From information chaos to information architecture
Part 2: Structured information in 7 steps

In part 2 of our series about information chaos and the ways to avoid it, you can find directions on how to start. Use these 7 steps as a guide to structured information.

The road to structured information

Step 1: Establish your starting point

Every employee, every team and every department has specific needs for document management and communication. They all use different processes in different situations, and therefore need different solutions and structures to be efficient.

In the first phase, put together a project team that:

  • Drafts the plan of action
  • Determines the scope
  • Informs and involves all stakeholders
  • Implements and adjusts where necessary

Step 2: Narrow down your diagnosis with use cases

In order to achieve results with minimal time and resources, you need to focus your project on specific needs. These will be use cases for all your document management needs within a specific situation. Organize a kick-off with all those involved to explain the project. Engage at least one colleague from each department and each role to evaluate their specific document and communication needs.

TIP: Measure how long certain standard tasks take before the start of the project and plan a similar measurement afterwards. This way you can demonstrate the result of this new way of working.

To find good use cases:

  1. Set up user profiles.
  2. Create an inventory of important documents for each profile.
  3. Describe the specific flow for each sub-proces.
  4. Write a proposal to improve each sub-proces.
  5. Describe which tools you need and how you’ll configure them.

Step 3: Organize workplace interviews

Talk to people in their work environment so they can explain and demonstrate their specific challenges. This step will yield many lists:

  • Recurring problems:
    • No access
    • No version management
    • Where is this document?
    • Too many emails
    • Too little knowledge of existing tools
  • Specific documentation needs
  • Existing and missing document types
  • Processes and sub-processes used

Step 4: Process your findings in a roadmap

Summarize all findings in a document. Transform it into a roadmap so everyone knows which step will be executed when.

A new information architecture is a change project that takes time.

You can draft a blueprint for the ideal setup and workflow for each use case, which could include the following elements:

  • Overview of the process
  • List of necessary document types
  • Flow of the documentation process
  • Lists of the problems that will be solved
  • Explanation of the components of the new architecture:
    • (Project)sites
    • Communication tools
    • Document libraries

Step 5: Communicate and start executing

Organize a kickoff to present your roadmap and answer questions. Make sure everyone stays on the same page by communicating clearly.

Step 6: Solve problem by problem

Start addressing issues one at a time. Make sure to communicate and discuss enough so everyone remains aware of the bigger picture and can give feedback through different channels. Adjust where necessary.

Step 7: Put a feather in your cap

If all goes according to plan, everyone will be used to a better, smoother way of working. Evaluate the project and communicate about the results.

Remember that devising and implementing a new information architecture is a change project that takes time. A correct implementation ensures everyone stays on board and can work together more efficiently.


In part 3 of this series you can read about how Flow has put this into practice at the NMBS.

Flow technical communication specializes in all aspects of technical documentation, such as writing manuals, organizing information and facilitating knowledge transfer.