I’m currently in the middle of a long series of posts on SharePoint information architecture (IA). We’ve covered a lot of ground, from the definition of IA, to the problems caused by not having an effective IA in SharePoint, to a consideration of the key mechanisms SharePoint provides to help you create an effective IA.
Last post, we turned from more technical considerations to the roles you need to create (and maintain) an effective SharePoint IA. Here, we’ll wrap up with a consideration of the following key processes you need in place for your SharePoint IA.
- Top down communications
- Bottom up communications
- IA refresh
Most of what we’ll cover here builds heavily upon the last post, so if you haven’t read it yet, stop and do so—this post will make a lot more sense if you do.
Top Down Communications
One of the biggest complaints I hear about SharePoint from users has nothing to do with SharePoint and everything to do with the organization using it: lack of communication. SharePoint is launched with little advance warning, capabilities are left up to users to discover, policies and procedures (if they exist at all) aren’t explained to users, and in general, SharePoint is handled like Word or Excel, i.e., a desktop app that requires little to no user support.
As we all know, likely from painful experience, SharePoint is nothing short of an enterprise platform, one that requires all the same planning and support that other enterprise platforms (like CRM, ERP, ECM) do.
Top down communications from the SharePoint COE are critical, therefore, to make sure users know about the SharePoint IA, about what’s expected of them in terms of IA, why the IA is there, what its benefits are, etc. The goal is to educate users on importance of IA and how to work effectively within the SharePoint IA.
Bottom Up Communications
As important as communication from the top is, enabling communications to reach the top from the trenches needs to be a priority as well.
After all, no matter how well you design and implement your SharePoint program, there will always be things you missed or things that no longer work because the situation on the ground has changed. And if not communicating is the number one non-technology way to sink your SharePoint implementation, not listening to your users post-launch is a close second.
And while this is all true of everything having to do with SharePoint, it especially applies to IA, which is never a once and done exercise: as the business evolves, the IA needs to as well. Unless you keep your ear to the ground, you’ll miss important shifts that your SharePoint IA needs to account for and risk making your users’ lives more difficult…or worse, making SharePoint less and less relevant to their day-to-day jobs.
Of course, listening to what the folks in the trenches have to say about the SharePoint IA is all well and fine, but does you little good if you don’t act on it. Putting in place a process to refresh your SharePoint IA on a regular basis gives you a fighting chance of keeping your IA relevant and your users happy. The goal is to enable you to revisit the SharePoint IA at regular intervals to assess its continued effectiveness, identify any significant gaps, and determine whether and how best to close them
The Final Word
With that, we’ve come to the end of this in depth look at SharePoint IA. We’ve covered a lot of ground, but, of course, not nearly enough to exhaust the subject. So I encourage all of you out there to continue your exploration of the topic and keep pushing yourselves, your organizations, and your users to strive for effective IA in SharePoint.
Joe Shepley, PMP is the Vice President and Practice Leader at Doculabs in the Greater Chicago Area. He specializes in several areas including SDLC (software development life cycle) methodolorgies, ITIL (V3 Foundation), Project Management, and most importantly Microsoft SharePoint. You can connect with Joe via Twitter by following @joeshepley or on LinkedIn.
More from this author:
- SharePoint Needs Information Architecture
- What the Heck is Information Architecture and Why Should I Care?
- Building a Successful Information Architecture
- You Already Have a SharePoint Information Architecture
- Using Information Architecture Elements to Improve Your SharePoint Environment: Part 1 – Site Structure
- Using Information Architecture Elements to Improve Your SharePoint Environment: Part 2 – Folder Structure
- Using Information Architecture Elements to Improve Your SharePoint Environment Part 3 – Metadata
- Using Information Architecture Elements to Improve Your SharePoint Environment Part 4 - File Naming
- Using Information Architecture Elements to Improve Your SharePoint Environment: Part 5 – Document Types
- Using Information Architecture Elements to Improve Your SharePoint Environtment: Part 6- Resource Requirements