Wikis for Improving Productivity

I’m liveblogging the webinar Growing in a Down Market with PBwiki. My comments are in italics.

Presenter: Teo Mayes, CTO RMC Vanguard

They used UStream for the audio, in addition to the typical phone line. I know I’m a little late to the party, but this is actually the first time I’ve used UStream. So far, so good!

RMC Vanguard is a mortgage company–able to do major increases in their business even with the economy not good for mortgage companies right now. Significant increases in productivity with a wiki.

The productivity increases are really what interests me in this webinar. We use the wiki for our team, but I wonder what we can do to be more effective with it, as well as how we can help other departments in the company.


Use templates on the wiki to make it easier to structure pages so people can be familiar with it. Without some structure, it’s harder for people to contribute.

Created a specific template structure for contact info

Search: Search function is really important–used heavily

Document Repository: Use wiki to hold templates and documents. Used color coding to show current/prior versions of documents

Security: They have passwords visible on the wiki, but that’s OK b/c the security of the wiki is OK–must log in to view the confidential content.

Getting People to Use the Wiki

They used to keep contact info for vendors in Outlook, but had problems keeping consistent across multiple contact cards. Then used spreadsheet on a central server, but people working from home couldn’t access it. Wiki solves the problem of creating one central location with easy access.

Problem: Industry has high turnover rate, plus experienced loan officers don’t want to take time to mentor newbies b/c they work on commission only.


  • Detailed how to pages for common problems (like accessing outlook from home)
  • FAQ–constantly growing–lets people work rather than answering the same questions all the time


How do you quantify this? Hard to tell–how do you determine time saved by questions going to the FAQ instead of answering by a person? How do you quantify value of people having accurate and current information rather than just what you hear from another person? Helps keep current information b/c things change so fast.

Improves customer service b/c people have the right information–you aren’t working on a mortgage and discover halfway through that the rules have changed. Clients say the process is very smooth; he attributes this to the technology.

Won national BBB award for excellence

Questions & Answers

Q: How do you feel about this critical company intellectual property being hosted by someone else?
A: They did a lot of research. No information about clients like SSN stored on the wiki. Security levels of PBwiki are sufficient for the financial industry.

Q: Who helped you set it up?
A: Change is hard in organizations; it took time for it to meet everyone’s needs. He took several months by himself to create a basic structure, but he would recommend having a team plan the initial structure. Because basic structure was there already, people were more likely to add and update; they wouldn’t have done this with blank pages and no templates.

Q: Was there support at the executive level?
A: Yes, there was. They already have people working virtually, so this was an easy sell. It has already paid for itself in increased productivity in less than a year.

Q: Did you have a wiki before?
A: No, they just used central file sharing. He had never done anything with a wiki before. This is a good case study of a leader trying something new for him too.

Q: Do you backup the wiki? Do you have version tracking for revisions?
A: PBwiki has revision tracking built in; they don’t do any other backups on their own. PBwiki does backups on 3 servers plus offsite backups, so businesses don’t need to do it. OK, this is a sales pitch, but it’s an important question. You can download a zip file to your own servers if you want, but they don’t feel it’s necessary.

Q: Do your employees pay to use the wiki, or does the company cover the cost?
A: Company covers it That would be required to get people to use it

Q: How big is the wiki? Any technical issues related to size?
A: 350 pages, no technical issues. They’ve made feature requests but no problems.

Q: How do you handle administration?
A: Company restraint keeps it from being a free-for-all. Changes are documented so you can see who made it, so people never make inappropriate comments. He monitors all changes so he can revert if there’s an issue.

Q: Set up?
A: Search feature takes care of a lot of organization–you don’t need as tight a structure when search is so good. Provide links for most used pages. Folder structure helps for security; different departments have different access. Otherwise they don’t force much structure.

Q: When first implementing, did any early adopters resist it? How do you deal?
A: Yes, there’s always people who resist change.

  1. Made sure that the information they needed on a day-to-day basis was already on the wiki before giving access.
  2. Provided training
  3. Removed info from old location after a short grace period–forced to use the wiki 🙂

Q: How much training did users need?
A: Minimal training. Small groups, no more than 10 people at a time to manage questions. 10-15 minute sessions: showed email invite, how to log in, home page, navigation & search, edit, create page. Creating pages wasn’t emphasized in early training; has done more training later as needed.

Q: I have administrators who don’t like to get the constant updates via email. Do you by chance send a digest notice of changes out to folks who don’t want the constant notices?
A: Yes, PBwiki has options for individual users to set preferences for notifications

Q: Fee structure for PBwiki
A: For business, $8/user/month. Read-only users are 80 cents/month though.

Q: Does Teo maintain the wiki by himself?
A: It really isn’t a highly maintained wiki; he doesn’t need to go in to check it regularly. He watches the notifications. Operations manager goes in each day to update info needed by multiple people, but it takes 30 seconds. Big collaborative effort to maintain it; it’s not necessary for him to do it by himself.

Q: What advantage do you see to this environment rather than a structured document management?
A: He had an idea of what he wanted to do. PBwiki was easy, especially for accessibility for multiple people to help keep it updated. Also likes using widgets; they have pictures from company events hosted on Bubble but viewable through the wiki.

Q: How did you set up the template page?
A: PBwiki provides some base structure. They customized and saved their own templates. Document repository is one example

Someone in the audience commented that in their small business, they have banned email attachments since implementing a wiki. Someone else noted that email volume is down 30% with the wiki

Q: Why PBwiki and not a free wiki?
A: Security levels are necessary for their industry. Backups also important. PBwiki was also responsive as a vendor.

Q: How did you make PBwiki known to your partners?
A: At this point, it’s just internal, not shared with vendors.

Q: Do you look at metrics for activity on the wiki?
A: Right now, just a page counter on the home page. Not something that is tracked much now. B/c it’s an information source, they don’t need to require people to use the wiki–they may not have any questions. The culture has changed so when people are asked questions, the response is “Have you checked the wiki?” Internally reinforces use of wiki informally.

Q: Can you upload videos & audio?
A: They do photos. Other multimedia is possible, but they aren’t really using that yet. Drawback for video presentations is time limit of video on YouTube. Suggestion was to use instead.

Q: Do you see this as a knowledge management tool? Did you set out to use it for that?
A: That wasn’t exactly the main problem they were trying to solve when they started, but it has turned out that way. Most important was single location that could be accessed by remote loan officers; it met that need and grew.

Q: Have you posted a code of conduct for the wiki?
A: No, they haven’t had a need. It’s a tight-knit company, about 100 employees. As they continue to grow, they may need to.

Q: What is the number one feature that has helped you in this down market?
A: Down market has pushed them to do this; better to make changes like this during a slow time. Key thing is being able to access up-to-date, specific information for each loan scenario even though it changes on a daily basis. Being able to find out guideline changes for loans. Needs to be fast enough to do the research while you’re on the phone with a client so they can answer customer questions immediately.

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10 thoughts on “Wikis for Improving Productivity

  1. In terms of e-learning development, I actually prefer Google Docs for working with SMEs and writing the content. It depends on your workflow though; our team has used both wikis and Google Docs. The wiki works great within our team for documenting processes, tips & tricks, and brainstorming. We’ve had varying degrees of success using wikis with SMEs.

    Good luck with your presentation!

  2. This is great. I’ve been mulling over an article or conference pres on using online document and file tools for productivity in e-learning development, and this fits in nicely!

  3. I could see the value in more of a “how to” for beginners than my previous posts. I’m adding it to my list of post ideas–no promises on when that might happen though! 🙂

  4. I think it is a work literacy skill and it would be cool to have a “how to” kind of article, geared more toward newbies–like the importance of liveblogging for learning and then how to do it in a specific circumstance, like going through a webinar. I do think that while we might be able to adapt for different contexts, a lot of people are really concrete and specific, so they’d want “liveblogging a webinar” and then “liveblogging a live conference presentation.” I would see pulling from your previous posts, but more in a “how to” format. If you wanted to, of course. 🙂

  5. I have written about it some before:

    Liveblogging an online conference
    My Workflow with Synergy

    What else would you like to see? I’m willing to write more if there’s a different focus from the previous posts. I suppose I haven’t talked about liveblogging specifically as a learning tool; maybe there’s a post in that. Hmmm…

    Is liveblogging a work literacy skill, do you think? I hadn’t thought of it that way until just now, but i wonder if it could be.

  6. Hey Christy–thanks for sharing this!

    I’m a big fan of liveblogging webinars, but think that probably not everyone does it. I’d love to see a post on pointers for how to liveblog effectively, as I think it’s an excellent learning strategy that not only makes sure that you get something out of it, but then is also a resource for other people. Can I persuade you to write something up? 🙂

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