Productivity Tip: SharePoint Blogs, Wikis, and Discussion Boards
SharePoint offers a multitude of out of box team features. Sometimes is can be overwhelming to know when to use which feature. A very useful option in SharePoint is using tools for team communication. This article will look at three out of the box features that can be very useful – Blogs, Wikis and Discussion Boards. But these tools can be only as good as their appropriate application. When to use these tools depends on the type of communication is desired within the team.
Blogs are a perfect venue for sharing pieces of information with teams. They tend to be moderated by one to a few people. These people issue and control the main content. By doing so, the flavor of the blog is controlled by a few.
Short for weblog, blogs have emerged as a way to highlight expertise and points of view. Blogs are often thought of as online narratives. Their audience tends to be broader, including a whole team, or a whole department. They have the added interactive feature of allowing comments and ratings, but these are moderated by those in charge of the blog.
Blogs are a fantastic way to provide additional information on topics, or continuing education on tool features, processes, or other team topics.
The discussion board feature, when properly utilized, can effectively facilitate team feedback. Topics tend to be more specific, and discussion boards are a more open approach to soliciting input. Less controlled in form, discussion boards can usually be started by any team member, provided they have the appropriate permissions. And conversations can include replies to the main topic, or team members can reply to other replies providing for additional discussion.
Discussion boards can assist in lessening the amount of time spent in meetings and allowing team members to participate more on their own time. This can often lead to more thoughtful answers as team members have had time to think about their response. Sometimes being asked for input in a meeting creates an “off the cuff” response and team members become distracted with work back at their desk that they never revisit their initial response.
Timing is important when considering the use of discussion boards. If the matter at hand is of an urgent nature, perhaps using a discussion board is not the most appropriate tool and a meeting may be more prudent. Keep in mind that discussion boards should still be moderated. A team leader can mine the responses for potential risks and issues, as discussion boards can be of a more informal tone offering a comfortable place for honest input. And remember, these tend to be a format that is visible to the entire team, so care must be exercised to not release inappropriate information.
Wikis, derived from the Hawaiian phrase wiki wiki meaning quick, offers a perfect platform for teams to brainstorm. Wikis are a more free flowing form. Team members can contribute content and edits, create supporting pages, and add general information and material references.
Wikis tend to be purposely basic. While versions of a wiki can be viewed to see what content has been deleted or added, this form of communication is meant to be more open meaning team members can write and rewrite over content already present. It is meant to be very easy to access and use - focused on quickly getting or providing information and enhancing teamwork, rather than requiring a sharp learning curve for team members to learn too many features and facets. Immediate collaboration is a definite benefit of wikis.
Each of these tools has its appropriate use and application. It will be the desired outcome that should drive which tool is used. All three provide a platform conveniently accessed via the browser.
Despite which tool is used, a universal benefit of all three is getting team member knowledge down in a written format. Capturing this “tribal knowledge” is essential for teams to continue to collaborate and provides much data all too often lost when a team member leaves the team. And making this tribal knowledge available to people new to the team can decrease ramp up time as well.
A blog serves more as a mode of information delivery crafted by a few and disseminated to the team, a discussion board tends to be best used when it is soliciting feedback from team members on a specific topic, and wikis provide the highest return when used as a virtual whiteboard allowing open and free collaboration between team members. So think about the type of information that is desired to be shared and what level of interaction is sought. Then choose the best tool to obtain the end goal.
Guest author A. Lynn Jesus (@heyzues4) is a SharePoint consultant, speaker, and part of the organizing committee for SharePoint Saturday Bend.