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Information Architecture: What’s In It For My Organization?

Published July 26 2015
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Information architecture (IA) is often undervalued. Yet, it’s about time to harness the power of IA as an agility enabler against the competition and economic and social challenges.

IA, which is an integral part of enterprise architecture, is the structuring of information entities inherent to the organization’s business and of their interrelations, as well as principles and guidelines governing their creation and evolution in time. We use the word “structuring” rather than “structure” to emphasize the dynamic and continuous nature of IA as a capacity of the organization.

IA provides an overall and shared picture of the information which gets created and used as the organization carries on its business. It helps define the target and the roadmap for transformations induced by the organization’s development strategy. IA contributes in a concrete, hands-on way to assure the coherence of all projects and systems, current and planned, during transformations.

Since information is a dimension which stretches throughout both business and IT of a given organization, IA strengthens the synergy of business processes, functions and IT tools, and enhances the strategic alignment of the organization’s information system. IA brings together business and IT people and fosters their dialogue and cooperation regarding the use and exchange of data. IA makes it possible to provide actors and decision makers with good quality information which they require to function, be it at the operations’, analysis or governance level.

Information materialises and can be conveyed by means of data. When a business process is executed in the organization, it is the data which are generated or modified by this process that inform us about the very fact of the processes’ execution and about its outcome. Thus, knowing the organization’s data and interrelations thereof are essential in order to grasp and manage the functioning of the organization as a whole to be able to, among other things, design services in the service-oriented architecture or cloud computing. Data knowledge, which is the core of IA, enables IT projects’ impact and gap analysis at a very early stage of such projects, hence helps reduce the cost of analysis, programming and deployment.

IA can be put into practice through data modeling, which is a method of grasping the perceived reality as a whole and express this understanding according to an adopted formalism. Data modeling is also a technique that makes it possible to document, bring together and share knowledge pertaining to the organization’s data.

IA is often undervalued by organizations that focus on quick short-term gains. Such organizations see IA as a useless cost center. In the long run, such organizations run a risk of losing agility and permanently struggling with rigid, everlasting and ever costlier IT and business silos that are not aligned to any global strategy. It’s about time to harness the power of IA as an agility enabler against the competition and economic and social challenges.