Business - Written by Guest Blogger on Thursday, July 17, 2008 17:14 - 6 Comments
War of the Wikis: Unversity of Wisconsin uses wiki collaboration to help troops in Iraq escape attack
Editor’s Note: Chris Yeh Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at PBwiki, a hosted wiki solution platform used by more than 30,000 customers — including 1/3 of the Fortune 500. He writes to share a story from PBwiki about how the use of a wiki had life saving results.
When skeptics express their doubts about wikis, Web 2.0, and Enterprise 2.0, they often scoff that all these shiny new technologies are flashy, but don’t solve real problems.
Well, what problem could be more real, more tangible, and more important than trying to defend your convoy from deadly attacks by insurgents in Iraq? If wikis can help keep soldiers alive, it sure seems like they should be able to help your company be more productive.
Frank Rath at the University of Wisconsin needed to find a better means of collaboration. Some of the world’s leading polymer scientists were working together with Resilient Technologies on an $11 million project to develop a new kind of airless tire for Humvees.
“In Iraq and Afghanistan, roadside IEDs(improvised explosive devices) cause a lot of tire damage,” said Frank. “Then, once the vehicles can’t move, the insurgents attack. If the tires weren’t disabled, the troops could drive out of trouble. Engineers from Resilient Technologies are working with leading polymer scientists and mechanical engineers from the University of Wisconsin to build an airless tire for the Department of Defense.”
The problem was that Resilient Technologies is located in Wausau, about 120 miles and two-hour drive from the university’s campus in Madison. To make matters worse, one of the key members of the Resilience team was based in West Virginia, nearly 1,000 miles away.
In previous projects with Resilient, the university had used email and file attachments for collaboration, with mixed results. “It takes so much time to find the right documents, ” said Frank. “There are so many different iterations and modifications to track, especially when it comes to spreadsheets.”
One of Frank’s colleagues, Tom Smith, was already using a hosted wiki from PBwiki, and suggested that wikis would make the project much more efficient. Frank and his team tried it out, and soon, the entire project team was on the wiki, including five polymer scientists, three from Frank’s department, and 12 people from Resilient.
“We’re using the wiki to help us with all the work it takes to get from concept to real product. We use the wiki for spreadsheets on market development, documents with examples of other airless tires, images of competing products, project progress reports, FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) sheets, and QFD (Quality Function Deployment) documents,” said Frank. “All the different variations are stored on the wiki. If we didn’t have the wiki, we’d be emailing those files back and forth all the time.”
The bottom line for Frank is that wiki collaboration is an integral part of the project. “Using the wiki eliminates confusion, duplication, and the potential for errors. PBwiki is a simple and easy-to-use platform that lets us coordinate and execute critical projects.”
As for Frank, he’s planning on using wikis for other important projects, such as helping the AAPM (American Association of Physicists in Medicine) improve cancer treatments. “I’m on an AAPM task force on improving the quality management system for cancer radiation therapy, and we should be using a wiki for that too. I’m working with top doctors and researchers–their time is incredibly important, and it shouldn’t be wasted searching for the right email attachment.”
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