Information Architecture: The Missing Secret Sauce

March 31, 2017

When companies adopt SharePoint, technical architecture usually is the primary focus. Technical architecture includes the logistics of setting up SharePoint, such as building reliable server farms, ensuring the network is secure, and purchasing and installing the software licenses. These are certainly important pieces of the puzzle, but even if they are all implemented perfectly, SharePoint can still fail.

 

What’s often missing is the Information Architecture (IA), a collection of strategies, methods, and technologies used to create, capture, store, deliver, manage and preserve enterprise data. These pieces form the structure for organizing information and user adoption. The chart below contrasts the key elements of Technical Architecture and Information Architecture.

Information Architecture is critical to SharePoint’s success. SharePoint problems are rarely technology related. Without the proper time and effort dedicated to IA, SharePoint will fail to deliver its full potential to streamline your business and provide a return on investment.
 

Information Architecture Builds on Business Drivers

IA provides a repeatable methodology for identifying the business drivers, goals and objectives, resources, processes, and conditions that ensure a value driven solution. Information Architecture strategies use these key concepts as a starting point for planning a company’s SharePoint implementation. With a well-designed IA, SharePoint can provide an organization competitive advantage by accelerating key processes and meeting business objectives.

 

“One of the most critical concepts is that it takes SharePoint expertise”, said Ruth DeLost-Wylie, CIO of People’s Natural Gas. “You must have resources with both knowledge of SharePoint operation and the ability to evaluate the needs of the company and its individual departments to get the real value. “

 

For example, a company’s business drivers may involve speeding up any processes related to delivering products or services to customers. An IA-driven strategy first identifies how SharePoint could streamline those processes, then works to design the site around those improvements. The resulting site is equipped to increase customer satisfaction from day one.

 

Information Architecture Uses Proven Methodologies

One important part of the methodology is the involvement of subject matter experts (SMEs) throughout the process. SMEs can identify their business goals, objectives and challenges, which are often lost when SharePoint sites are built without IA support.

 

Keeping SMEs closely involved during implementation consistently provides success. SMEs provide insight into the required information and functionality. The information architects, know how best to organize the information, tag it and leverage the features of the technology. SMEs also become champions for promoting use of SharePoint within their organization.

 

Information Architecture Identifies the Tools and Features Required
For every business need, a tool or feature must be included and prepared for the job at hand. Information architects determine which tools to use based on those business needs. IT staff can maintain these pillars once they are in place, but without SharePoint experience, they may not know what tools they need, or how to set them up.

 

For example, if dashboards are required to aggregate live data from multiple sources for quick readouts, a combination of SharePoint lists and Microsoft Power BI reports may be the solution. With proper configuration, SharePoint and its Office 365 companions can accomplish just about anything. The hard part is knowing how they work, and designing a SharePoint strategy around their capabilities and limitations.

 

Need an Information Architect? We’re Here to Help
Over and over, we’ve seen information architecture missing from our client’s SharePoint strategies. We see countless failures setting up an optimal implementation, despite best intentions. To build a site that can provide true ROI, you need to apply real SharePoint experience, proven methods, and a firm focus on business drivers.

 

A strong information architecture ensures that SharePoint solves problems rather than creating them. i-Squared has the experience to help you develop a strong information architecture that ensures SharePoint perfectly fits your business’s needs.

 

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