Who Owns Information Architecture? All Of Us.

Fellow analyst Gene Leganza wrote an excellent overview of Information Architecture, available for free via this link: http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/topic_overview_information_architecture/q/id/55951/t/2

Gene briefly explores the misunderstanding between “Enterprise IA” and “User Experience IA.” This tension was well characterized by Peter Morville almost 10 years ago (See “Big Architect, Little Architect.” Personally I think it’s clear that content is always in motion, and unsupported efforts to dominate and control it are doomed.  People are a critical element of a successful IA project, since those who create and use information are in the best position to judge and improve its quality. Many hands make light work, as the saying goes.

For example, if you want a rich interactive search results page, you need to add some structure to your content. This can happen anytime from before the content is created (using pre-defined templates) to when it is presented to a user on the search results page. Content is different than data, a theme Rob Karel and I explored in our research on Data and Content Classification. For this reason, IA is both a “Back end” and a “Front end” initiative.

When clients can’t find information no matter how expensive their search engine, they should investigate how their approach to information governance and metadata management might contribute to the problem. Our research indicates that improved collaboration and search are the primary drivers for a metadata management initiative.

I encourage you to read the January 22 report called "Enterprise Architecture Must Lead Enterprise Metadata Management Initiatives." At last, Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) professionals have a partner in defining a metadata strategy: the Enterprise Architect. I think of the EA as the big brother showing up at a schoolyard fight just in time. IKM pros need them for their vision, their clout and their sign-off powers. But EAs need IKM pros too. Information and Knowledge Management professionals work in the intersection between Business and IT. We facilitate dialogue between business SMEs and IT SMEs. If Enterprise Architects are the “city planners,” the IKM pros are the “community organizers.”

When appropriate, IKM pros need to adopt the EA language of metadata, structure, alignment, integration, and framework, instead of taxonomy, content types, vocabularies and navigation. But we should never lose our user-centered orientation as we collaborate across the enterprise.

My colleague Stephen Powers and I think the Information and Knowledge Management professional plays a key role in IA projects. To that end, we are researching the responsibilities of the Content Architect in the enterprise. If you spend your day defining, enriching and governing content, please add a comment here and we will follow up to interview you and your organizational model. All feedback is welcome as we explore how IA contributes to Smart Computing and Knowledge Management.

Comments

re: Who Owns Information Architecture? All Of Us.

Do not forget the past masters of information architecture: librarians. They work not only in public libraries but also run business libraries (called special libraries) and their work increasingly calls for knowledge of metadata governance as well as taxonomy, classification, and the usage of a predetermined labeling system (Dewey Decimal/Library of Congress, other). More information is being made available in database and other electronic/digital formats as well as the hardcopy format that still dominates some types of information.

re: Who Owns Information Architecture? All Of Us.

Interesting and informative post, Leslie.

Apart from technical aspect of content in Enterprise Architecture and its relation to SOA (Service Oriented Architecture)I have been observing patterns in the area of rapidly growing user generated content (UGC)and their implication in extended enterprise to public domains.

I'd like to know whether there is any research on this by Forrester. We have just submitted a paper on UGC with a literature review to a knowledge management journal and would like to substantiate our findings with synergetic industry solutions.

re: Who Owns Information Architecture? All Of Us.

I will soon be partnering with our EA group and content managers for our main customer-facing group to help define the processes for what could become the enterprise information system/repository. As a fledging KM professional with a history of document and content management, I'm expected to weigh in with both "big architect and little architect" ideas and guidance.