Bringing Together Reams of Information from Different Realms

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(GUEST POST)

Business content comes from all over. Not only do companies aggregate structured and unstructured information from various sources in traditional Intranets, but also they're confronted with the handling of other content types such as blogs, microblogs, wikis, forums, micro feeds and profile pages.  

What's the name of the solution?

The number of solutions to handle different content types is exploding. Like the name “Intranet,” the names of these solutions are all over the place with little agreement on what's the right name for it. Here are a few to give you an idea: 

  • Social intranet
  • Social business software
  • Enterprise 2.0 Intranet
  • Enterprise social networking 
  • Collaboration platform

Like the “Intranet” name, this creates a problem for organizations as they struggle to figure out the blurry distinctions between the product names and their offerings.  To make matters worse, enterprise content management (ECM) vendors are trying to become social software vendors. Collaboration products keep taking on more content management features and social software vendors are slowly building connections into document management platforms. 

Filling the information aggregation gap

This is a classic market gap. Companies need to close that gap by choosing several products and integrating them neatly to liberate their data silos. Or they can opt for a suite broad enough to encompass all of the company's content needs.  But even the big vendors address different enterprise usage cases. For collaboration driven content, it could be Sharepoint or IBM's Lotus Quickr.  For social-centric content, you may consider Lotus connections or Telligent Enterprise and for document-centric content (Editor’s note: IGLOO Software, Adenin and Alfresco are other alternatives), ECM might be a good fit.

Regardless of what kind of business content you deal with or what platform should generate it, you should be able to wire together the content you really need instead of being limited by the kind of content and applications vendors provide.

Don't get confused by all the different product terms and offerings that claim that they revolutionize information management.  They also don't tell you what they don't offer. To get yourself ahead, you need an overview of what is out in the market and what you might want to have.

The role of information architecture

Before implementing your new business content management strategy, you should have your information architecture (IA) in place. IA is a method of organizing or classifying information. In the world of Intranets, an IA is most commonly represented as a site map.

Information architecture has little to do with best practices, and more to do with the needs of the target audience. In other words, other companies' successful Intranets most likely won't work with your Intranet. You need to understand what will work for your employees.

Tapping employee knowledge requires care and skill without prejudice and an appreciation for the organization's unique culture. Information architecture should principally be driven and designed by employees, with the outside influence of best practices, but not at the expense of common sense and cultural legacy.

Information architecture is about relevance. It's about finding content that matters — the content you and your team need to make connections, make decisions and make a difference. It's about the right person getting to the right thing at the right time.

IA transforms facts into insights by organizing content so it fits the way you and your team think, not the other way around. Finding relevant material becomes intuitive. That pays off with people spending more time acting on information, instead of searching for it. The result: less frustration and greater productivity, because people are working with relevant information more often.

About the author: Martin Amm is the CEO and one of the founders of adenin TECHNOLOGIES, including IntranetWireframes, which delivers Intranet portal solutions including IntelliEnterprise, a fully-integrated intranet suite for mid-sized to large organizations. The suite includes collaboration, knowledge management, content management and Enterprise 2.0 capabilities. He can be reached at martin.amm@adenin.com.

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