This is the third in a series of interviews with Samuel Driessen, Information Architect at Océ, about their Enterprise 2.0 implementation and adoption experiences. Océ is a leading international provider of digital document management technology and services. Earlier, I wrote out their micro-messaging and wiki experiences (see Implementing Enterprise Micro-messaging with Yammer at Océ and Implementing Wikis in the Age of Enterprise 2.0 at Océ). Samuel is located in the Netherlands and his responsibilities include both the information architecture for structured information in applications such as PLMS and SAP and the unstructured information in places such as email and knowledge management programs.
I really like this dual architectural role for both structured and unstructured information. It makes so much sense to have these two information sources under the same architectural leadership. Usually knowledge management and IT data management are siloed, limiting the effectiveness of both. This is the first time I have seen this and I commend the vision of Océ. In this post I go into more depth on their information architecture approach.
Samuel began by pointing out that in the US, the term information architect is often used to describe a web site designer. In Europe, it is more often used to describe a person who manages enterprise information within an architecture. At Océ, there are three levels of architecture: business architecture layer, information architecture, application architecture and infrastructure. The business architecture defines and manages the business processes. The application layer provides the IT tools and (network) security and the information architecture translates the business requirements into IT requirements and tool.
The information architecture is the glue that bonds business and IT components and it looks at both structured and unstructured information. The unstructured information can give context to the structured information. More on this soon.
The nature of security has changed in the current internet age. In the past, a company could simply build a firewall around all of its information and employees could interact with security within this firewall. Now the firewalls are opening up to share selected company information with partners and clients. Security needs to be more granular to support both multi-site and multidisciplinary collaboration. Information security is intended to be defined at the information object and transaction level, to facilitate global collaboration with other Océ sites and trusted partners. With multi-site Océ means: collaboration between multiple Océ and non-Océ sites. With multi-disciplinary Océ means: collaboration between mechanical, electronic, software and manufacturing engineers, purchasers, etc. Both are essential to remain competitive.
At the same time, the old concept for employees was to provide only what they need to know for their job as determined by management. Now with the greatly expanded availability of information over the Web, the concept has shifted from a top down definition of what each employee needs to know to letting employees make greater decisions about the information they need and providing assistance helping them filter the abundant information available to find what they need. The concept is that smart people are hired so they need to be given more power and freedom to take advantage of their capabilities.
To implement an information architecture where unstructured information can be shared and used to provide context to structured information, employees need more guidance on the available tools and where to store information. All knowledge workers switch regularly between structured and unstructured (information) processes. Up until recently there were no tools to really support this activity. Océ is implementing a common file sharing platform for project information and offering guidance on its use. The common wiki is used for process information, and the common blog platform is used for best practices, opinions and other cross-project and department information where conversation generated through the blog comment fields can be useful.
Océ distinguishes between four types of information that should be managed consistently and in context: product information, project information, departmental information, and process information. With project information every project starts by setting up a project collaboration site and a document plan. The collaboration site supports creating and editing project information, such as minutes, customer reports, tasks, calendars, etc. All project information is managed in the collaboration site, except for design information, software code, the product structure and related parts and specs and resource information. Within the collaboration site team members can also view designs, baselines, change status and product structures, although they are managed in other tools. All information in the collaboration tool can easily refer to the product structure and, if needed, moved to the product structure.
With product Information, designs are created in design tools for software, electro and mechanical engineering. The design tooling consists of functionality to create and edit electro, mechanical and software designs. As soon as designs need to be shared with other disciplines and/or changed in a controlled way (due to multi-disciplinary interactions) the design is pushed to the Product Data Management tool. The Product Data Management tool consists of functionality to create product structures, to create and manage change on parts, specs, equipment and processes, and to create and manage baselines.
Departmental information is stored in the collaboration site in a department section of the file sharing platform. Process information, such as working methods, process descriptions, etc. are shared and stored in wiki’s.
In the past Océ could clearly distinguish the tools R&D and Manufacturing & Logistics (M&L) use. Only when data was transferred from R&D tools to M&L tools a joint responsibility existed. However, this led to silos and inefficiency. Now M&L needs more access, commitment and collaboration from R&D to be able to organize M&L in such a way to reduce such factors as lead time. There is a common product cycle management tool to help with this. Then unstructured information is placed in the common file sharing platform to ease access by all groups. The principal is that content should be entered only once and have the ability to migrate to other tools. For example, a wheel might be diagrammed in the design tool and the requirements described in a word processing document placed in the file sharing tool. But these two types of information are linked so the context is maintained.
Samuel said that the architecture will continue to evolve. The approach is to define information architecture principles and then convey these principles to management and employees so they will see the logic behind the approach. This is move away from rigid top-down rules. The implementation details will change faster than the principles and managers and employees will be able to make intelligent decisions aligned with the principles.
I think this approach is an excellent representation of the principles of Enterprise 2.0 with greater employee empowerment. There is a greater emphasis on guidance than rules and a willingness to explore, learn, and refine approaches. The approach of Océ is an excellent way to make better use of the powerful new information tools available today, especially in the area of unstructured information, and, at the same time, avoid getting bogged down in too much information out of context.