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This is the first instalment in a multi-part series on Information Architecture (IA) and how it should be considered in a SharePoint world. 

First, a little background…

I’ve been sitting on this series for a while as I have been unable to decide in my own mind if I can add any value to the already awesome content that is out there if you have some time, a search engine, and some nimble untangling fingers.  There is a pile of information about IA out on the web, oodles of information about SharePoint out on the web, and tons of information about IA for SharePoint out on the web, most of it great, but a majority of it seems to be solution or technically oriented.

In no way am I against “how to” information, it’s invaluable.  But so much of the information about technology is just that; information about the technology, how to get the technology to dance to a tune that have not written, or worse; that we don’t actually know how to write.

I’m a big believer in the concept of “Macro/Micro”.  To really get under the skin of something you need to look at it from thousands of feet up to get your macro view and zoomed right into the smallest of elements to get your micro view. 

Think about successful SharePoint implementations.  Most of them have made use of macro/micro thinking, albeit not always intentionally, to get the very best out of SharePoint.  Think about getting the business understanding what is possible – lots of macro, not so much micro – and then getting the technology implemented to deliver against what the business wants – occasional macro coupled to lots and lots of micro – by bringing macro/micro thinking into the mix, organisations can get the best out of something no matter what it is.

Just a quick note, before I continue.  I don’t want this series to be an end-to-end piece on how to successfully implement SharePoint (although it may form part of a wider set of pieces that when added up may be just that) I’ll be keeping focused on IA and what it means in the context of SharePoint.

Next, a little flavour… 

Remember that scene from Under Siege where Gary Busey spits spectacularly into Steven Seagal’s delicious looking bouillabaisse?  “A little flavour” is the line he delivers, and it really sticks in my mind in a surprisingly positive way. 

IA is definitely “a little flavour” for SharePoint but is often confused with Governance in a way that I know frustrates many of the governance gurus out there.

If I warm up to my culinary theme inspired by Busey and Seagal, let’s think of SharePoint Governance as a recipe.  It comes in a recipe book (overall IT governance) which may be part of a wider series of books (corporate governance) that helps an organisation operate, manage, measure, comply and be the best it can on its way to meeting its goals. 

IA is an ingredient in this SharePoint Governance recipe.  Quite an important ingredient, but one that’s often missed out or overlooked that won’t totally break the final dish but will leave the eater wondering “what’s missing?” 

Think about Macaroni Cheese.  Not that homogenised Kraft crap where you just add milk, but Macaroni e Formaggio al Forno, just-a-like-a-mama-used-to-a-make.  You start with a great white béchamel sauce base, add some great cheeses, add some perfectly cooked pasta and bake.  It will probably come out fine, but add a teaspoon of mustard and KerPow! you’ve got yourself something delicious.

In this series, I’m aiming to bring forward the concepts and ideas of IA in the context of SharePoint and what this means when trying to implement IA in a SharePoint world.  We may end up with many parts to the series, dozens even, but I want to try to bring some clarity to the muddy water of SharePoint IA and this make take some time…

In the next part of the series, I’ll start to working on defining what IA actually is and begin the exploration of what IA means in a SharePoint world.