The key to information management is classification. Many organizations focus on the Information Design elements – a corporate taxonomy (a function or subject based classification system), security classification and stewardship. While those elements are a good starting point, information classification needs to go much further to provide an organization with a robust, flexible and faceted framework that supports improved operational efficiencies and a dynamic foundation for business intelligence practices. This framework is an Information Architecture.
According to the Institute Architecture Institute the definition for information architecture is:
in•for•ma•tion ar•chi•tec•ture n.
1. The combination of organization, labeling, and navigation schemes within an information
2. The structural design of an information space to facilitate task completion and intuitive
access to content.
3. The art and science of structuring and classifying web sites and intranets to help
people find and manage information.
4. An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of
design and architecture to the digital landscape.
Information Architecture is often associated with web sites, as definition 3 points out, however Information Architecture, in my opinion, is something that can and should be applied at the enterprise level. The elements of an information architecture may vary between organizations, however the key to an enterprise information architecture is a faceted approach. A faceted approach refers to an architecture that supports non-hierarchical links between information descriptors. These links enable the information to be retrieved through any of the descriptors, or through combinations of descriptors. From a users point of view, a faceted approach to classifying information supports the “exploratory”, “don’t know what you need to know” and “re-finding” approaches to search as explained in Four Modes of Seeking Information. (Think Epicurious.com). From a web teams’ perspective the faceted elements often become the meta data fields for the site.
From an IM person’s perspective, a faceted approach supports a robust method for enterprise information retrieval and management. For example, through a faceted approach, it is possible to identify information holdings based on security level, the media in which it is stored, the directorate responsible for the information, the activity or subject in which it has been classified, it’s retention period, it’s storage location, by its vital information status for business continuity purposes, by client, etc. In an enterprise architecture these facets should support and reflect the objectives of the organization.
While information architectures are regularly created for data warehouses, often called master data plans, and for websites, there is a need for an enterprise information architecture to pull all these architectures together and ensure a consistency in terminology and structure that will be the foundation for enterprise federated search and a compliant and intelligent organization.