January 21, 2009 – A new Forrester Research study finds that while information architecture is a cornerstone of enterprise architecture, only 43 percent of the architects surveyed have not or have only begun to implement it. The report, “Topic Overview: Information Architecture,” indicates that for the majority of established IA programs, expected value has yet to be realized.

Information architecture is a foundational framework providing a structured description of an enterprise's information assets, including structured data and unstructured or semistructured content, and the relationship of those assets to business processes, business management and IT systems. According to Forrester, enterprises that are positioned to exploit these capabilities can gain business value from their information assets.

While IA's role should be among the first areas that enterprise architects tackle in pursuing their enterprise architecture practice, Forrester's research data shows technical and application architectures are much stronger domains for most enterprise architecture. Seventy-four percent of Forrester’s IA survey respondents called data governance very important or critical, and yet only 17 percent said their data governance maturity was high or very high.

The obstacles to the implementation of IA are daunting. The data and content mess facing most large organizations is enormous. IA discussions require a horizontal approach to traditionally vertically managed resources, and it can be  challenging to establish trust and good communication between IT and the business.

“Getting things done across the enterprise appears as a boil-the-ocean, nightmare scenario,” says Gene Leganza, primary report author and vice president and principal analyst, Forrester Research. “The solution is to take it a bite at a time.”

Forrester suggests a series of  strategies to approach IA beginning with the creation of a vision document of high-level goals, key principles, benefits, problems and a conceptual architecture with a sketch of an operating model.

After that, organizations are advised to select and execute projects; create a compelling way to describe IA's benefits and sell  upward; insert early-stage governance with executive support and user buy-in; and build regular interactions with appropriate parties.

Finally, organizations should develop roadmaps for related technology areas and link the appropriate technology subject matter experts to the program to create a comprehensive information strategy.

More information is available in the free report,  “Topic Overview: Information Architecture” at the Forrester Research site.

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