The intranet is not a project, it’s a process. In fact, the intranet has more to do with people and process than technology, which is merely an enabler.
What is an intranet site?
An intranet is a private network contained within an enterprise that is used to securely share company information and computing resources among employees. An intranet can also be used to facilitate working in groups and teleconferences.
Intranet information architecture (IA) is part science, part art. As it relates to the intranet, the IA is best represented by a site map or organization chart of the major information or content categories (parents) and the sub-categories (children) and how they all relate to each other. Intranet information architecture is generally defined as the content structure of a website or intranet, or the structure or framework for how content is categorized and labeled in relation to other content. In short, IA is the art and science of structuring, labeling and categorizing content.
The ultimate goal of the intranet manager, architect and/or consultant is to create an ‘intuitive’ IA with information categories and navigation paths that are intuitive or easily understood at a glance. Of course the principal challenge of any information architect is that what is intuitive to one person is not always intuitive to another. In other words, you cannot borrow or replicate an award-winning intranet information architecture from some other organization – it will not work.
When redesigning an intranet or portal, there is a natural inclination by some architects and consultants to reinvent the IA to best reflect ‘best practices’ and/or the IA or labels used by others with successful and intuitive IA’s. This of course is a dangerous trap. No outside consultant or architect could truly appreciate and know intimately the culture and the formal and informal corporate nomenclature as those who have worked for an organization for years. Often the best labels for a content category (intranet section) is the label, that may not be that sexy, but has been there for 8 or 10 years, and all employees have come to know intuitively. For the information architect doesn’t reinvent the wheel by creating sexy labels (think about the My-this, My-that labels that were so de rigueur some 10 years ago), but labels content so they’re the most visually intuitive at-a-glance to all employees.