Information Architecture Part 3: How it supports adoption?

Image: Information Architecture Bubbles Diagram
By Neil Wells-West on

Information Architecture Part 3: How it supports Office 365 user adoption?

In Part 2 of this blog series I outlined how to go about creating an information architecture for SharePoint and Office 365. As a starting point for this blog, it is important to remind ourselves that an information architecture needs to provide a detailed plan for such elements as data locations, applications, features, functionality, business processes and activities (based on business requirements). This provides clarity about what user adoption activities will be required, following the enablement of the related apps (e.g. OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer etc.).

How do you use information architecture to support user adoption?

One of the examples I like to use to explain the role of information architecture in support of any user adoption strategy is likening it to a compass. A compass enables us to set a starting point and provide clear direction at every stage of the journey. In much the same way, a well-defined and relevant information architecture helps us guide users through the user adoption activities that will maximise the investment made in Office 365 and act as a compass to keep them going in the right direction. With an Information Architecture compass in place, expressing the value that delivers to your business becomes clearer. The key thing is that this can easily be explained without end users needing to understand lots of technical jargon or complex business processes and focuses on the objectives (the end of the journey).
The end of the journey what is most likely to resonate with your business end users and while it is important that they acquire a general understanding of information architecture, they are far more likely to be engaged and interested in how that information architecture fits into their day to day activities and delivers clarity and value.

Image: Old map, sextant, compass, telescope and pen

What do we need to consider for Office 365 and SharePoint?

The arrival of Office 365 has required a rethink in terms of information architecture, and it is now the case that many projects are focused on such things as how to launch Microsoft Teams, how to increase the use of OneDrive for Business as a key collaboration tool, how to migrate to SharePoint etc.
There has been a shift away from the more formal site hierarchies and metadata structures that were typically seen in SharePoint migration projects from a few years ago and the following points are now much more relevant:

  • This shift is driving new business data management needs and often requires data owners and information managers to shift their focus accordingly
  • Instead of leading card-sorting exercises to build out formal taxonomies and data models, we need to build strategies for user engagement and technology adoption
  • The goal is to help our users make sense of the data that is being surfaced to them every day while adapting to new methods of working and collaborating

A robust, yet intuitive information architecture addresses the above points and if planned properly should encompass the pillars of your organisations Office 365 services as well as the key business and end user processes can therefore hugely impact the end of the journey in a positive way and help to map out user adoption activities in a much more intuitive and focused way.

The following is an example of a high-level information architecture design that pulls together legacy SharePoint as a data location as well as key Office 365 services.

Image: High Level Information Architecture wireframe

This map can be used to define a suitable set of user adoption activities around key business processes and helps to keep everyone focused on the related data locations. This approach will reduce confusion and help everyone in an organisation to understand how, where, when and why they need to interact with data.
It also enables the data owners and information managers to evaluate information architecture needs for whatever unique audiences may be required on any given day.

The key undertaking for you and your organisation is in applying this knowledge to constructing user-centric adoption and education campaigns that reflect the culture of your organisation and user behaviours while also addressing appropriate governance controls. If data owners and information managers can connect the dots between the information architecture and user adoption activities, they’ll drive user engagement and pioneer new information architecture methodologies that support Office 365’s growth.

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