Measuring the Success of a Wiki for Small Organizations

Seminar Paper 2011 34 Pages

Computer Science - Commercial Information Technology


Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Abbrevations

1 Introduction
1.1 Problem Definition and Objectives
1.2 Course of Investigation

2 Wiki Success for Small Organizations
2.1 Wiki Characteristics
2.2 Success Factors for Small Organizations

3 Success Measurement Model
3.1 Information System Success
3.2 Related Basic Theories
3.2.1 Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA)
3.2.2 Technology Acceptance Model (TAM)
3.2.3 Information Systems Success Model of DeLone & McLean
3.2.4 Model Suitability for Wikis in Small Organizations
3.3 Adapted Models
3.3.1 Updated D&M IS Success Model (2003)
3.3.2 Success Model by Nelson & Todd (2005)
3.3.3 KMS Success Model by Clay et al. (2005)
3.3.4 KMS Success Model by Wu & Wang (2006)
3.3.5 KMS Success Model of Kulkarni (2007)
3.3.6 Knowledge Sharing Research

4 Adaption to Wiki Success
4.1 Wiki Success Model
4.2 Variables
4.2.1 Knowledge Quality
4.2.2 System Quality
4.2.3 Perceived Wiki Benefits
4.2.4 Motivation
4.2.5 User Satisfaction
4.2.6 Knowledge Use

5 Conclusion
5.1 Discussion and Limitations
5.2 Future Research

Reference List

List of Figures

Figure 1: Assigning the Wiki Success Factors to Success Categories

Figure 2: Levels of IS Succes

Figure 3: Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975, p. 16)

Figure 4: Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (Davis et al., 1989, p. 985)

Figure 5: D&M Levels (DeLone & McLean, 1992, p. 62)

Figure 6: D&M IS Success Model (DeLone & McLean, 1992, p. 87)

Figure 7: Analyzed Models

Figure 8: The Updated D&M IS Success Model (DeLone & McLean, 2003, p. 24)

Figure 9: Success Model by Nelson & Todd (2005, p. 216)

Figure 10: Success Model by Clay et al. (2005)

Figure 11: Success Model by Wu & Wang (2006, p. 736)

Figure 12: KMS Success Model by Kulkarni et al. (2007, p. 333)

Figure 13: Success Factor Mapping

Figure 14: Wiki Success Model

List of Tables

Table 1: Wiki Success Principles

Table 2: Measurements Proposed for Knowledge Quality

Table 3: Measurements Proposed for Knowledge Use

Table 4: Variables Systematization

List of Abbrevations

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1 Introduction

1.1 Problem Definition and Objectives

The impact of knowledge management systems (KMS) on organizations grows rapidly. Increasingly, corporations are also using wikis to support employee collaboration and knowledge management (cf. Wagner, 2004, p. 104). A 2008 study by Gartner indicates that this year half of all US companies will use wikis (Morse, 2008). Wikis allow open collaboration in organizations and offer great potential for teamwork and knowledge management (KM). Using this potential for organizations in research context is a difficult task, because user groups are smaller and many tools already exist. It is therefore crucial to understand what makes a wiki successful. This seminar paper investigates the success factors of wikis derived from practical surveys, classifies them for relevance to small organizations and finally builds a wiki success model based on IS research and the practical success factors found.

Research Questions:

[1] What success factors for wikis are described in practical context?
[2] How important are they for small organizations in the research context?
[3] How can these factors be applied to a wiki success model adapted from IS success research?

1.2 Course of Investigation

This seminar paper starts with discussing the wiki concept in chapter 2. In order to build a success model, wiki success factors from practical background are derived from surveys. The resulting factors are evaluated in chapter 2.2.

Chapter 3 first introduces basic IS success models. Afterwards adapted models in the knowledge management system and knowledge sharing context are analyzed. The focus lies on pointing out changes to the model structure, discussing the results of empirical validation and evaluating the possible adaption for a wiki success model.

Based on these results the model is presented in chapter 4. This covers the process of modeling as well as a detailed variable and hypothesis discussion. The chapter closes with a concluding systematization of the proposed variables, measures and hypotheses.

The last chapter concludes the findings, discusses limitations of the paper, and gives implication for future research.

2 Wiki Success for Small Organizations

2.1 Wiki Characteristics

Wikis were introduced by Ward Cunningham in 1994, under the name WikiWikiWeb (Leuf & Cunningham, 2001, p. 3). In Hawaiian the word “wikiwiki” means “quick”. „A WikiWikiWeb (aka wiki) is an open source collaborative server technology that enables users to access, browse, and edit hypertext pages in a real-time context” (Leuf & Cunningham, 2001, p. 442). “This makes a wiki a simple and easy-to-use platform for cooperative work on texts and hypertexts” (Ebersbach, Glaser, Heigl, & Warta, 2007, p. 12).

The aim of wikis is to create a set of dynamically linked pages. A simple markup language is used to connect the linked words to new pages. This process does not require a deep technical knowledge and can be accomplished easily. The nature of this idea leads to the necessity of the existence of a user group willing to contribute individual knowledge to a shared knowledge base. Kousetti (2008, p. 1) and Schaffert (2006, p. 1 f.) describe the following key characteristics of Wikis:

- Easy Editing:

The content can be edited in a browser, resulting in minimal technical requirements. No additional client software has to be installed. The navigation, access and update of Wiki content is easy and can be conducted from the contributor’s point of access (cf. Ebersbach et al., 2007, p. 15).

- Simplified Wiki Syntax:

Wiki systems use a simplified hypertext format that is easy to learn and use for non-technical users. No knowledge of HTML is required. However, most Wikis enable the integration of more complex content via HTML or Widgets. As markup constructs are necessary for linking and embedding more complex content; limited expertise is required (cf. Schaffert, 2006, p. 1).

- Rollback Mechanism:

Every change in the content is versioned and previous versions of the content are kept. This allows for an easy rollback in case of an accidental deletion or undesirable modification. Many Wikis offer comparison for tracking changes in the content.

- Unrestricted Access:

Every user of a wiki can create, edit and delete content (cf. Back, Gronau, & Tochtermann, 2008, p. 11). This leads to the necessity of change management, which is supported by the rollback mechanisms described above. Many Wiki systems provide access restrictions based on rules or user groups. This enables more complex wiki types with private subgroups and public pages in one Wiki.

- Collaborative Editing:

The described characteristics enable the work of many contributors to one central knowledge base. Furthermore many Wikis provide additional tools like discussion forums, summaries of changes, and list of updates.

- Strong Linking:

The easy Wiki syntax allows for pages to be connected by links easily. New pages can be created by linking a so far not existing page and clicking on the link. Additionally the links can be used in reverse to find pages referring to the actual page. The linking structure can be hierarchical or non-linear, depending on the wiki’s complexity (cf. Ebersbach et al., 2007, p. 15).

- Search Function:

To improve the navigation within the wiki almost all wikis allow search via keywords, tags, or full-texts.

2.2 Success Factors for Small Organizations

Due to the novelty of Wikis few surveys have been conducted on the success factors of wikis in practical context. Thus, the definitions for the success factors discussed in the literature are inconsistent. Maleh (2000, p. 38) and Ebersbach et al. (2007, p. 24) list the principles depicted in Table 1. The relevance for small organizations in research context is evaluated in the right columns and the table is sorted from high relevance to low relevance.

Table 1: Wiki Success Principles

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The field study by Grudin & Poole (2010, p. 4 ff.) compares Wiki success in six companies and derives the following success factors:

- Aligning the expectations of managers and individual contributors:

The goal is to minimize the mismatch between managerial vision and the practices of individual contributors. Hierarchies in the company must be disrupted to solve this problem, because open collaboration and a “Culture of Sharing” are crucial for the success of the Wiki (cf. Grudin & Poole, 2010, p. 4).

- Content organization and flexibility over time:

The organization of the content gets difficult when Wikis have to be merged, because there are many redundant page names. The usage of namespaces enables different Wikis to get combined, but makes searching for consistent information more difficult.

- Positioning the wiki in an existing information ecology and corporate culture:

Existing communication and collaboration technologies will get disrupted by a tool based on a fundamentally different participation style (cf. Grudin & Poole, 2010, p. 6). Because Wikis are just one option it is crucial to differentiate it to the existing tools. Another problem is the “Uncertainty about Editing Others’ Work”. Concerns over disrupting culture around ownership and accountability must be addressed by clearly defining the culture of sharing. Because “Wikis are Ill-suited for Some Tasks” Wiki platforms need to be developed further to include more complex content like diagrams or more formatting.

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Figure 1: Assigning the Wiki Success Factors to Success Categories

Figure 1 assigns the success factors discussed in Table 1 to the three success factors of Grudin & Poole (2010, p. 4 ff.). Only high and medium relevance factors are integrated in order to keep the complexity low. This mapping is adapted for small organizations in the scientific environment. The resulting success factors will be used in the modeling of a wiki success model in chapter 0.

3 Success Measurement Model

3.1 Information System Success

Figure 2 depicts the different levels of IS success. The definition of success of an Information System (IS) depends on the position of the critic. A business manager requires economic results like “improved turnover”, or “cost savings” in order to acknowledge the IS’s success. This view is represented by the organizational level in Figure 2. The next level aims at reducing process cycle times or process costs. For staff members an IS may be successful if it is simplifying access to knowledge, even if no benefit is directly measurable. This can be taken into account by rating success on the user level. It is possible to consider the system usage or the user satisfaction to evaluate the success.

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Figure 2: Levels of IS Succes

System usage is defined as “the utilization of information technology (IT) by individuals, groups, or organizations” (Robey, 1979, p. 527; Sharda, Barr, & McDonnell, 1988, p. 139; Straub, Limayem, & Karahanna-Evaristo, 1995, p. 1328). It is a necessary, albeit insufficient, requisite for deriving the benefits of IT. Accordingly, the IS’s value increases with intensity of usage and number of users. However, this disregards the individual perception of usefulness. Users may use the system although there is no success for the company (cf. Davis, Bagozzi, & Warshaw, 1989, p. 1000). Furthermore this approach is not valid if the IS has to be used mandatory. To solve this problem it is possible to focus on user satisfaction. It has primary influence if the system is used mandatory (cf. Powers & Dickson, 1971, p. 156). Based on these three levels basic theories are discussed in the following.

3.2 Related Basic Theories

Understanding why people accept or reject systems has proven to be one of the most challenging issues in information systems (IS) research (cf. Swanson, 1974, p. 178). The influence factors were discussed controversially in the literature. Davis et al. (1989, p. 983) lists 21 different researchers working in that field of science from 1975 till 1987 alone. The lack of a common theoretical background resulted in a variety of mixed and inconclusive research findings (cf. Davis et al., 1989, p. 983).

To provide a brief overview over important theories, the original models of TRA, TAM and D&M are described in the following chapters.

3.2.1 Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA)

Davis et al. (1989, p. 983 ff.) introduced the usage of suggested intention models from social psychology as theoretical foundation for IS’s success measurement. The “Theory of Reasoned Action” (TRA) (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) has proven successful in predicting and explaining behavior across a wide variety of domains (cf. Davis et al., 1989, p. 2). TRA is very general, "designed to explain virtually any human behavior" (Icek & Martin, 1980, p. 4).

Figure 3 depicts the TRA. This social psychology theory implies that a person's performance of a specified behavior is determined by his or her behavioral intention (BI). To measure BI, the attitude toward the behavior (A) and subjective norm (SN) are jointly determined. The weights are estimated by regression using the formula BI=A + SN.

The attitude is determined by the beliefs (bi) about consequences of performing the behavior multiplied by the evaluation (ei) of the consequences (cf. Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975, p. 216). The subjective norm is a multiplicative function of the person’s normative beliefs (nbi), i.e., perceived expectations of specific referent individuals or groups, and his or her motivation to comply (mci) with these expectations (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975, p. 302).

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Figure 3: Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975, p. 16)


[1] The relevance is evaluated based on the answers of a survey on KM in the form of expert interviews at the chair of Information Systems in January 2011.


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D&M IS Success Wiki measuring Knowledge Management Evaluation Model



Title: Measuring the Success of a Wiki for Small Organizations