The project wiki – a cost reduction tool

Some readers will be familiar with TED: Ideas Worth Spreading a series of talks on just about everything worthwhile in Technology, Education and Design. I recently revisited Yochai Benklers talk on the new open-source economics from 2005 where he explains how collaborative projects like Wikipedia and Linux represent the next stage of human organisation.

The principle discussed is one it is more productive for a large number of people to work collaboratively on producing content than it is for a single individual to do so.

In Business Intelligence projects there are a number of formal documents that need to be produced to satisfy constraints external to the project (e.g. company business processes). Data Warehousing projects often fail to satisfy two masters, firstly failing to record information and knowledge pertinent to the on-going success of the project and secondly producing too many ‘formal’ documents that are time consumingly produced by key individuals but of little value to the project itself.

Data Management & Warehousing, my company, uses something called Project Services that combines TracSVN and the ideas of the Data Warehouse Documentation Roadmap to combine a Wiki, Version Control, Ticketing and Project/Team Website. Bringing these together and using them optimally is a micro-example of the concepts in Yochai Benklers talk.

A data warehouse team can quickly and efficiently build wiki pages that record much, if not all of the information that is internal to the project. This can include the business definition dictionary, various pieces of the requirements, architecture, analysis, standards and definitions, etc. What is more in this environment it is possible to have links between wiki pages and documents and between wiki pages and the source code itself. This means that users of the system can quickly and intuitively navigate through information and, where there is missing information or inaccuracies they can fix it themselves. In the case of project services there is also a ticketing system for task, risk, issue, enhancement tracking built in to complete the project management and governance aspects. Because this approach makes it easier for users they are more willing to contribute to the overall solution and to follow the required processes.

Implementing and using a tool such as project services is key to creating a BI-on-Rails solution because whilst the strict version control and issue management can be enforced it also allows agile processes to work and strong internal communications within the team.

This article was originally published on BIonRails, another Data Management & Warehousing website

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