Best practices

Category: Best practices (24 posts) [RSS]

Oct 02 2019

10 benefits of organizing knowledge for managers

Management is not easy and information management, even more so. Nowadays, information is not hard to come by, in fact, sometimes there’s just too much of it, especially in the workplace. This is particularly aggravating when you are unsure what to do with it or where to store it to guarantee it will be properly made use of. If previously, classic tools such as white papers or emails managed to do the job and get the information across the organization, that is not the case anymore. Today’s solutions lie in knowledge bases and collaborative platforms where the information can be stored and easily accessed. However, from the management perspective, what does this really imply? Why should you, too, employ such a solution?

  • The long answer: the advantages of organizing knowledge in management are numerous and, once embraced, will help you establish a fully-functional working environment where collaboration flourishes and information can efficiently get across the entire organization.
  • The short answer: to ensure peak efficiency and productivity.

After 15 years of information management for us, as well as our clients, here is what we've discovered good managers usually focus on. 

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1. Optimize resource utilization

Without a dedicated space where information is centralized, working environments become unorganized, instilling a sense of misdirection. Being able to employ optimum resource utilization comprises one of the many advantages of organizing information in management. Availability of methods, tools, and practices averts from scenarios in which your employees are unable to successfully carry out long-term projects or in which there’s a reduced interest in the company’s goals. With no proper documentation or dedicated learning space, who wants to churn through a library of poorly put together documents? Systematizing information in a comprehensive manner makes it easy to keep track of and use resources accordingly.

2. Identify and fill in knowledge gaps

One of the fundamental advantages of organizing information in management is that it cements a better communication flow by filling in knowledge gaps and boosting performance. Communication hiccups are eliminated, allowing for an easier flow of information across different levels of the company. Platforms such as XWiki or any other CMS (Content Management System) ensure collaboration between departments is facilitated and ideas, strategies or suggestions can be freely shared and accounted for. Never worry again about getting lost in the endless sea of information you have to deal with on a daily basis. 

3. Reduce know-how loss

An important asset, a company’s “know-how” refers to the cumulative knowledge and ability to efficiently run things. As such, you need to ensure it is appropriately managed so it can be used for the company’s benefit. As experienced employees take their leave, there is an increased risk of essential information disappearing alongside them. While new recruits may be knowledgeable, becoming aware of the company’s ins and outs and reaching full productivity can take an extensive period of time, during which progress is not made. Amidst the many advantages of organizing knowledge in management lies the ability to efficiently leverage this kind of information. By providing a committed platform where the accumulated information can be documented and secured, you can ensure departures occur without the loss of vital company knowledge. This also averts “corporate amnesia”, in which businesses have the tendency to lose memory of things and how to do them as a consequence of core employees leaving.

4. Avoid redundant effort

Being able to retrieve the right information in the time of need is crucial. Once you have identified and developed an effective process, creating (or updating) the relevant wiki page should be the next step to ensure it will be used in the future to address similar recurring needs. When the solution to a problem has been found, you want this information to be replicated. Make the best problem-solving experiences reusable! This will help avoid scenarios in which an employee spends time repeating what’s already been done. Why spend time reinventing the wheel when you can use it to invent something new?

5. Enable better, faster decision making

An overload of information can turn decision making into a difficult and hazy process. Among the advantages of organizing knowledge in management is the fact that it speeds up the process by providing the relevant set of data when it is required. For example, in XWiki, data is stored in the form of structured web pages, meaning that features such as the advanced search engine or filtering by tags make combing through the information quick and easy. Implementing a dedicated platform ensures the consistency and relevancy of what is being shared which, in turn, leads to evidence-based decisions.

6. Avoid past mistakes

As an organization evolves, lessons are bound to be learned, both about success and failure. Fostering a collaborative space where these can be freely shared is one of the many advantages of organizing information in management, in the long run. When your employees encounter situations in which they are unsure how to proceed, being able to scour past documents within well-structured wiki pages for relevant pointers can help them overcome it, whilst avoiding any past mistakes. Systematized information streamlines work, saving time and, in some cases, budget.

7. Increase efficiency and productivity

Information management has become a hallmark of better productivity. Preserving knowledge by having it centralized on an all-around accessible and intuitive platform (such as a wiki) is among the most notable advantages of organizing information in management. We all need information to do our jobs effectively, but what’s essential is having it at our disposal when it is needed, without having to read through printed material or ransack through hundreds of emails. Knowledge preservation in the form of reliable databases and comprehensive on-boarding procedures can also help facilitate and speed up the integration process, furthering productivity and long-term efficiency. Being able to learn quickly and efficiently deliver results can give you an edge in today’s fast-paced business environment.

8. Foster an innovative collaborative working culture

Information-centric platforms encourage employees towards sharing all the valuable information assimilated throughout time, based on both accomplishments and let-downs, as well as experienceAs the company grows and evolves, it becomes harder and harder to keep track and accurately account for everyone's opinion. In XWiki, for example, integrations make it possible to share ideas (and vote on them), take part in polls or open forum discussions in order to obtain multiple perspectives on specific matters. This not only enables a collaborative working environment, but it also encourages innovation and entices employees to learn from each other. In this way, cooperation can flourish.

9. Facilitate collaboration between distributed teams across timezones

Depending on your company's structure, your teams may be distributed across different time zones. Because collaboration between them represents a challenge in itself, information-centric platforms become an essential aspect to consider among the advantages of organizing knowledge in management. Having information readily available and easily accessible to employees across different time zones minimizes friction and averts collaborative impediments. For instance, in XWiki, it is possible to pick up where a colleague left off and edit, add and improve the document or page in question. It is even possible to enable real-time collaboration in order to simultaneously work on a document, regardless of location or time zone.

10. Ensure GDPR compliance and data protection

Making sure that information is secure is a key concern in most companies, even more so now, when GDPR compliance is a must. Without a proper method of securing information, important data can get scattered or even lost, unless it is being kept careful track of. To give you an idea of how collaborative platforms can help you fix this, with XWiki, thanks to the different permission types, it's easy to manage the access to actions like read, edit, comment, delete. This helps ensure information is protected, while still accessible to those who need it. Other collaborative tools, such as CryptPad, offer you secure mediums to share data you would otherwise only share face to face. 

What else would you like to add to the list? Let us know in a comment or tag us on social media!

Information dictates workflows and, access to it, even more so. Successfully diminishing corporate silos and encouraging a transparent, collaborative working environment is the aim of better management. Now we're not saying that putting in place an information organizing tool will solve all your troubles, but we know that sipping a Pina Colada in the Maldives is easier knowing your team has the right information at their fingertips. It is up to you to decide how you can employ such a solution or which one is right for your company's needs.  

Sep 16 2019

The 5 golden rules for a successful Knowledge Base

Information is power, and that power relies on quick and easy access to quality information. Today’s connected users don’t want to wait for a letter, a mail or even a phone call to get in the possession of their desired information, they want it now and they want it at a click away. That’s why you need a strong, structured knowledge base.

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Why should you choose a Knowledge Base? 

According to definitions, a Knowledge Base (KB) is a technology used to store complex structured and unstructured information used by a computer system. The initial use of the term was in connection with expert systems which were the first knowledge-based systems. In today's terms, it’s a self-serve online library that contains everything one might want to know about your product or business. Unlike a real library, a knowledge base is at a click away, every day.

Depending on your business’s specific, your knowledge base will take various structures, for it will include information from every employee, department, stakeholder or interested person. It can include everything from thorough details of what your business does, study cases on how to use your features, internal procedures, troubleshooting tips or frequently asked questions. And here’s the catch, it's stored online, easily accessible via search or a link, therefore: goodbye long threads of emails.

These solutions really work for the modern companies and those keeping up with market changes, and using XWiki Knowledge Bases you get a solution that allows you to access critical business information in a fast and efficient way. You don't need to worry about email overload or loss of critical information when someone leaves the company. XWiki helps you increase productivity and reduce operational costs, while regular backups prevent information loss.

So, what are the rules for a successful Knowledge Base?

1. Establish what you need and how you plan to use it

This means that you must assess how much time you might save if you and your employees would start using it. If the volume is consistent and the questions or tasks are repetitive, a knowledge base could work wonders for your business. Once you decide you need one, establish if you plan to use it internal or open to customers. Finding the right information at the right time can be a challenge for both your employees and your customers, especially when business-related information is scattered within your workforce's minds and computers across your organization.

2. Give a structure to the content

Go beyond simple text and add structure to pages, so you and other users can always know where to find a particular answer or the procedure in place. Design forms and templates for your pages and use tables to filter and sort pages so you will never worry about a cluttered virtual workspace again. Last, but highly important, enable anyone to edit pages using standard web forms. XWiki’s knowledge base comes with some great features to enhance adding new content: use the WYSIWYG editor to make changes; attach any kind of files to pages; import and preview office documents; export pages in different formats; define different layers of security by setting rights for users.

3. Keep your Knowledge Base user-friendly

Once it’s up and running, remember that your knowledge base is a self-serve operation. You’ll need to make sure your knowledge base is easy to navigate. And easy to use. Allow contributors to use quick templates to upload data. Use labels/search terms to categorize information so articles are easy to find. At the same time, with XWiki, your company's knowledge is organized and searchable. XWiki allows you to describe wiki pages by adding additional information (metadata) on top of the documents. You can create a structure that matches your exact needs.

4. Keep information relevant

For example, with XWiki, you can easily have a catalog that displays all contracts with the ability to instantly sort them by date, contract parties or type of documents. Use annotations to write contextual notes on pages, share pages by email with any user, allow users to leave comments and feedback on content and keep track of every change over the content with watch feature. In XWiki, you can compare any two-page versions, so you can always track amends to the content.

5. Let the Knowledge Base work for you

Benefit from the XWiki metadata management and native flexibility, our key differentiators from other wiki solutions, in order to organize your knowledge in a centralized and easy to use way!

TRY XWIKI FOR FREE

Aug 21 2019

15 Ways Remote Companies Can Build Strong Teams

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Working remotely is great for many reasons: a bigger talent pool, better work / life balance, more focus and productivity. But it also has its challenges, with a need to implement more tools, processes, documentation and also put more effort into building a culture of transparency. Over the past 15 years we've been embracing flexible work, with people having the liberty to work either fully or partly remotely. In this article we explore some of the things we've learned and tips companies can follow to build stronger remote teams.

1. Communicate your story and the company vision

Telling your story and having a clear vision for your company are not only good for business, but they're also essential to your team's cohesion. The company story reminds people how you got there, while the vision statement sets the direction for the future. Defining the impact that the company wants to make on the world will also help the team better understand why their work matters and how their objectives align with the bigger picture. The goals for the vision are to inspire and engage the team.

2. Define your values

Values are the unique principles that inform how the vision will be achieved. Values should be clearly articulated and written down in a handbook, so everyone can read them as they on-board the team. Decisions should then be through the lens of the values. Since every new employee will have an impact on your culture, it’s important that you also recruit having those values in mind. Leaders should set the example by defining and then living by these principles. Values are not set in stone though, so as your team grows, you may want to reexamine them.

3. Organize work

Building the infrastructure that allows people to collaborate efficiently is essential. Teams should have access to different collaboration tools such as Slack, Mattermost or Riot for chat, XWiki for collaboration and knowledge management, Trello, OpenProject or GitLab for project and task management. At XWiki we use Riot to keep in touch with the team and we love it. It's very easy to use and it's open source. Not surprisingly, most of our work is organized in XWiki, customized with apps to make it fit our exact needs.

online chat gif from canity

4. Build a culture of transparency and knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing and solid processes should be at the heart of all distributed companies. They make onboarding easier and help drive transparency. Knowledge sharing also increases efficiency and minimizes friction as information becomes readily available for employees across different time zones.

At XWiki we try to document knowledge as much as possible, through product and project documentation, knowledge bases, FAQs, onboarding guides etc. A good rule of thumb is that whenever someone asks a questions on a chat the answers should point as much as possible to documents. Of course it's easier to post a direct answer on the chat, but it's more useful on the long run to store that answer in a document for later reference.

5. Recruit for soft skills, not just technical skills

When evaluating a potential employee it’s important to assess technical skills, but you should also look at soft skills and culture fit. Excellent communication and writing abilities are essential to thrive in a remote role.

Many distributed teams also find it useful to have the candidate do a small paid assignment before making a job offer. This will help the candidate get a better understanding of the job and it will help the team in better assessing the fit.

6. Make video calls

With non-verbal cues missing from written communication, using video as much as possible can be a good idea. While it doesn’t replace in person interactions, it does help eliminate some of the loneliness and isolation that some remote workers eventually face. Tools such as Zoom and Google Hangouts are great options for organizing video calls. In the future we might even work in a VR office altogether.

7. Have regular meetings

All hands are great for introducing new team members, making announcements, recognizing accomplishments, providing company statuses, answering questions. Many remote companies also have regular team meetings, project kick-offs and retrospectives, as well as daily “stand-ups”.

team meetings

8. Organize company retreats

Chat is great, but nothing beats real face to face interactions. Regular company retreats are great opportunities for people to consolidate relationships that are mainly built virtually. You can find out more about how we organize our annual retreat by reading this article.

9. Strive for balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication

The balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication is hard to achieve. For long discussions, important feedback and brainstorming, face time can be better. Async however is equally important when you’re trying to get into a state of flow and do the deep work. Many remote workers will say async is how they manage to get their work done. There are many ways of doing async, from email to chats, forums and comments. You just have to pick the tools and the ratio that work best for you and your team.

10. Encourage company traditions

It’s easy to celebrate events and set up traditions when people see each other every day in the office, but there are things you can also do as a remote team. Some ideas include celebrating birthdays, organizing hackathons and other challenges, going on company and team offsite retreats.

11. Have a virtual water cooler

When you’re working in a virtual environment, you may end up talking only about work. It’s also easy to forget taking breaks. However, informal chats that go beyond work are essential for building rapport, keeping healthy, energized and productive. Don’t be afraid to use emoticons and gifs to convey emotion.

Donut is a great Slack extension that randomly pairs people from different teams. They’re then encouraged to chat about their lives and get to know each other better.

12. Provide and collect regular feedback

Critical feedback should be delivered face to face as much as possible. This way you can also see all the non-verbal cues, which are not visible via chat or email. A good rule of thumb is that if a chat escalates or is taking too long, it might be worth doing a video call instead. Trusting the team and assuming miscommunication (not bad intentions) are good principles to live by.

Collecting anonymous feedback is a great way to measure team happiness and also to see what may be improved across the board.

13. Do one on ones

Leading your team in a remote culture requires a lot of pro-activity. Since impromptu conversations are less likely to happen, it’s important to schedule regular one on ones with the team. You should try not to turn one on ones into status updates though. Having a shared online agenda can help with keeping the conversations on track. Creating a list of actionable items at the end can help follow through with the points discussed.

14. Measure employee performance

In a remote setting, employees may spend much of their time wondering whether they’re actually doing a good job, particularly if they worked in a traditional setting before. Productivity can’t be measured in the number of hours spent in the office, so it’s important to focus on setting objectives and measuring output. Metrics, coupled with the team’s feedback and one on ones should provide the context for measuring and improving performance.

15. Invest in the mental well-being of your team

Without an office to go to every day, people may end up feeling disconnected. On top of that, Impostor Syndrome might start creeping in. It's the feeling that we don’t deserve what we’ve earned and that others will expose us as frauds. It’s particularly an issue with remote work, were people don’t get to see you at your desk everyday.

Keeping a record of accomplishments and providing/receiving timely feedback can help. Coworking spaces or professional networks can be great places to meet like minded people and have more face to face interactions. Many companies offer a coworking stipend.

Most remote employees have the liberty to organize their time according to their needs, which is one of the main perks. But that can also easily backfire if the team stay connected 24/7. Companies should encourage breaks and discourage overtime.

fish tank gif from canity

If you’re interested in learning more about remote work, we also recommend:

As technology evolves, the way we think about work is being transformed and we’re bound to have more companies challenging the status quo and adopting a remote-first culture. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Silvia Macovei, Head of Cloud Business at XWiki

Aug 15 2019

Top 10 XWiki questions and their solutions

Whether you’re just starting your XWiki journey or you're already an advanced user, you probably wondered about any existing documentation or didn't have the time to look for the right information. Throughout the years you sent through our contact form, by email, on the Community Forum or support tickets numerous queries that showed your interest in having XWiki tips & tricks available at hand. We heard you. We built a Help Center for our services and we’re constantly working on improving our documentation.

Even more, we are now bringing a list of the most common XWiki support tickets and their solutions to help users further in their collaboration journey.

1. How do I contact the XWiki Support team?

If you have acquired professional support services from our XWiki SAS team, you should create a ticket on XWiki Network or write an email to support@xwiki.com. Here are some best practices when you are reporting an issue. Did you know you can also report a bug or request a feature on our XWiki open source project's Jira tracking software?

2. How do I to set rights in my wiki?

With XWiki, thanks to the different permission types, it's easy to manage the access to actions like: read, edit, comment, delete etc. We added a number of basic rules that help both simple and advanced users understand why they cannot access certain pages or do certain actions in the wiki. If you want to make your wiki public or private, this is the access setup documentation you'd need to check. Moreover, read here how to set rights on a specific page and/or its child pages.

An example would be that when you decide to explicitly allow the view right for "Group A" on a given page, users that are not members of "Group A" must have the view right explicitly set on the given page to be able to view it as well. Plus, the wiki owner and the superadmin account always have full admin privileges regardless of the configured rights.

3. What are the Features for Simple versus Advanced Users?

To note that the table below refers only to basic differences between the types of XWiki users. The access to these features could be customized through rights assignment or switch from simple to advanced user. Check this page for more details regarding simple and advanced page editing modes. Bonus tip: Admins would need to switch to the Advanced mode in their profile preferences to enable the extra options on the top main menu.

XWiki Features for Simple versus Advanced users

4. How do I enable features deactivated by default?

There are a number of features deactivated by default in XWiki in order to leave the possibility to the user to personalize their experience within the platform. Here are some examples: hidden pages (technical content such as application classes, configuration pages, macros, styles, scripts, etc), extra accessibility features (visual enhancements like bigger fonts, underlined links, etc), extension conflict setup, multilingual mode.

As a standard user, you could enable the display of hidden pages, extra accessibility features or choose the user type from your profile page, in the Preferences tab.

User Preferences View

There are also editing features disabled by default in the CKEditor (the default WYSIWYG editor starting with XWiki 8.2): plugins (bidi, colorbutton, font, justify, save, specialchar), toolbar features (Anchor, Find, Paste, PasteFromWord, PasteText). These are available in the Administration of your wiki, and they could be modified by an Administrator.

ckeditor-administration

5. How do I change the appearance of my wiki?

During the journey of adapting XWiki to their needs, the users are looking into ways to personalize the wiki according to their company branding, business goals or personal preferences. See here how to change the logo, background color or the panels. For those interested into more advanced customization levels visit the skin page and discover the complete skins-related guide on XWiki.org.

6. Are there page templates?

If you already have some predefined content and you are looking for ready-to-use templates, here are some examples of available templates inside XWiki.

Article
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Encyclopedia
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Meeting Report
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Simple Page
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Learn more on how you can also create your own page templates

7. How do I turn on/off the Comments & Page History?

In the Administration of your wiki, go to the Look & Feel tab, in the Presentation section and select the page tabs you would like to be visible at the bottom of your wiki pages. Bonus tip: in the same location you can also configure the header and footer content.

Comments and Page History

8. How do I compare two versions of a page?

In order to compare 2 versions, you need to select one of the radio buttons corresponding to the version from which you want to start the comparison. These are the buttons located in the "From" column. You will then need to select the button corresponding to the version you want to compare the previously selected version against. These buttons are located in the "To" column. You may choose to include minor edits in the comparison. After selecting the 2 versions you wish to compare you will need to click on "Compare selected versions". Moreover, clicking on either one of the 2 compared version numbers (shown in the header) will display that version of the page.

Comparing two page versions

9. How do I restore deleted pages?

Did you delete a page that you now noticed had an important role in your wiki? There is a way to restore it. Access the Page Index, available in the drawer menu on the top right of the wiki. You will discover there all pages, attachments, deleted pages, deleted attachments in your wiki. Go to the deleted pages tab and search for the desired page. In the Actions column, you will now notice the possibility to restore or to delete forever a page from the trash. Find out more about restoring and deleting pages in XWiki.

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10. How do I set a Custom Server Name for my XWiki Cloud instance?

Our Silver+ XWiki Cloud users benefit from Custom Server Names. When setting up a custom server, the first thing to consider is purchasing a security certificate. It's important to note that you own this custom domain, thus we request from you a security certificate that would be used to provide a secure connection. After you send it to the support team, there is one setting you'd need to add to your instance, such as your wiki's CNAME to point to "cloud.xwiki.com." (the final dot is important emoticon_smile ). And then, contact the support team to ask for the final adjustments.

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I hope you enjoyed the article and that you find the answers useful.

Andreea Chirica, Communications and Support Specialist at XWiki

Jul 26 2019

Top 3 user experience integrations for your XWiki website

Thinking of a new website? Or have you ever felt that your existing website is a boring, monotonous one lost in the sea of thousands of unique, interactive websites? Here is how you can make things a little more interesting and turn the tide in your favor. Comes in: website user experience (UX). It refers to how your users use, see and remember the website.

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What is "user experience" on a website?

To understand user experience (UX), you will have to know what user interface (UI) is and what it does. User Interface (UI) is a medium through which users interact with your website. Conventionally, it means action buttons, text, visuals or any tool that triggers interaction.

Now, user experience (UX) in website design is about how the user feels, either when interacting with the UI elements of your website or simply when onboarding your website. User experience (UX) maintains the flow and engages the customer throughout their journey on your website. A well-designed user experience (UX) will have the power to influence the mood or behavior of the user interacting with your website.

In this article, we will talk about how some simple tweaks can enhance the user experience (UX) for your public website based on XWiki, and delight your users.

1. Privacy matters, and its user experience as well

As of 25 May 2018, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has become an enforceable regulation in EU law. It covers data protection and privacy for all individual citizens of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) as well as the transfer of personal data outside the member states.

If your public website is serving individuals from the EU and you - or embedded third-party services like Google and Facebook - are processing any kind of personal data, you need to obtain prior consent from the visitor/user.

To increase user experience (UX) for the public websites built with XWiki, you can use the free app GDPR Cookie Consent to achieve and maintain cookie compliance. The app describes the data processing needs in plain language to the visitor/user, before processing any personal data.

Different configuration options are available, including updating the look and feel to match your website colors or using text/labels in the language of your target users.

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The GDPR Cookie Consent app on a standard XWiki

For further details, you can take a look at the blog article on the GDPR compliance with XWiki's cookies consent application.

2. Reduce the communication gap

One of the most common features for a public website is the "Contact us" form. It’s where a new user goes when they have a question or needs precise information regarding your organization. Website user experience (UX) best practices suggest that nowadays' must is real-time communication. However, the old-fashioned “contact form” does not offer a feeling of direct communication and will downgrade your user's experience.

Integrating a Chat solution in addition to the "Contact us" form will not only improve communication with your users but also add a personal touch to the conversation.

For example, Zendesk offers a flexible Chat solution including a "Lite" free version which could be a good starting point for a small business/organization. The chat widget can be easily embedded within the XWiki platform by just adding the Javascript code on one of the Administration fields (e.g. the end of the “HTTP Meta Info” field from the wiki Administration section) with an Admin user.

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Embedding Zendesk on XWiki

The “Chat” widget will be available on the right bottom corner and the message window will pop up upon click.

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Zendesk Chat embedded on XWiki Cloud

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Zendesk Chat embedded on xwiki.com

3. A powerful search engine for great user experience

Search is one of the core functionalities for any public website and the now, standard, search icon.png icon stands proudly on the homepage of dozens of the world's best websites. When you have a lot of data to share, it’s important to help your users quickly find what they are looking for while still keeping an eye on their experience on the website.

As of 2013, XWiki has been using the powerful Solr search engine to index the wiki content which brought a superior search experience to the product:

  • More relevant results and extracts in search results,
  • Faceted search,
  • Better advanced searching,
  • Support for clustering,
  • Google-like searching (i.e. no need to use wildcards),
  • Better translation support,
  • Improved performances,
  • And generally speaking, all the niceties provided by Apache Solr.

To increase your website's user experience (UX), the search engine can be customized to better index the data and offer the most relevant results. Our team has recently delivered such a project for the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (DHS).

The DHS is an encyclopedia on the history of Switzerland which aims to take into account the results of modern historical research in a manner accessible to a broader audience. The new public website built on top of XWiki has been online since May 2019. 

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The Solr search engine on the homepage of The Historical Dictionary of Switzerland

Understanding the importance of user experience (UX) on your website is imperative when it comes to managing it. In the end, it is what can either make it or break it. Users seek more than a simple, lifeless interface, which is why well-thought-out user experience (UX) will point you in the right direction and help users feel at home on your website.

What other integrations do you find worth mentioning when it comes to enhancing user experience (UX) on a website? Feel free to share it with us and we will add it on the list! 

Oana Florea - Customer Support Manager @XWiki

Jun 28 2019

Improving Customer Experience with our enhanced Cloud Customer Portal

Over the years XWiki Network has been the place where we spend most of our time communicating with our support clients.

We have recently started to work on the revamping of our support platform for our cloud users. You can access the newer version of our customer portal directly from the cloud wiki using “Report an issue”.

The latest XWiki Network includes

  • improvements for the management of support tickets with a better editor for reporting a support ticket
  • the possibility to purchase apps (including XWiki Pro, the full set of productivity and business-oriented applications) directly from the Shop*

At XWiki, we have always been focused on improving customer satisfaction by gathering as much feedback as possible which we then take into account as we discuss work on new features and improving our services.

For several years we have been sending out a yearly survey encouraging our clients to offer their opinion on both the services we provide but also on the product.

While the number of clients that have filled in the survey has remained steady, the question on our mind was how we could get more regular feedback. We wanted to keep it simple, with just a few clicks. Consequently, we have added just one rating option and a feedback box (in case our services rate lower than “Excellent” emoticon_wink ).

Gathering more feedback will help us know when we do well and where we can improve our services, so we encourage all our cloud users to click the rating they feel is closer to their customer experience.

Also, stay tuned for more improvements over the next period.

Oana Florea, Customer Support Manager

*Starting with level Silver, our Support clients will receive upon request a free voucher for XWiki Pro.

Jun 10 2019

How to Organize a Company Retreat

At XWiki, we are strong believers in flexibility, so we trust our team to choose when and where they can do their best work. Consequently, our team is distributed across multiple countries, with people working both from our offices and remotely.

A downside is that we need to make a conscious effort if we want to get everybody together in the same place. We regularly have colleagues traveling to our two offices, but the way we get everyone in the same spot is by organizing a team retreat once a year.

As we’re working on our 11th global get-together we thought it would be nice to share how we go about planning it and how we use tools to stay organized and on track.

The prep

Our retreat usually lasts about a week, with two days dedicated to travel. Starting January we create a detailed plan and budget for our retreat. We also like to build our own app to make sure it fits our specific needs. Once the groundwork is done, we start looking for the perfect time and setting.

Finding the perfect location

We begin every new year by scouting for the perfect location, get in touch with hotels and resorts that we think might be a good fit. In parallel, we run a poll on our intranet checking our team’s availability. Once we save the date and come up with the locations shortlist, we create a new poll and ask our team to vote for their favorite place.

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Transportation arrangements

As soon as we sign the contract with the location we start making the transportation arrangements. We try to have the team travel together as much as possible, but we also accommodate colleagues who travel from other locations or who wish to stay longer or less. Everyone receives their ticket by email and we have a page on our intranet where we put all the travel information. We always try to pick locations that are reasonably easy to get to.

Preparing the sessions

With most of the logistics taken care of, two months prior to the event, we start prepping the sessions and other on-site activities. Anyone at XWiki can use the dedicated Seminar app to propose talks they’d like to organize or participate in.
By now you’ve guessed we are big fans of polls at XWiki. We love using them to make decisions as a team. Whenever we have too many proposals, we launch a vote to pick the most interesting sessions.
Once we have the final schedule, we feature it on our intranet calendar and sync it with Google Calendar. We also export the schedule as a PDF, so people may use it offline should they wish.

Food, trip, and other fun activities

A large extent of our efforts goes towards planning the day trip, party, and team building activities. Much of the time on site though is spent hanging out, playing games and getting to know each other better.
One of the highlights of the retreat is the hackathon. It provides the perfect opportunity for all of us to work together in person. Anyone can suggest topics and the remaining colleagues will join one of the proposed ideas. Hackathon teams work on their projects throughout the day and get to present the results in the afternoon.
In terms of catering, we try to select a buffet menu that is diverse and satisfies varied tastes and dietary restrictions. Once we have collected team feedback and agreed on the final menu with the location, we share it with everyone.

TeamBuildingSeminar.jpg

Goodies

No company retreat is complete without geeky T-Shirts and goodies. We come up with a custom logo for each retreat. Everyone can send a proposal. The most voted logo is then proudly worn on our t-shirts.

SeminarTeam.jpg

Less fun, but equally important: keeping track of finances

All through the event prep, we make sure to regularly update our budget and expenses. To stay organized we upload all contracts, invoices, and tickets to our wiki and use livetables to filter and sort documents.

Feedback

At XWiki, we love giving and receiving feedback. As we aim to make retreats better every year, after each event we run an internal survey to see what went well and what could be improved.

That’s about it! Organizing a team retreat is no easy feat for our HR team, but it’s always worth it. As we’re writing this post, we’re in the last stages of planning our next seminar, which takes place in exactly one month from now. We’ll be starting out in Paris, then traveling to the Loire Valley. Looking forward to another good one and we’ll make sure to come back with updates!

Silvia Macovei, Head of Cloud Business

Feb 08 2019

FOSDEM 2019 and the challenge to finance Open Source

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This article was first published on Ludovic Dubost's blog.

I'm coming back from FOSDEM and it has been again an amazing year. We have been super happy to be able to run a dev room about "Collaborative Information and Content Management Applications" which has been a success  (videos are available here). We also have been able to meet XWiki and CryptPad users and give out stickers (all of them are gone and we need to reorder some for our next events). I've been happy to see that the "privacy" subject becomes more and more understood and important to the users.

While I have not been able to attend of lot of talks, beyond the dev room, I've been able to watch the videos. I use the occasion to give KUDOS to the FOSDEM video team. Their video recording system is amazing and videos are getting online with checks from speakers in a record time.

XWiki & CryptPad Talks

I'll start by recommending my talks, as well as other XWikiers:

The Challenge to finance Free and Open Source

Now what I want most to talk about is the talks about Open Source financing and the state of Open Source, as I believe that Libre and Open Source Software is having some challenges that are from my point of view growing and related to the state of the whole software industry.

I'm very happy that there are more talks that bring the subject of financing on the table, as I believe we have too much ignored the "business" aspects as "Open Source" was taking over the world through mostly the first Open Source Professional companies, Software Services companies and Cloud providers.

However while the open code was spreading everywhere, we have not fully grasped where it was coming from and how it has been financed, and today as we see less VC investment in professional open source companies, as RedHat is being acquired by IBM, and as the leading Cloud Providers are eating the business of almost all the other actors and as most future business are being developed as Cloud Services, we are starting to see a fundamental change. 

Open code continues to grow of course, especially all the infrastructure and libraries which are mostly sponsored by the cloud or SaaS actors. However there are already tentions in this area as is shown by the debates about the SSPL/Commons clause licences. The talk by Michael Cheng (working as a lawyer at Facebook, talking on his own behalf) SSPL, Confluent License, CockroachDB License and the Commons Clause - Is it freedom to choose to be less free?  when into good detail about this. It was a very good talk. Now the one thing I believe it failed to talk about was about the future of infrastructure Open Source code given the change in the market forces. While I agree that changing the licence and creating licences that effectively are trying to recreate the "proprietary software model" is not a good thing for Open Source, on the other side, if it becomes impossible to build a significant infrastructure Open Source solution as a startup, investment in Open Source code will either reduce or be only coming from the big cloud and SaaS actors and we should not expect a high percentage of Open Source investment relative to the business of these cloud providers. In the end a massive challenge for Open Source is that it represents only a small fraction of the global technology investment in the world.

Another set of talks actually discussed about direct financing of libre and open source software. I'm really happy that these talks are getting more and more common and that new solutions are emerging to help finance the developers:

Next Generation Internet

First the Next Generation Internet initiative - Year Zero - Come work for the internet on privacy, trust, search & discovery by Michiel Leenaars from NLNet presented the European Community initiatives to finance the future of the internet and in particular Open Source Code, as 12 Millions Euros are being distributed in small project between 5k and 50k to help developed "Privacy Enhancing Technologies" and "Search & Discovery". We are candidating to these funds for CryptPad, and I'm a big fan of the approach of financing smaller size projects with public money versus the big projects with many partners. I believe France and BPI should take a similar approach to fund Open Source. 

Hackers gotta eat

Kohsuke Kawaguchi from Jenkins/Cloudbees had a great talk Hackers gotta eat, Building a Company Around an Open Source Project, which touched on the business models for Open Source and why running a company alongside a project is useful and what challenges there are. I believe we have similar experiences also at XWiki which we presented last year XWiki: a case study on managing corporate and community interests - 14 years of Open Source in a Small Co. and in 2013 in the talk Combining Open Source ethics with private interests

Something I also clearly believe in, is that by structuring a company it allows to raise the level of quality and offering that the Open Source software has. In our area there are tons of wiki softwares, but only the ones with a structure can really keep up.

Crowdfunding, bounties, sponsorship programs

There has been a few talks about new financing methods:

The second talk presents GitCoin a funding mechanism using blockchain for open source code. The third one shows a great Open Source sponsorship program at INDEED where 120 K$ will be directed towards open source projects based on what is being used and voted by those who contribute. The objective, which I support, is not only to bring money but also to foster participation from inside INDEED to the projects. It is indeed (no pun intended) important to not only fund the projects but also to increase participations from the users.

The first talk gave a very good overview of different ways and new methods, including OpenCollective, GitCoin, Tidelift.

I've stolen a few slides to show them here (I hope Tobie Langel will be ok with it) because it's really important to understand this:

This is what currently OpenCollective/Tidelift have collected/committed for Open Source code:

million.png

and this is how it compared to the Trillion dollar technology industry developer wages:

trillion.png

A very good question was asked at the end of the talk about wether there is a measurement of the direct company investment in Open Source, and nobody was able to answer. It could be estimated as:

  • How much R&D is being sponsored by Open Source companies

You could use the COSSC Index of commercial open source companies (http://OSS.Cash - Google Docs) , which evaluates the revenue of these companies to 16 Billions Euros / year. Discounting a bit this revenue to 10B$, because some of these companies are not necessarily investing the massive amount of their R&D to Open Source software, and considering a 10% R&D investment, this would mean about $1B Open Source R&D.

  • How much R&D is being sponsored by Cloud providers, SaaS companies or traditional companies

If we consider the whole rest of the software industry, in the presentation above, the total wages of the developers in the world has been estimated to around 1 Trillion dollars (this is the big tower in the image).

If we look at this data from GitHub which indicates that Microsoft has 1300 contributors to OSS and Google 900. Compared to the number of engineers at Microsoft (around 60000 according to this page) and Google (37% according to these numbers in 2014 which would mean 30000 based on the current number of employees), this would mean 2% and 3% knowing that of course we don't know much about the full time nature of these contributors. We could easily estimate less than 1% for these top companies, and this would probably be much less for the rest of the tech industry.

If we consider that maybe in the best scenario, 1% of the R&D is being directed towards Open Source contributions, that would mean 10 Billions $. We could also estimate around 0,1%, which would be another $1B Open Source R&D.

  • Volunteer Time

Now the good news for Free and Open Source code is that there is the volunteer time. A study from 2014 based on hours of commit indicates that 50% of commits would be during work time versus non work time. It is not easy to validate this data, and amounts of commits, do not necessarily mean quality code. Freelancers might contribute on Open Source code outside of their paid missions, during the day. Commits might be done at the end of the day with work from the whole day. Now it's undeniable that there is non-paid Open Source contributions and according to this study it is significant. If somebody has another study of the amount of "non-paid" code, this would be very interesting. 

However, if you consider these developers have a job during the day, you can consider that their "proprietary job" is sponsoring their "evening" open source contribution.

When taking this together, if we are taking the lower estimation, it would be $2B which means the truck in the image, and in the best case $10B which would be one level of the whole tower. If we add the volunteer time on top, this could mean 2 trucks or 2 levels. I would estimate that Open Source R&D funding it's more like the truck in the image, and it's currently coming about half from Open Source companies, and half from the rest of the industry contributing. 

What is sure right now, is that not only this is very small compared to the massive amount of energy directed towards proprietary software, but the "crowdfunding" is even more microscopic compared to the "corporate" funding. 

This is why I'm worried, because looking at the evolution, it seems that we risk having less "professional open source" contributions, if VC backed companies are using non-open source licences or backing off open source, or having the "corporate" contribution become highly dependent on a consolidating industry controlling all our tech lives. The biggest risk I see, is less "professional" projects to build "end-user" applications which require a lot of fine tuning to be competitive with the cloud solutions. I don't see the cloud and internet applications provider investing in anything else than infrastructure and libraries and keeping the application and the data for themselves.

The risk, and I believe it has already started, is while we had many open source applications working on our desktop or for enterprises, while we have all the infrastructure being open source, the applications on the cloud will be controlled by proprietary providers who won't share them. We might have a lot of Open Source in the backend, but the key service is itself a proprietary service that we cannot control.

The role of developing Free and Open Source software in the sense of the FSFE.org, will remain to Open Source companies and to the vast majority of volunteers who work with almost no or little funding.

The Cloud is just another Sun

This leads me to the final talk of this FOSDEM article, The Cloud is just another Sun from Kyle Rankin from Purism (great stuff by the way). Check it out entirely because it shows a great parallel between the "Cloud Wars" and the "Unix Wars". I'm reprinting again a few slides (I hope he won't mind).

It talks to me because I do have a feeling of "déjà-vu" when looking at our the big cloud providers are dominating everything. And we all look at it thinking it's Open Source while the key aspects are being made highly proprietary. 

unixwards.png

cloudwars.png

cloudsun.png

whatdowedo.png

What can we do?

Educate

The key question is indeed what we can do about it. We need indeed to educate again on vendor lock-in and particularly of cloud services. In Europe we already do it also because none of these big providers is actually European. As users we need to resist more the big cloud services and we need to advocate again for "Open Cloud" services, which means services that are fully Open Source.

Education is key.

Choose stronger Licences

I believe we need also stronger licences like the AGPL which pushes cloud services to contribute to the Open Source cloud services and does not allow the to fork them as proprietary softwares. I will not advocate for the SSPL licence which is pushing the limit to all the infrastructure. However a legitimate questions is how can the Open Source providers compete with Cloud providers that would contribute only marginally and sell the cloud services. As an Open Source company, the same question is showing up between those that invest in Open Source software versus those that just reuse them for profit without contributing.

However this is not an easy subject, as the stronger licence might also reduce your distribution and turn away some contributors. It is a difficult balance to find in the same way that the balance between free distribution and paying one is a difficult one.

At XWiki we have chosen to have paying modules in our app-store which are fully Open Source, but not available through install for free in the app store. If you want to use them for "free", you will need to build them yourself and run you own app-store.

Value Open Source, not the Zero price

We all confuse Open Source and Free. By doing this we push individuals or companies that try to find a balance towards "Open-Core". In the open hardware world, this is less a problem as people are used to pay for a physical object, but in the software world, we want all for free. By providing more cloud services that are "Open Cloud" we can also have a revenue stream for the cloud service and still keep the software open.

For CryptPad, this is what we are doing and many "privacy" oriented software providers are doing it this way, because it makes sense to show the code when you promise security. Now there will be a challenge to see how these services can interconnect or wether they will start competing with each other.

Finance what is not financed

We need to continue to find ways to financed what is currently not financed. We can advocate to the public funding (European for example) to finance as Open Source what is missing. This is happening with the NGI Funds for example, and us as individuals we can help more end-user projects emerge. I will make here a shameless plug for the OpenCollective of CryptPad.fr which needs your help to provide a privacy centric collaboration platform.

Kudos to the FOSDEM organizers

  • 788 talks
  • 408 hours of content
  • 600 speakers
  • 65 stands

I have to say I'm particularly impressed by the video system and the ability to validate the video of a talk and publish it in record time.

May 29 2017

3 common issues with intranet data import and how to avoid them

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Designed by Freepik

Many managers approach intranet migration with the feeling that all they need to do is move all their content onto the new system and everything will work seamlessly. Obviously, most of the time this is not the case. Not only can this approach lead to user experience problems, but it also denies you the opportunity to manage and refine your content database.

Take the time to read about the following three mistakes that most people make when migrating data to their intranet so you can avoid them in your organization.

1. Omitting a content audit beforehand

The mistake of thinking that all content on their current system is equally valuable is the most common amongst companies migrating to an intranet. This leads them to the conclusion that they should migrate all their content over onto the new system. However, as we found out during our 14 years of experience, migrating all your content is very inefficient.
A better approach is to perform a content audit to find out what content you have on your current system, and out of that what you really need.

Your content audit should answer the following questions:

  • How much content do you have?
  • How old is your content?
  • What’s the metadata of your content?
  • How valuable is your content?

We provide help with any migration project from an existing solution to XWiki, by taking over your existing data. As part of our data recovery projects, we implement the following methodology, meant to smooth the transition for you:

OurMethodoEN.png

 2. Forgetting to install the structure to the new intranet

Most organizations upgrade to a new intranet because they want to reap the benefits of a new or better platform. However, moving to a new platform can throw up some unexpected problems in the way your intranet works. A good structured intranet identifies important differences between the old and new platforms, so you can predict problems that might occur after migration and address them now.

This strategy should let you know which data you need to migrate, what you should archive, and what you can delete. All companies should have a content governance strategy in place anyway, but if you don’t currently have one, an intranet migration is a good opportunity to develop one.

For example, your content might end up being stored in surprising places on your new intranet, which could make it difficult for your users to access it as part of their daily activities. Use your governance and structure solutions to predict issues like this and address them before they become a problem for your users.

 3. Doing the migration by themselves

To capitalize all the information and knowledge of your business, it is important that the new solution is able to handle this transition. This is why we offer to assist you with the process. To avoid losing data and to save time, we have developed this import to be fully automated and secure.

These are the top benefits of performing a data import process with XWiki:

  • Each document becomes a webpage;
  • Documents are accessible from any web browser;
  • Edit and View interfaces on the same page (no back office);
  • Decrease or disappearance of information silos;
  • Addition of various features to collaborate around the content: comments and annotations;
  • Our technology allows you to perform massive imports of documents in your wiki, reducing the risk of losing data to almost none.

 

Want to know more? Drop us a line at sales@xwiki.com or try our solution, for free, to convince yourself. No strings attached.

Alina Luchian
Content Marketing Specialist @XWiki

May 10 2017

What successful companies have in common

Forbes 500 companies. We’ve all wondered what it gets to be one of them. Researches show that the answer is simple, but the implementation is the tricky part. The way we see it, it goes beyond numerical attributes such as brand value, market share or power of investment.

It’s in the way you think

Let’s start with the beginning. At their core, any self-sustained business, regardless of the industry, has a competent management team, a well-structured organizational chart and a product or solution meeting the needs of an audience.

Easy so far, right?

Well, that was the answer. Understanding how these common attributes differ when comparing an average company to a successful one lays in the way they are approached in the organization. Now’s the tricky part.

So, you ask yourself, what it takes for a company to break the chain of average events and truly be a disruptive force on the market?

Here, at XWiki, we have studied how these things happen and we have concluded that all successful companies have in common the following characteristics:

  • They all communicate efficiently both internally and with their clients
  • The management team focuses on being leaders and not simply bosses
  • They share knowledge within the company both ways

They all communicate efficiently both internally and with their clients

Have you ever wondered how sometimes you are simply not informed in due time about a last-minute meeting or a report has been lost in the long thread of emails?

This is where successful companies get an advantage. They use internal collaborative platforms enabling anyone in the organization to easily get access to any information.

Think about the way global offices work. The difference between time meridians can sometimes pass the 8 hour work day so, basically, when some get to meet their friends for a few drinks, on the other side of the world, the others share stories about last night’s dinner over a cup of coffee.

Getting back to a local environment, you still need to have a global approach on ensuring transparent, up-to-date and easy to access information as your employees will be empowered to do their jobs efficiently. Eventually, your customers will get better customer service, which leads us to the way successful companies approach their audiences.

The management team focuses on being leaders and not simply bosses

An authoritarian approach over managing your employees and especially the millennials, is a sure way to reach a high employee turnover. You can change that by recruiting the right talent from the beginning.

It all starts at the interview stage. Here, at XWiki, we are looking for people who take accountability for their actions, are passionate about their area of expertise and actively take part in collaborative projects.

Image boss vs leader

Source: wittyfeed.com / arving.lakhani2

Ok, now you must be thinking. “How these guys know what to do, when there is nobody there to give orders?”. Well, we only hire people who don’t need orders to make great things happen. XWiki has a culture of empowerment which focuses on fairness, leadership and collaboration. This is why we have only leaders and not a single boss.


They share knowledge within the company both ways

Who knows better what the company is up against on a daily basis if not you employees. They know what resources, processes and steps are needed for a smooth task completions.

Use their expertise as it might impress you, but remember to share knowledge top-down too. Your employees need to be on the same page with the management to act as an entity and not as separate departments always chasing latest updates.

Conclusion

In conclusion we can say that there is no magic formula for becoming a successful company over night. Changing your mindset and allowing time for things to develop naturally is the first step to a Forbes 500 listing.

George Nikolic
Marketing Team Leader @XWiki