Why Enterprise Information Architecture Matters


My initial title for this was “Why Enterprise Integration Matters”. This seems like an obvious statement. Of course it matters. It’s like saying “why information matters”. Integration is one of the most common information management projects. Integration includes, among other things, migrating content, transforming data, building connectors, and providing a unified view of information for a customer, process or functional area.

Even if we had the perfect enterprise process integration and management tool, the business would continue to evolve and processes would change. Assuming that the tool is adaptable, it is unlikely to keep up with the rate of business change. Customer needs, products, markets, processes, organizational realignment, acquisitions, etc., all drive change. Business needs arise that IT cannot support in a timely fashion. That is the nature of the beast.

Back to (Taxonomy) Basics

A well-honed taxonomy provides a common framework for integrating application content at the semantic level. We need to ensure that outputs from one system are readily consumable not only by downstream applications, but by enterprise-wide search engines and business intelligence solutions.

The “enterprise view” does not mean integrating everything into one system. It means anticipating change and attempting to use core structures to represent terminology, reference data and taxonomies.

The implication of this is that project teams need to build their information architectures informed by an overall enterprise information architecture. There are two core artifacts that every organization should have to ensure that project teams work within an overall enterprise IA framework. These are the domain model and the taxonomy framework.

Two Core Artifacts that Guide Every Project

The domain model represents all of the key business entities and their relations. This includes organizations, customers, and major systems, applications, and repositories with which people interact.

An enterprise taxonomy framework provides the big picture organizing principles for terminology that provides controlled database and metadata values across the enterprise. This acts as the blueprint for the taxonomy and its use within the information architecture. An effective enterprise taxonomy framework speeds the flow of information throughout the organization.

These two artifacts guide all integration efforts. They go hand-in-hand with governance structures, application guidelines and many other elements. Whenever a new project is brought on board or proposed, the enterprise taxonomy framework and domain model form the guiding principles for project information architecture. The IT governance process should require that every new project owner and lead architect outline how they will make use of and integrate with existing taxonomy standards. Or if a new set of organizing principles is required, the case is made for deriving and managing the new structures. It is OK to be different, just be intentional about it.

This enterprise view of integration allows all systems to perform more efficiently and reduces integration costs and improves time to value. It enables IT to be more responsive, as it provides tangible business benefits.

The Essential Element to Any Enterprise Initiative

Enterprise integration frameworks (taxonomy frameworks with domain models) are essential in today’s fast moving world. This approach allows the organization to switch out technology that is not meeting the needs of business more quickly, rather than being tied into complex and proprietary approaches. It can be applied to product lifecycle management, product information management, content integration, search based applications, unified information access, portal applications, multi-purpose broad-based platforms like SharePoint, digital asset management, ecommerce, rights management, records management and security and privacy management. In each of these cases, a unified framework that transcends individual application architectures becomes a key enterprise asset.

To learn more about critical success factors for enterprise information architecture, check out this free webcast “From Application to Enterprise – Does Your Information Architecture Scale?