In this article we’ll cover what an Information Architecture (IA) is, as well as the things that Records and Information Managers / Governors will need to consider when designing an Information Architecture (IA) for their company or organisation.

For further training on Information Architecture (IA), see our Microsoft 365 Information Architecture (IA) training course. Follow these links for the course in US, UK, or ANZ time zones.

Just imagine… You’ve decided you want to build yourself a brand-new house… where do you start? Chances are, you’re not an architect yourself, so you might want to consult with an architect to design the house, so you’ll have peace of mind that it’s structurally viable.

You’ll decide things together with your architect such as what the flow of the hallway should be, what requirements there need to be for the different rooms, and you’ll ask yourself… do I really need 10 reclining seats for my 200-inch inbuilt cinema screen with mood lighting and popcorn machine?

Don’t blame me for getting carried away with this fantasy, my point is that you’ll more than likely sit down with an expert and design how the house should be used and what its purpose is.

Information repositories are really no different to this, in that they need a design and a plan that suits the requirements of the different workspaces. So, in a similar way to having a blueprint for the build of a house, you can design an Information Architecture (AI) for the structure of your information.

An Information Architecture (IA) is extremely important for the structure of information (files and data) so that it is easy to access, search, and discover by users, and conforms to the governance and information management strategies required by your organisation.

What is Information Architecture (AI)?

An Information Architecture (IA) is a way of organising your organisation’s information so that users can find and access what they need in a timely fashion. This saves users time, the company money, and you, your own sanity.

The main things to consider when creating an effective Information Architecture (IA). 

  • Investigation – This is to discover user needs, current content, and organisational context. 
  • Analysis – This is to understand classifications, relationships, user requirements and behaviours.
  • Design – This uses metadata, structural hierarchies and relationships to explain and organise information.
  • Implementation – It’s important to implement the Information Architecture (IA) within the target information environment. It’s no good to you just as a document!
  • Test and refine – This is to ensure that the Information Architecture (IA) meets organisation and user requirements.
  • Governance – This ensures that it remains current, compliant, and comprehensive. 

Developing an Information Architecture (IA) is making a conscious decision to design an information environment. 

Designing is more than just developing a plan or blueprint. Good design is based on good information, and a very good understanding of user needs and behaviours. 

It is informed and improved through testing, feedback and refinement and should be well governed as it gets used. 

In the dynamic arena of information environments, good design can embrace and respond to these changes. 

Image source: Leadership Through Data – Information architecture: The Bigger Picture

Developing an Information Architecture (IA) is not a standalone activity, but it should be considered in the wider context of your information strategy, information governance, and you always need to think about how it will be implemented. 

Is Information Architecture (IA) the same as Records and Information Management? 

Information Architecture (IA) is not the same as records and information management, but the two need to be very closely aligned and often work to the same goal. 

What’s the difference between Information Architecture (IA) and Records & Information Management?

Records & Information Management dictates the outcome and lifecycle for information, whereas Information Architecture (IA) dictates the structure the information will live in.

Each of these aspects form the following parts of a “golden trinity” for Information Architecture (IA):

  • Findability -Design that enables greater findability via search, navigation, browse, filters etc.
  • Usability – Design that takes ways of working into account and meets the needs of users.
  • Compliance – Design that supports compliance with information management and governance requirements.
Factors of the Golden Trinity of IA

Image source: Leadership Through Data – Factors of the Golden Trinity of IA 

Things to consider for Information & Records Managers when designing an Information Architecture (IA) 

For Information and Records Managers, developing an Information Architecture (IA) may mean utilising new skills and ways of thinking about organising your company’s information. 

You will need to consider structure from an end-user perspective while also considering how you will align this structure to the required information management processes. 

Microsoft 365 has moved organisations away from rigid hierarchies (common in EDRMS and earlier versions of SharePoint); therefore, Information and Records Managers need to stretch beyond the traditional top-down compliance-led approach when designing an Information Architecture (IA) in the Microsoft 365 environment.  

However, good Information Architecture (IA) design does not have to be a trade-off with compliance. In every realistic Information Architecture (IA) some compromises will need to be made, and it is possible to design solutions that satisfy findability, usability, and compliance. 

How to begin designing your Information Architecture

Most people will need training on how to design an Information Architecture (IA), and luckily, Leadership Through Data are one of the few companies across the globe who offer a Microsoft 365 Information Architecture training course.

This course teaches you the key principles of Information Architecture for the governance of information within Microsoft 365.

Led by an instructor, the course will take you through a process of developing an Information Architecture from discovery and strategy to embedding Information Architecture into your business.

The course uses practical examples, so you’ll get the opportunity to work through a scenario based on real life information architecture development projects. This means you’ll be able to visualise practical outcomes and take away learnings to use in your organisation.

Find out more about developing your Information Architecture (IA) in Microsoft 365 by clicking the links below.

Please click on the link below that most closely matches your time zone: