiation Document), ...

  • Test, Deploy and Build
    In case of a software development team, how to build the software, prerequisites, steps to go through, automated or manual tests that need to be checked of before shipping.

  • Meeting corner
    One page per meeting type works best. E.g. list the weekly team review meetings on a page with the same name. The do's and don'ts on this meeting are consolidated on the summary page.

The idea to put up the spaces like this is that each question that arises is sure to fall into one of these categories. I am sure you get the idea and can come up with what you would list there.

To get the ball rolling and to kick some *ss, what about following, let's say, less likely choices:

  • Famous quotes page
    Posted by anonymous, to embarrassing to tweet, yet to memorable to forget.

  • Team member's bio page
    In this way you'll be sure there's at least one page written by everyone on the team.

  • Team Propaganda Corner
    The rules the team decides on should be listed in slogans on this page. Learnings that the team came up with, crucial customer feedback nobody should forget, the team's quality or productivity dashboard indicators go here.

You'll never return to email...

...when this is set up. You will need to do some selling, hard, relentless and sustained dedication is what it takes to get the content ball rolling. We hope that the tips above will help you get started.

Some interesting links

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