A Funny IA Thing Happened on the Way to Consensus…

I’ve wondered for a long time why intranets and information / knowledge management solutions are always built from the ground up as ‘start from scratch’ projects. After all, if you stand back and look at organisations, they each have similar high-level capabilities. Each has operations, corporate services, marketing, service and product development, and finance & procurement functions.

I’ve long held the view that ‘process is king’. As an Information Management professional, I believe all content is produced by business processes intended for the support or consumption by other processes. Given that, I also believe information architecture should be process-centric.

I recently ran a workshop called Process-centric Information Architecture and Governance (which can be seen on SlideShare here). In the workshop, after taking participants through the a high level, process-centric information architecture, I asked them to do a group exercise. The exercise involved them developing a high level capability model which could be used as the basis of an information architecture for their organisations.

Each of the groups had participants from at least three organisations. Organisations ranged across government and the private sector, mainly large, with participants primarily being Information Managers.

After 15 minutes, I asked a representative from each group to stand up and explain their model, after which I asked a couple of questions:

  • Did each group member believe their model could be used as the basis for a capability-based portal for their intranet?
  • Of the three models (three groups), which did they feel was the best for their organisation?

Each group member believed strongly:

  • Their model could be used
  • Their model was the best of the three

The take-aways from the exercise are:

  • High level information architecture CAN be applicable across organisations. (If there are no widely accepted models used today, this doesn’t mean it won’t come about tomorrow.)
  • Collaborative, inclusive decision making results in strong and committed ownership, and a shared vision. This is why it’s important to build high-level models in consultation with your key stakeholders, and bring them along on the journey

On a final note for this blog article, I’d like to say how impressed I was with the participants in my workshop. They listened with an open mind, thought about the challenges I presented them with, and each contributed well. In this game there are no answers or models which are ‘rightest’. The key thing of importance is that you have a thought through model you can explain to others.



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