Freepint has come through again with a very interesting article on their FUMSI site. Enterprise Information Architecture: A View From the Legal World written by freelance information architect Kate Simpson, provides a great commentary on why law firms need to invest more time in developing a sound information infrastructure before adding the latest and greatest technology.
But maybe there’s a third prong that’s been missing from this focus? The messy middle: the content assets, the actual information itself contained in documents, e-mails, web pages, blogs, journals, books, video and podcasts etc.
She continues by pointing out how enterprise search implemented within a firm often points out the messy infrastructure of databases, document libraries, etc., where the metadata used to describe the information contained within those resources is poorly applied or in some cases, not done at all and other problems are present. She notes:
Enterprise search has started to uncover some of the mess that we didn’t even know was there. As well as showing, rather too starkly, the mess that we haven’t wanted to deal with over the years: the poor tagging of content with useful terms or even consistent terms across different repositories; the lack of rigorous info management processes to identify the valuable, useful and re-usable information, or equally, to identify the duplicate, out-of-date or inaccurate information.
She goes on to describe the processes, systems & tools, information & information architecture assets and governance that are needed to develop a structure that will serve the firm well as existing systems are enhanced and new systems are put in place. The accounting/auditing/consulting firms (e.g., Deloitte Touche) have already gone through this process making their success with systems more likely.
Librarians definitely need to be involved in this work. We’ve been developing sound infrastructure for the information we manage since the first professionally run library was created. Unfortunately many of the information technology and organizations
With this economy, many law firm leaders may decide to not fund projects that address the failings of the information systems they use. This is shortsighted. Down times like the one we’ve seen during ’08 and into ’09 give us an opportunity to step back and view what is needed to be undertaken so when workloads start to pick up again and no one has time to work on such a project, the improved structure is in place making the location and use of internal information/knowledge more productive and less costly.
As shortsighted as I view the decision not to go ahead with solving this problem I know that in reality many firms will not be able to proceed. If your firms can’t find the time or money to tackle this problem in ’09, it should be addressed as soon as economy picks up again if possible.
In the meantime, we have an opportunity to start talking about the importance of information architecture in firms. Start by sharing Kate’s article. Learn what you don’t know about taxonomies and metadata. It might be the start of something very important.