Does your organization struggle to find digital or physical content? Do you have difficulty applying and enforcing organizational information governance or records management policies? Are your employees having trouble knowing where to create content and what metadata values to use? Is intranet site sprawl and data ROT (Redundant, Outdated, Trivial) an issue for your company? These common problems are challenges that most organizations encounter. Constructing a solid information architecture foundation and adhering to its best practices can help mitigate these imposing issues disrupting your business’ workflows.
What is Information Architecture?
Information architecture is the art and science of organizing and classifying things effectively. Gimmal defines this as the framework that determines content containers, metadata, and taxonomy, enabling the effective implementation of content governance rules and support for the end-user by improving the experience of finding and using information. These principles apply to interconnected information environments and distinct document management and collaboration platforms.
The Pillars of Information Architecture
Information architecture helps you organize all the important information within your company so you can easily store, find, use, and control that information. Foundation, usability, and manageability are the three pillars of good information architecture. When utilized, these pillars ensure that information can be easily extracted for use.
The three pillars of information architecture:
- Foundation – information architecture plays an essential role at the core of the system in helping determine how content will be organized for storage.
- Usage – the system should flow properly, be intuitive, and make sense to the end-users primarily working with the content. Users need to know their location in the system, where to create content, and how to find that information again.
- Management – corporate executives and managers will rely on the detailed reporting they can get from the system and auditing processes that ensure overall compliance and governance goals.
In combination, a solid foundation, customizing processes around usage, and compliant management create a solid information architecture. If one pillar is lacking or nonexistent, the gaps created decrease the architecture’s integrity, potentially placing your company at risk. By utilizing building blocks within each pillar, you create a more stable and specified structure that meets your company’s specific needs.
The Building Blocks of Information Architecture
When designing the information architecture for a system, it is vital to consider the following primary building blocks: content containers, metadata, and taxonomy.
The primary building blocks:
- Foundation – help define the content repository container structure. For example, Microsoft SharePoint specific containers include Folders, Document Libraries and Lists, Sites, and Site Collections. Some containers topologies are to separate content, usually based on distinct work or business processes. This allows the user to apply things like different security on groups of content or apply different retention settings depending on the container. Properly implemented navigation and search delivers a consistent user experience no matter where the end-user is currently located within the hierarchy.
- Usage – is data that describes other data. A common example is that metadata is the label on the can of soup that tells you what is inside. It explains everything clearly with terms and words that most users will be familiar with. When defining metadata, it is important to determine what is necessary. Will this metadata attribute help users find what they’re looking for easier? Does this help the content creator? Is this metadata for an important process, such as records management classification and retention? Metadata is one of the most critical components of information architecture and is a direct link to taxonomy.
- Management – the enterprise metadata model. Taxonomy is the tree used to classify all the different kinds of content within an organization. Taxonomy uses the metadata and organizes it into a logical model. We can use metadata for building taxonomies to provide and maintain a common language across the system so that each group within an organization who may create, work with, or reference content can find what they’re looking for.
Achieve Great Information Architecture
Properly utilizing and implementing these components help organizations store, find, use, and control their information easier. Once the information architecture is defined and in place – it is important to surround that framework with governance and records management policies. Gimmal consultants are subject matter experts in information architecture and provide products that directly support this:
- Drop Zones – assist with governance issues by making it easier for users to upload and tag metadata to net-new content in SharePoint Online.
- Gimmal Records – allows organizations to stay in compliance by applying appropriate classification and retention policies.
Robust information architecture is the infrastructure and is key to supporting, applying, and maintaining overall governance.
To learn more about how to implement a successful information architecture within your organization, watch this free on-demand webinar.