Managing documentation and handbooks has become one of the most common uses for wikis in companies. But how does such a platform actually look? Well, let us show you the business wiki “transpedia” from TenneT TSO GmbH.
TenneT TSO GmbH is a German subsidiary of the Dutch electricity supplier TenneT operating an ultra high voltage network (220kV and 380kV) with a total length of about 10,700 kilometres. This gives them coverage of 40 percent (140,000km²) of Germany so they indirectly supply about 20 million people with electricity. TenneT constructs and operates infrastructure for transmitting electrical energy both on land and at sea. In order to construct and maintain these far-reaching networks, they need to put guidelines in place. TenneT has been using a Hallo Welt! wiki since 2009, to maintain their technical regulations and keep them up to date. The system was upgraded to the newest BlueSpice version in 2014.
Essentially, it involves the handbooks Building and Construction (BuE), and Network Management and Working in the Network (NAN). These contain the internal regulations concerning the construction and operation of the technical equipment and, since 2010, have been displayed in “transpedia”.
Why was the decision made to manage the handbooks with a wiki?
Business was partitioned into two divisions: high voltage networks and ultra high voltage networks. This made it necessary to reorganise the online handbooks available on the internet at that time. This means that some thematic blocks were no longer needed, and other information needed to be reworked and made available in a similar way to what had existed before. The wiki was used to update the technical regulations as quickly as possible without engaging external services or initiating complex working processes. The approval of changes and additions was decentralised, being assigned to those responsible for the area. The wiki also offered the chance to improve knowledge management in general with the addition of a glossary.
What subjects does the wiki deal with?
The wiki has two main focuses: firstly it contains the technical regulations, and secondly it serves as a company-wide reference work.
The operating manuals contain instructions on how to handle the technical equipment, software etc.. The handbooks provide important information about servicing, construction, renewing, network management, working in the network, occupational health and safety and environmental protection. These technical regulations are regularly updated by the staff and the approved versions are binding.
The wiki’s glossary serves as a central registry and encyclopaedia. The contents which belong there can be found in the main namespace. The information in these articles is non-binding.
How can they be sure of quality and how is it made clear which content is binding?
The rights structure has been kept flat so that the wiki is equally open to all. There is, however, a difference between authors and editors. The editors have the right to approve handbook articles, after reviewing them. This makes this version of the article binding. This approval process ensures the validity of the data. To allow the article to be continually worked on, every user has, however, the possibility to continue to edit the article as what is known as a “draft”. However, the last approved version is shown in the read-mode. The reader can see the approval status directly in the article. This means that checks can be done “on the fly”, without having to initiate complex processes. To verify the article, it only remains to turn to the relevant committees or supervisor. Along with this, articles in the handbook have a responsible editor, so there is an obvious point of contact. Editors get, for example, their authority for approval in this way.
Everyday work in Transpedia
Internal users are logged on using LDAP / single sign on, which is currently used by many systems to save time searching for passwords. Authors are helped by being able to use page templates when creating articles. These point to individual subareas in the handbook and to the assignment of namespaces and categories.
There is a hierarchical navigation system by chapter in the handbooks. This enables the contents to be structured in the same way as in other systems but also speeds up the finding of specific information. This gives the wiki the handbook feel, promoting the acceptance of the system and supporting well-known search strategies.
The display of necessary mathematical formulae is realised by an interface with the typesetting program LaTeX. There is also a connection to a document management system (DMS). This is because the most up to date versions of the technical drawings are saved in this system. The wiki pulls the most up to date version from the DMS every night, and the corresponding contents in the wiki are kept up to date with this synchronisation. The editor is informed and can approve this version for the wiki. After being approved, this version is then part of the contents of the handbook.
During the last upgrade, MySites from Sharepoint was connected to the wiki, so readers are able to see more about the authors of a wiki article, without the need to duplicate information.
Exporting from handbooks
Many members of staff and external workers need parts of the handbook as a PDF over and over again. The sections can be collected according to need and exported. The sections are chosen, and the choice is exported as a PDF brochure including attachments, notes and approval.
Conclusion and lessons learned
As far as every-day work is concerned, the transpedia users are often tripped up by creating and formatting texts because up until now they have usually used Word for such purposes. A visual editor is, however, browser based, and one needs to be aware of the fact that a WYSIWYG editor is not Word. It is therefore advisable to manage expectations to that effect.
Instead of parallel, cyclic changes there are dynamic changes which are also documented. Due to the responsibility of various technical editors, it is quicker to get approval, saving everyone time. Assigning of editors to articles and the necessity for approval of changes was easy to communicate, however the separate approval of files was often overlooked.
Editing of the articles and establishing the system at TenneT needs system maintenance. This challenge must be further channelled (when, how, who), particularly for articles and files, which is particularly apparent when there is staff change over. The plethora of articles has been growing for four years, this and the greater necessity for keeping the articles and handbooks up to date requires ever increasing maintenance work.
The system construction needed almost one and a half years at the start which meant comprehensive development work for TenneT. The upgrade, which contained further customisation and extension of the system, took another half year.
“That is really nice is that we can adapt the system – you don’t have to just take it as it is. In particular, small adaptations are done quickly and reliably by Hallo Welt!. The cooperation is uncomplicated, smooth and hitch free.”
(Michael Nawratil, Asset Management, TenneT TSO GmbH)