White Paper: A Wiki-Induced Stimulus for Knowledge Management
One of the most difficult problems faced by organizations and Internal Audit departments (especially those with a geographically dispersed staff) is poor communications and a lack of knowledge transfers. The silo problem adds to this, where some groups or individuals adopt ownership of critical knowledge and “unofficially” hold the department hostage by not sharing information, or not doing it in a “timely manner.” This culture also encourages informal communications, where instructions and/or directives are verbally passed, resulting in high rates of forgetfulness, especially in times when the validity of the directive is in question.
In an Internal Audit scenario, the challenge in solving these problems lies heavily with Chief Audit Officers, and those they report to. This is so mostly because these folks are not technologically savvy, and are inexperienced in the deployment, use and maintenance of enterprise solutions. Although, Internal Audit is often at the forefront of advocacy towards the adoption of improved technologies in the organization as a whole, more often than not it is one of the most antiquated and inefficient departments, with little understanding of the very things they advocate for. If you add to this the traditional clashes that take place between the typical IT Department and Internal Audit, you quickly realize that rolling out anything beyond a complex Excel application for the field auditors is a real challenge.
So, how do you begin to solve the problem of poor communications and information silos? A Wiki is in my opinion a good starting point. If you do not know what a Wiki is, then go to Wikipedia.org and play around with it…. its the highest profile Wiki in the world, one maintained by thousands of non-technical users every day.
The idea of the Wiki is akin to a sponge. It absorbs user information which can then be squeezed out at any time by anyone with access to the application. It is not a database, because it can be free-form, and it is usually learned in less than 30 minutes. Because of this ease of use, Wiki’s are now becoming the main internal repositories of knowledge at many universities and research centers. They are replacing traditional archives and document warehouses.
Because of the simplicity of the Wiki, most IT Departments have few problems implementing them, and because they are normally maintained by non-technical users, there is little need for a dedicated technical staff to support them. Wiki’s are also inexpensive, run over SSL on the web for security and most support RSS, Twitter and other communication services. This should ease the “tensions” normally put up by IT departments when new deployments are proposed.
As we see the unfolding of new Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) requirements from the US Congress, and the increasing need for cooperation among Internal Audit, Risk Management, Legal, Compliance and Governance, it is clear that those organizations with entrenched silos and internal communication problems will have very difficult times transitioning and keeping controls over the new ERM processes. Emails, memos and endless meetings (the traditional approaches)do not have the “stickiness” to sustain and encapsulate the types of information and data needed to keep an effective ERM program moving forward from year to year. A Wiki does.
My advice to those organizations and Internal Audit departments experiencing communication problems, and preparing for an increased role in ERM is to consider a Wiki as soon as possible.
The link below will take you to a White Paper posted by eTouch, in the FindWhitePaper.com site, which provides a good discussion on how to use their Wiki:
To experiment with a free (ad supported) Wiki you can visit the Wetpaint.com site. They are one of the largest free Wiki providers.
There are many commercial Wiki vendors aside from eTouch. One that has obtained a lot of recent publicity is Wikispaces.com which offers a variety of packages for businesses of all sizes.
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If you look closely at the photo above you will be able to tell its a photo of a managing director from one of the Big Four accounting firms. She is surrounded by visual stimuli in a Carlos Castaneda type trance, asking the motherly spirits to explain why she makes so much money while hardly working and being a complete &%$#@ to everyone around her. Any resemblance to anyone you may know is completely unintended.