Information Architecture (IA) has been one of my core skills for years and most recently observing what happens to SharePoint and its usability factor when no true IA exists is painful to watch.

Most IT organizations lack content strategy, IA, library science and usability skills sets. When I ask for an IA a site map is presented with nothing else.  Also lacking is governance specific to IA, managing to a plan, user training, audits, reporting, enforcement through regionalized mentors/admins. As a result of not having a detailed IA and governance to direct its upkeep over time, SharePoint content and navigation elements become problematic (Lack truly valuable content and associated tagging – doesn’t map to job related tasks and outcomes) cumbersome (navigation isn’t intuitive and consistent) tools to navigate and as a result turn users off.

Organizations should step back and ask very specific questions about users and how they use applications and data to carry out job functions. For example:

  • What information does the business collect? How is it used? How much of it is stored and where? Why is it kept?
  • What are all the different types of data and how are they classified? Do data owners exist for each data type or aggregate data collections?
  • How is data collected? Why?
  • How is data shared? Why?
  • What are the business information availability requirements? Why?
  • What confidentiality, integrity, and availability requirements apply?
  • What is the legal environment surrounding the organization’s industry and the data it uses?

Organizations such as Information Architecture Institute can help, they provide some excellent reading and tools that people interested in IA can leverage. For those looking for more reading here is a list of excellent books:

Last but not least, Jakobs site and book its full of information as well.