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Using wikis for business continuity training

by Michelle Lang

One of the biggest challenges for a business continuity manager is to train a large group of people to an appropriate level, with limited resources.

These days there’s a lot being written about how social media can support the business continuity lifecycle. Web 2.0, with its interoperability, information sharing and usability, is ideally suited to interacting with large groups of people for minimal cost. It has been used for several business continuity related purposes, including reputation management and the delivery of warn and inform messages.

But how many of us understand how social media can be used efficiently and effectively for business continuity training?

The first thing to consider is that not all types of social media offer equal benefits for business continuity training. Blogging and micro blogging (Twitter) can deliver content directly but neither is really designed for discussion as communication is primarily in one direction. Facebook is much better for discussion, but it isn’t set up for the large amounts of content that training can require. If creating an interactive user group to support business continuity training is your primary goal, a wiki is your best option.

So what is a wiki? A wiki is a series of interlinked web pages that is designed for constant growth and information sharing. A well-known example is Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia that is created and edited by the public. What might seem like an overly democratic process is, in theory, self-correcting because Wikipedia’s vast readership has the expertise to make necessary edits, and there is a core group of dedicated volunteers who make the special effort to monitor the accuracy of content. Mistakes still exist on Wikipedia, but it’s free, extensive (with over 2 million articles and over 2.4 billion page views per month), and it seems like everyone in the English-speaking world uses it. (1)

The principle is the same for a business continuity training wiki, but there are important differences. A BC training wiki is for the organization alone, and most users would not have the ability to write or edit content, at least initially. Instead, the business continuity specialist and their team would control the training content that appears on the wiki. This might include documents, links to e-learning, links to your own content hosted on other social media (such as lectures on YouTube) or to other materials used for reference (such as blogs). It doesn’t take long for users to learn how to use the wiki, and those with editing permissions – the administrators – can update content with minimal training.

The biggest advantage of a wiki, however, is the discussion area that allows users to post and reply to comments, and to create their own pages. This gives users a forum for sharing ideas and learning from each other without having to meet in person. In my experience, this type of learner-centred training can be instrumental in engaging those who might otherwise be less than keen to participate beyond the required training sessions. This democratic aspect of wikis is a particularly good match with business continuity, where there is likely to be a group of people who must take what they have learned from the organization’s business continuity specialist and apply it to their own area of responsibility. Using the wiki, learning can be efficiently disseminated and good practice shared. This in turn helps the business continuity specialist to advocate for business continuity and support a wider embedding programme.

So what does it take to set up an internal business continuity wiki? Not as much as you might think. For many smaller and medium-sized organizations, the most cost effective option is to go with an online hosting service. You won’t have your own domain name, but you can link to your wiki directly, and the content is accessible to your organization alone. At the beginning you will probably need someone to help set up your permissions structure – who has a capability to edit which part of the wiki – and your discussion groups, but this isn’t highly technical work so you won’t need an IT specialist.

Once the structure is set up, the major task is to make sure your training materials take full advantage of what the wiki can do. You will probably need to create some new training content that is specifically designed for self-directed/cascaded learning; you will also need to plan how you are going to facilitate learning using discussion groups. In addition, this might be a good time to think about whether it would be worthwhile trying to integrate training records management, either within the wiki itself, or by linking to SCORM-compliant e-learning modules.

So how do you get started with wikis?

1. Familiarise yourself with what your wiki might look like. I recommend checking out Wikipedia’s Community Portal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Community_portal ) which has news, documents and discussion groups in a format similar to smaller wikis used for training.

2. Review your training programme and objectives to see whether a wiki would support them. If you’re not sure, ask someone with experience in this area.

3. Ask your ICT colleagues whether your internal system can host a wiki, or if you need to consider an online hosting service.

4. Liaise with your organization’s learning and development colleagues to see if they can assist you in setting up a training wiki. If your organization does not have this expertise, consider support from an external source.

It isn’t difficult to set up a wiki for business continuity training. You will probably find that taking full advantage of what a wiki has to offer will be more work, and that the biggest challenge will be getting people excited about using it. But that’s a topic I will leave for the next article.

Author: Michelle Lang, PhD is a BS 25999 Lead Auditor and an award-winning educator with 10+ years in Higher and Further Education. She is Director of Critical Management Services, which offers complete business continuity services, including wiki development and support, and BC Blast, a unique range of training products designed to make learning fun.

With thanks to my associates at Critical Management Services for their contributions.

(1)‘Jimmy Wales and the Beginning of Wikipedia,’ How Wiki’s Work, http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/wiki.htm

•Date: 18th May 2011 • Region: UK/World •Type: Article • Topic: BC general

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