The field of information architecture lacks a core set of knowledge that would justify a discipline of IA. There are no clear paths for advancement and no accepted perspectives to assess one’s level of “expertise”. To address this gap, a model that provides a foundation for practicing information architecture while fostering the growth of an IA discipline will be proposed.
After exploring the concepts of practice and discipline, attendees will be introduced to an IA theory developed by Nathaniel Davis called, Organization Role Segmentation (ORS). ORS (pronounced “orz”) suggests how to define and chart unique business functions and role types within any organization. The IA role types that are correlated through ORS reveal the foundation for shaping an IA practice of one or many. This formalization of practicing information architecture offers promising potential for a complementary discipline to emerge.
Attendees to this presentation will be introduced to an interpretation of primary roles that ORS suggests for a mature IA team or a complex development scenario. Attendees will be shown how to use ORS to articulate an IA role and make a clear distinction between information architecture and other disciplines that operate in the software development environment. Lastly, attendees will be shown how to align themselves and their IA team for disciplinary growth, accountability, and discovery.
This commented presentation represents the most current version of “The Practice of Information Architecture – It takes a village of practitioners to raise a discipline,” originally presented by DSIA Initiative founder, Nathaniel Davis. Comments for this presentation are provided below.
Notice: Version 1.1 is a modification of version 1.0 that meets DSIA requirements for public download. Previous and future live presentations of this discussion may deviate from the official script displayed on this page.
|1||[The Practice of Information Architecture – It takes a village of practitioners to raise a discipline]|
– Involved in Web development since 1994
– Engaged in Information architecture since 2000
– Exploring IA theory, practice and discipline since 2007
|3||[“It takes a village to raise a child”]|
There is something the IA field can learn from this proverb.
|4||[It takes a village of practitioners to raise a discipline]|
So, let’s modify it just slightly to suite our purpose:
A village that is centered around a common goal that plays out over and over again will demonstrate a strong pattern of repetitive behavior.
But, I would like to equate this to a discipline.
System equates to Discipline
Within the discipline of raising children, we will also notice how some people – not all – contribute; participating in guidance.
|8||[Area of Interest]|
Contributors are most effective when they contribute based on their direct experience; their passions; their learning; their interests.
Contributors in the village do this because they have an intention (desire) to council a child through the challenging stages of life; in hopes of producing a balanced and productive citizen to society.
|10||So, with what we can observe so far, how would the field of IA measure up to this proverb?|
As a village raising a discipline, we would not do well.
|11||[Who are we?]|
Many are very interested in specific areas;
Many of us contribute in various ways;
And some of us even exhibit discipline.
|12||…While we display a since of community, and network, and share our stories and methods, our destinies are still very loosely tied.|
|13||[The IA field lacks collective intention]|
We’re missing an important aspect that can be observed in a village that successfully produces balanced citizens: Consensus
– Consensus means that everyone is in agreement.
– This also means that everyone is aware enough of each other’s contributions that they all understand the big picture.
– With this comes a respect and realization of an interdependence that contributes to an efficient approach.
– Consensus should be explored at every level in our field: Individual, IA Business Organization, IA Field
|14||[Change the culture of just “doing” IA]|
If you are looking to mature in this profession, I encourage you to change from a culture of “doing” information architecture to practicing information architecture.
|16||[Organize your practice. Eureka!]Now, this is the ironic aspect of our field – as a field of professionals that obsess over the organization of information and anything we can get our hands on, we struggle in organizing our own objectives as a field……and maybe this is the most honest admission that we are fragmented as a professional field at very fundamental levels.So, to consider how we get to the point where we have the fundamentals or make way for fundamentals, I propose that we do as the villagers.So, we should take note of the growing list to the left.|
|17||[Concept of Practice]|
The collective behavior of intentional empirical probing around an area of interest; whereby the contribution of documentation of discovery enables consensus that builds and reinforces discipline around such behaviors.
– Area of Interest
The list of attributes of practice, to the left, can be used to begin constructing a defining concept of what practice can mean to information architects.Probe with intent – connect to an objective; to discover something new – a new pattern, a new classification; a new process; method, etc.
|19||[Area of Interest]|
Focus your probing on something specific in order to gain thorough insight – try to reach a conclusion.
Participate in the goal of reaching greater understanding and efficiency within your practice – as an individual, within a group and/or within your field.
The one thing missing from our comparison is the behavior of documentation.It’s hard to initially see documentation taking place amongst the villagers. But, if we don’t take the term so literal, we can see the potential in its abstraction.So, “to document”, for a person contributing in a village, can mean to remember or to communicate with others about a previous experience. In the practice of information architecture it may mean to produce a paper artifact, media file or PDF file. These are all examples of documentation.
Hence, in context to practice, you should document your insights more formally. Whether you are acting as an individual or within a group, document for an audience, even if the audience is only you.
Contributing documentation to a group allows for the group to contemplate and test how their collective behaviors can integrate into a unified systematic approach.
Note: Pursuing consensus should be an exercise of optimization, not criticism.
When you can anticipate the optimum approaches of yourself and your colleagues, you will be peering into the realm of discipline.
|24||However, to practice is just the beginning.|
|25||[Information architects need to become business savvy]|
Business savvy is necessary in order to provide the best environment for our practice and our goal to establish a more well-rounded discipline.This is where Organization Role Segmentation comes into play.
So, let’s take a quick look.
|26||[Organization Role Segmentation]|
Organization Role Segmentation offers an IA-based perspective of the business model by offering a classification of business functions and business roles that impact organizational efficiency.
|27||[Organization Role Segmentation]|
– Recognizes information architecture as a unique functional area of interest to the business organization– Argues unexplored depth of IA as a sub-organization
|28||[Business Function Classification]|
If we abstract the business-related activities of an organization, and attempt to categorize them, we can create a primary classification of business functions that appears to work for any business model and thus any organization.These next slides use ORS to show us what we can be thinking about to ground an IA business model.
|29||[The Business Model]Efficient organizations are influenced by a business model. Business models are realized through organizational behavior that we can classify into the following functional domains:|
|30||[IA Business Function : Discovery]|
Business expertise, industry insight, continuing education, accountability analytics, etc.Note: Accountability Analytics is a DSIA-based term. Accountability analytics is the auditing of those key performance indicators (KPI) that provide data that enables quantification or assessment of an information architecture strategy.
Note: These functional names can be replaced with more practical labels. For instance the Discovery function is more commonly referred to as “Research” and “Marketing”.
|31||[IA Business Function : Planning]|
Interpretation of discovery; high-level processes and overall vision [as an individual or organization]
Common Term: Strategy
|32||[IA Business Function : Production]|
The actual tasks and processes that produce the IA deliverables, e.g. classifications/taxonomy, relational maps, etc.
|33||[IA Business Function : Infrastructure]|
Tools, methods, applications that support the actions around IA production and other tactical areasCommon Term: Operations
|34||[IA Business Function : Communications]|
The concise expression of features, benefits, purpose, value, etc. — to the intended audienceCommon Term: Communications
|35||[IA Business Function :Exchange]|
Actions around transacting IA (e.g. sales, estimation, compensation, sharing, etc.)Common Term: Sales
|36||[The theoretical importance of Roles]|
|38||According to Organization Role Segmentation, since functions are not autonomous, Roles are used to objectify functions.|
Work Product applies to all possible functional domains with indirect influence
Work Product is applied to all possible functional domains with direct influence
Artifacts are predominantly external to the immediate function or organization.
The assumption of multiple tasks exclusively within a single functional domain.
The assumption of a single task exclusive to a single functional domain (e.g. thesaurus design)
The assumption of multiple tasks across multiple functional domains (e.g. BA, UE, IA and IxD)
|47||[Primary Roles and Tactical Roles]|
|48||[Applying what we’ve learned]|
|49||[Evaluate your Practice]|
|52||[Understand your Role]|
This slide provided a technical example of how the presenter’s IA role — at the time of the presentation — could be expressed.
|53||[Practice and Organization go hand-in-hand]|
It will be practitioners that advance the IA field towards discipline and relevance; by contributing documentation that encourages consensus; and the type of consensus that advances discipline.
|54||Our success as practitioners will be dependent not just on rigor around practice, but on how successfully we operate as business organizations; and how we develop a discipline to collaborate as an industry in our professional “village” of IA practitioners.|
|55||Another way to say this is that our discipline is not about what we discover along the way;…|
|56||…it’s about the context of which we discover – in the domain of a formal business/organizational model…|
…across business functions.
And then, it’s about the roles that are carried out across these functions…
DSIA Organization Efficiency Framework | © 2010 Methodbrain, Nathaniel Davis
…that are married to a formal concept of practice for the purpose of achieving discipline.
Discipline – through which business/organizational efficiency is realized.
These are categorical areas of interest that we can begin exploring to mature the field of information architecture.
|60||I’m convinced that when we organize around consensus, through formalized practice, we can effectively and efficiently advance the field with theoretical and practical models and methods that will drive education and effectively inform the general public.|
|61||But, it will take more than a few committed individuals; It will take a village of practitioners to raise the IA discipline.|
|62||So with that said, let’s go practice!|