BPCUK: ‘Understanding the Steps Necessary for Building an Information Architecture for your Organization’ with your Host, Bill English

Bill English, posing for the camera at the 2011 UKBPCBill English presented this afternoon to a packed roomful of attendees (with many standing, or sitting on the floor) at the European SharePoint Best Practices Conference.  Mentioning upfront that his session would build upon the one he presented yesterday on "findability and putability," Bill stressed that this would not be a technical presentation, but "a business-oriented session [about] aligning your SharePoint deployment with your organization vision and strategy." 

"Excuse my French," but all too often, "CIOs go and watch a Microsoft dog and pony show and they have a SharePoint orgasm," Bill candidly observed.  As an aside, it's worth noting that in addition to his well documented expertise in the SharePoint (and best practices) space, humor and call-'em-as-he-sees-'em candid observations are hallmarks of Bill's presentations… all of which, no doubt, contributes to the packed rooms he's typically standing in front of when speaking at conferences.

Bill then spent the lion's share of his session stepping through a framework in Visio which detailed a process that begins with a mission statement and ends with best practices (the framework appears as figure 3-1 in this blog post of Bill's).  Defining big objectives and cascading them down through the organization, and articulating mission/vision statements are among the key goals of such a process. Mindsharp uses the OGSM model: Objectives, Goals, Strategies, and Measures.

With a vision and mission statement in place, the next step is to identify problems and opportunities.  Following on those steps directly, writing a business plan to capture the identified opportunities, and developing requirements to resolve the problems is necessary.  Only then should you begin the selection process of the appropriate software, meaning software that: supports the requirements, is accepted by the culture of your organization, is affordable/in budget, can be correctly implemented, and can support the required processes.  Once selection and implementation are complete, the process of measuring, evaluating, adjusting and refining begins, and it's at this point that the development of best practices becomes possible.

As shown in Bill's framework, operating in parallel with the earlier of the steps described above is another process, one that begins with the development of a business reference architecture detailing all the things that could exist in a business.  Developing the information architecture follows on this step, and next up is developing (in a case where SharePoint has been determined to be the appropriate software) baseline SharePoint features based on the overall business needs.  Finally, adjust SharePoint features to account for the business and technical requirements. In response to a comment at this point, Bill mentioned as a a best practice that you should do all your workflows based on AD groups rather than individual accounts.

Bill was very clear in stating that the above process (itself a best practice) is "about the business, not the technology," and that you can insert any software in place of SharePoint, and the process will work. And it will work because it's about the business: "You can use this model for any software implementation."

Shifting gears in his presentation to the implementation of the information architecture piece, Bill stepped through a detailed slide illustrating an information architecture and design overview.  Bill cautioned that "Culture oftentimes tells you what you can do … not what you should do," concluding that thought with a wry grin and saying, "Best Practices Conferences can tell you what you should do."

For additional information on this topic, I would strongly recommend reading Bill's blog post on the topic, in which he goes into all of this (and more) in much greater detail: Aligning SharePoint Implementations with Business Strategy.


Read our complete coverage of the European SharePoint Best Practices Conference:

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