Information architecture design philosophy

General Design for Information Architectures Relating to Intranet and Knowledge Management Systems

There are many possible organisation structures and information architectures for an Intranet or knowledge management system. The easiest to envisage and explain is based on an organisation’s structure, and key processes within each organisation unit.

However organisation structures change. In some cases frequently, and reorganisations tend to render large slabs of content out of date or incorrectly organised.

A more valuable approach is to structure and organise content around key processes and roles within the organisation, and the information people need to work effectively with those processes. The goals and responsibility briefs of people are geared towards effective delivery of an organisations products and services – all of which is process related.

In developing an information architecture and knowledge management solutions, an organisation should consider the 9 P’s of knowledge management[1]:

  • Philosophies (strategic alignment with organisational goals)
  • Presentation and branding (style)
  • Products
  • Processes
  • People and organisation
  • Performance measurement and reporting
  • Participants (consumers, providers, administrators)
  • Patrons (senior executive committee, sponsors, and content owners)
  • Protection (information security, veracity, and intellectual property)

Expanding on these points:

Philosophy and Presentation

  • Has visible alignment with organisational objectives
  • Has clear, detailed and (generally) measurable objectives
  • Describes a clear philosophy and vision about the approach towards clients, products and processes
  • Is linked to organisational culture
  • It’s important that you consciously draw the bounds to limit scope to what can realistically be delivered in up to 90 day blocks…
  • …whilst providing a platform and architecture which supports future growth and evolution

Products, Process, and Performance

  • Products (and services) are what you sell and earn you money[2]
    • The usual marketing ‘P’s and ‘C’s always apply[3]
    • Your online channel must dovetail into programs for your other channels
  • But process is King
    • Every part of service or product delivery is part of some business process
    • Every product has a lifecycle…which is a managed via product lifecycle processes
    • Each client engagement is part of a broader process
    • Processes are collections of events
    • Your content should be process and event oriented
    • Consider what events trigger change – it’s change which invalidates content. not time, although it’s much easier to schedule time based content reviews as opposed to building an event model to identify and trigger content review and update
    • It should model customer engagement and conversations
  • Part of the skill in developing process-centric content is structuring it in such as way as to promote targeted performance outcomes – this means understanding relevant performance measures for aspects such as service delivery and quality

People and Patrons

  • Processes must be people and outcome oriented
  • People who are engaged are more likely to be satisfied
  • People who are engaged and satisfied become patrons and sponsors (i.e. champions)
  • Keys to engagement with people are:
    • Conversations should always be two-way
    • Find where to put your clients and people in the driver’s seat as decision makers – this devolves effort and reduces bottlenecks
    • Every transaction yields an opportunity to gather feedback
    • Feedback is a key component of improvement and innovation
  • People engage with processes by virtue of:
    • Skills
    • Knowledge
    • Their role (and associated responsibilities)

3 Responses to “Information architecture design philosophy”

  1. Andrew Wright Says:

    Good article Simon. I agree %100 that content should be structured by process and event (or ‘task’?) but I also think that with todays CMSs there is no reason why you cannot provide more than one navigation path to the same information – it doesn’t have to be a choice between ‘Organizationally structured’ or ‘Process stuctured’ or some other way.

    For example, lets say you have bunch of forms – if you categorise and tag these forms by Who owns the form, who uses the form, what process the form relates to and when the form is completed – you will be able to create different navigation paths to the forms based on all these properties. (ie. I want to see all forms owned by HR, forms relevant to my role, all forms related to the recruiting process, all forms that are completed at the end of the month). The end user can then choose how they would like to navigate to the form.

    The following blog – Card Sorting Doesn’t Cut the Custard – gives a good explanation of this approach.


  2. Gabriele Says:

    Hi Simon,
    Great paper. I would only add two things. I think that it is important to use processes based on consumer’s mental models rather than organisational processes. This can be illustrated by looking at e-commerce site which usually structure their sales channel based on their internal sales processes. The issue is that consumers usually have different ‘buying process mental models’ from those of the organisational ‘sales process model’. This is why so many consumers find it difficult to find/interact/purchase our services and products. Our aim is for consumers to find and use our services/products thus ‘their’ model should take precedent.
    I also believe that governance models are highly important. You can implement great IA, but if we don’t have clear and effective governance models around it, it will quickly go ‘out of shape’.

    Kind regards


  3. IntranetLounge Says:

    Information architecture design philosophy – Simonrawson’s Blog…

    This article has been submitted, Thank You – Trackback from IntranetLounge…


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