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Is Your Information Architecture Ready for SharePoint 2013?

ahp_freehostSHPSharePoint Administrators will naturally focus on the infrastructure side of a migration to SharePoint 2013, but migration is also the perfect time to reevaluate your information architecture (IA) and prepare it for this new and improved version of SharePoint.

What exactly makes up your information architecture? In terms of SharePoint, IA is typically composed of site structure, search, navigation, taxonomy and metadata. A good user experience and functionality are directly related to having a strong information architecture. Successful SharePoint implementations require IA planning and structure because it provides improved usability and governance around your SharePoint solutions.

SharePoint_2013_BenefitsYes, reevaluating an information architecture will add more time and resources to an already stressful migration process, but not doing so may be detrimental to adoption of the new version. Think of it this way: You’re moving to a new, larger house. Instead of cleaning and organizing your belongings for the move, you just throw them all in a box. Sure it will work, but will you get the most out of your new home?

There are plenty of things to consider, but below are the five questions you should ask about your current information architecture before migrating to SharePoint 2013.

Does Your Site Architecture Still Make Sense?

This question will not only affect usability, but could also impact how easily content can grow as time passes. Are there subsites that can be merged? Has any subsite grown so large that it should be its very own site collection? This is an important question from a content migration perspective as the content may need to be transitioned into its own content database.

A specific intranet-related trend I’ve noticed with migrations to 2013 is a move towards subject-based sites and away from traditional corporate organizational architecture. Instead of users visiting a portal with subsites for IT, HR, Finance, etc., they look at sites related to specific topics: Healthcare, Training, Forms, and Polices. Not only is this more user friendly, it is also more relevant to most users. SharePoint 2013’s advanced search capabilities make this type of architecture possible.

Are Content Types in Use Still Valuable?

Take a close look at all of the content types in your current SharePoint installation. Do they still make sense for the organization? Are there some that can be removed or merged? If you are not using content types, this would be a perfect time to begin planning a better taxonomy. Microsoft provides several planning documents that can help you easily identify relative content types.

Is Managed Metadata Being Used?

No? Then use it. There are plenty of options online to help you understand all of the benefits of using this feature. It will not only help the overall information architecture but will make a lot of the new search features even easier to configure and utilize. This video provides more information on managed metadata.

What’s Your Organization’s Social Feature Roadmap?

My Sites have not disappeared in SharePoint 2013 — they’re vastly improved. Take the time to really test them out. Dedicate a section of your govermence plan to planning the use of My Sites and Community Sites (basically a discussion board on steroids). Additional points to consider:

  • Will you implement Yammer or stick with the My Site Newsfeed? (Keep in mind Yammer will eventually replace the Newsfeed.)
  • Are there additional fields that can be pulled from Active Directory that will be valuable to the My Site profile?
  • What training should be offered to users so they are aware of all features and related governance policies?

Are There Any Outdated Applications or Web Parts That Search Features Can Replace?

Search has come up several times in this article because it’s become the star of SharePoint 2013. It moves beyond a query box and a result page to become the power behind many of the new features.

Understand what search can be used for in 2013 and determine how these features can potentially be used to replace outdated applications and processes. Do you have a Content Query Web Part that is killing your page loads? Are you using a Data View Web Part that is clunky and impossible to maintain to rollup content from across your site collection? Both of these problems can be remedied with the new Content Search Web Part. There is plenty to learn about search in 2013, but the first step is being aware of some of the possibilities and identifying the problems they might solve.