While working at a company this past summer, the impact of multiple cultures on developing an Information Architecture has become a real eye opener. I’ve been doing this sort of work for several years. The attendees came from diverse backgrounds and several different companies where they had worked a considerable amount of time.

For example, in one of the design workshops, eight (8) people attended, mainly in their 40s and had all come from other companies. Each had their own view of how data should be classified, tagged, marked and which tools to use. A great brainstorming session but to many people to be constructive.

Another example is the Corporate Records management program that had been underway for several years but had nothing substantial to show for it. Apparently the culture is one of not pushing or mandating acceptance so nothing gets done.

In cases such as these, I’ve found the best course of action is to help build alignment through:

  • Assembling a team of SMEs – build a team comprised of influential leads from the various business units/departments. These persons will have an active role in the design process. They will help you build alignment through the organization.
  • Joint design exercises – Do I need to say more?
  • Education and communciation – explaining why a design is required, communicating this up and down the food chain and working them through the process so they get-it is key to your success. Many projects I’ve worked on have benefited from this.
  • Team building exercises – workshops for defining requirement and executing test plans help us to build a sense of understanding as to why the design process was important. For example, we ran several document classification tests (“Where would you classify the document…..”). We also ran “Can you find the document….” tests. I also tried to have informal catch up discussions over coffee to help create a more relaxed environment.
  • Leveraging existing work – by taking this route you can instantly win people over but the down side is its usually created by a novice. The important point is that you get a sense of their perspective which is highly valuable.

This approach will probably get you 80% of the way there – there will still be gaps but at least you have a solution for the masses.