In any intranet project, nothing is more difficult than championing information architecture (IA) and content strategy. Everyone seems eager to get into the “real” work – which is developing the intranet infrastructure.
You know you’re in this kind of situation when your team-mates ogle more at the coolness of intranet technology (e.g. sharepoint), than your draft plan to manage information/content in the intranet.
Well, if you are a psychology buff like I am, then you’d know that such tendency is common, because people tend to crave for lesser instant-gratification than for future greater rewards.
So you can’t really blame them for being blinded by the shiny new technology, especially when people are rewarded on doing “visible” work. (which is normally the case in any organisation).
What would you do then? Keeping mum about the whole situation will not help, because sooner or later, the new intranet will become a maze full of junk contents. People can’t find the relevant information and their excitement will quickly turn into big disillusion.
Introducing the Twin Towers: Information Architecture and Content Strategy
IA and content strategy are the pillars for successful intranet implementation. You know that. Even though your team-mates may not. Without IA and content strategy, people will not use intranet, no matter how advanced the intranet technology is.
IA deals with the way information is organised and thus focuses more on how to design the information structure. Content strategy, on the other hand, focuses on how to fill the information structure with relevant contents and on how to maintain the “freshness” and the relevancy of the content.
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between IA and content strategy, because they are closely intertwined, so much so that information architect and content strategist role are usually assigned to one person in the intranet team.
Whatever the working arrangement is, no point spending too much effort to explain the difference between the two concepts. You need both to make the intranet useful. So whenever possible, present the two concepts as one holistic solution to make intranet usable.
Why Procrastination Is Key In Selling Information Architecture / Content Strategy
One thing that I learned from my years of experience in implementing intranet is the importance of “delay”. This may seem counter-intuitive – but trust me: you sell neither information architecture nor content strategy by positioning yourself as the smartest guy in the room. (btw being a smarty-pants is never good for your own career.)
When your team mates are mesmerised by the intranet technology, the last thing that they want to hear is their effort would go down the drain because they don’t pay sufficient attention to the alien-sounding IA and content strategy.
The best time to sell the two concepts is after the exercise to gather user requirements for the new intranet, have been completed or nearly completed. At this time, the thrill of implementing a new technology has past its climax. And potential intranet users have given their requirements.
You should then ask your team-mates these questions:
- [information architecture] “Have we thought of how information will be organised?”; “Can we agree that we need metadata to make information retrieval more efficient?”
- [content strategy] “Have we thought of how contents would flow in the new intranet?”; “How about content lifecycle?”; “Don’t you agree with me that junk content will make our intranet less useful?”
Getting your team mates to agree with you using the above questions, means you are earning the rights to educate them on IA and content strategy. Prepare a presentation on IA and content strategy beforehand, so that you can advocate the importance of IA and content strategy – when you finally get your team mates’ attention.