*Update: This blog post is really old! Check out a more recent post on a similar topic here.
Prior to a company-wide deployment of a new intranet, many companies conduct a pilot to an initial group of users. Here are a few suggestions on making that pilot a success.
1. Choose the right group
Size: Don't make your pilot too big, or it will become as big a job as launching to the whole company. But don't make it too small, either: You need enough people adding content to make it interesting. 20 to 50 people is probably good.
Attitude: Choose keeners -- people who aren't afraid to try new things or to use new technology. Choose people that will be enthusiastic about the potential for open collaboration at your company.
Seniority: Try to get one or more people from the senior team to actively participate in the pilot. If they set the example, the rest of the pilot group will be more likely to actively participate and view the pilot as important.
2. Set up a basic information structure
Blank slate = bad. No one knows what to do with a blank wiki. So set yours up with a basic navigation structure.
Sample top-level navigation structure:
- People (or Staff Directory)
- Tools & Links
You might also try building out the information structure underneath some of the top-level items:
- Sales & Marketing
Caution: Be careful not to be too granular in the way you define the initial information structure, or your wiki might seem too restrictive. It's easy to move pages if you need to subdivide or rearrange sections in the future.
3. Populate some initial content
Users learn by example. If users see lots of examples of how others have populated content, they find it easy to imitate. Wikis are generally easy to use -- as long as users see that something is possible, they can usually figure out how to do it on their own.
Users. User profiles are a central part of any intranet. Populate them with an initial import from your directory system, importing as much data as you have available.
Barnraising. You can populate a whack of content in a single day. Try getting 4 or 5 people together for an all-day barnraising.
Give users a reason to return. In the early stages of the pilot, make sure there's something new on the home page every single day. News items, polls or the cafeteria lunch menu work well for this.
4. Set up email notifications
Email notifications: Many wiki systems can send you an email when someone responds to your comment or edits a page you've created. Make sure these notifications are enabled -- they keep online conversations flowing and drive repeat traffic to the wiki.
Alternatively, you can rely on RSS feeds for these notifications. But RSS may still be poorly used or understood by many people in your pilot group.
5. Assign tasks to pilot group
Give your pilot group something specific to accomplish with your wiki. Ideas:
- Add a photo of yourself and detailed background information to your profile
- Use the wiki to share the agenda of your next meeting
- Forward a valuable email thread to the wiki (if it supports automatic page creation from emails)
6. Promote, launch and follow up
Promote. Prior to the pilot, send several email communications to your pilot group to get them excited about participating.
Launch. Have an event to launch the pilot. If you're in a single office, reserve a boardroom, do a short demo, assign tasks, and eat some doughnuts. If you're in several offices, launch via a web conference.
Follow up. Schedule group or individual follow-up meetings for the week following the pilot launch. See how users are doing with their tasks, and answer their questions. A weekly or biweekly group meeting to review progress will help keep things moving along.
WikiPatterns is full of great suggestions on helping a wiki succeed in a corporate environment.
Have questions? Get in touch! We're always happy to hear from you.