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Wikis in business continuity planning

This post at Information Overlord caught my eye. We've been discussing for a while the best way to incorporate some business continuity planning into the library service: ie, what would happen if one of the two of us (who a lot of the time function as solo librarians, dealing with the issues arising in our own offices with little or no reference to the other) was suddenly unable to work.

Or, even worse, if one of use decided to leave!! *takes moment to lie down and stop hyperventilating at thought of boss ever leaving*

The structure of the company, the core duties of each staff member, the procedures needed for each activity, the suppliers we use, the products we take, the codes we use, who to ask internally for various things, data on the special professional interests of each fee earner...all information essential to getting our jobs done, but if and when one person isn't there, is the other person fully equipped with information to continue without them for any length of time?

So, in order to try and get some of this sorted out before it would ever be needed, we're thinking about perhaps using a wiki as an online staff handbook.

Benefits:
  • Large volume of information / documentation stored without taking up large amounts of physical space.
  • Securable.
  • Easily editable.
  • Always the 'current' version.
  • Restrictions on user access to prevent tampering.
  • Availability off site, essential if staff are unable to access buildings / offices.
  • Would allow new staff to familiarise themselves with basic company / service information before starting role. (although this would cause issues with security, would need to investigate whether parts of wikis are lockable / hideable, or whether it would need to be a separate 'Handbook Lite' version)
Downsides:

  • Without a current Library staff handbook, a lot of time will need to be invested to get the relevant information onto a wiki.
  • It will only be useful if maintained, so staff would need to be committed to maintaining it properly and updating regularly as information changes.
  • Possibility of it being hacked into, and sensitive information accessed.

Hmmm...much to think about, and lots of 'normal' work to be done before attempting this. It's an ongoing problem: so much daily work to do that you never get the time to do the preventative work!

Comments

Jennifer Vass said…
OOh - we've been thinking about this at my work as well.
There's only three of us at MPOW, and there is so much presumed knowledge (as the newest staff member, at a year in, I'm still trying to get my head around work practices and internal knowledge that we don't have noted down anywhere).
I agree though, the biggest problem is the time it will take to create. Starting from nothing (we don't have a handbook either) it's a very big job to have to document everything about a role. I think the best idea would be to work it into everyday practice (half an hour or so every day to write), but in small workplaces it's hard to guarantee even that much time.
hmmm - something to be thinking about though, definitely. Let us know if your project gets going!
Scott said…
I think, if you can, you should give wikis a go. Jennifer's comment reminds me of Boisot's three types of tacit knowledge:

(1) things that are not said because everyone understands them and takes them for granted;
(2) things that are not said because nobody fully understands them; and
(3) things that are not said because, although some people understand them, they cannot countlessly articulate them.

Wikis at least provide the opportunity to deal with all three. We have found that one way to get people into the concept and value of it, was using wikis for meeting agenda, and minutes - no multiple emails, no multiple copies of word docs etc. Once you've got them hooked then there is no stopping people!

As for the time it takes to create: All you need is the skeleton. You create an initial structure with a few blank (or brief) pages/paras with the titles of what needs to be filed in and just let people fill in what they feel they can, when they can.

It could go tits up obviously, but do you have anything to lose by giving it a try?

I am available for children's parties by the way ... LOL
Jennie said…
Y'see, I've already used a wiki - compiled my pesky Chartership portfolio on it, so I don't have a problem using them, nor does my boss...it's definitely a 'finding time' issue that's going to slow things down.

That, and checking with IT if it's ok with them for us to do it, if the security would be acceptable for them, if it's password protected it'll probably have to be the paid for version, so will they fund it....

Will report back if / when things move in any way!

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