As organizations look to further enable their mobile workers in 2012, there are a number of challenges -- whether real or perceived -- that are standing in the way. One of the most fundamental challenges that I have heard time and time again over the past year is the lack of a sound information architecture to meet these demands.

Expectations vs. Realities

Currently, there is grassroots pressure from employees demanding that they have access to documents, directories, collaborative tools and workflows from their smartphones and tablets with ease. The executives are also exerting downward pressure as they expect to see business intelligence and other corporate communications available directly on their mobile devices.

Remote workers are already leveraging tools such as DropBox to share enterprise documents on their own and sales executives have begun driving BI solutions based on the look of graphs and charts, not the portability and scalability of the solution.

This phenomenon is causing community managers, information managers and IT leadership to be pushed out of the enterprise mobility discussion in some cases.

The madness needs to end (and end quickly), but the only way that this can occur is to empower your mobile workers with what they need and probably quite a few things they haven’t thought of yet. Sound easy? That depends on your organization’s information architecture.

One Success Story, One Failure

A great example of a failure in IA comes from a colleague at a large global organization who informed me this year that his staff directory was at least 6 months away from being ready for mobile consumption because of inaccuracies and lack of integration in underlying systems. To top it off, the organization had deemed this a low priority issue. Without being able to provide the most basic of wins for enterprise mobility -- staff search -- he is getting nowhere fast.

An example of a stellar achievement in IA comes from the 2011 Intranet Innovation Award winning UK Parliament Mobile Intranet. By concentrating on their information architecture, they were able to develop a solution where MPs are now able to access what is going on in chambers, committees and other key content from their mobile devices.

Obviously these are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to enterprise information architecture, but I continually hear stories from information managers stating, “We want to empower mobility, but our systems aren’t ready.” This is true even for some organizations that have a very strong public mobile presence already in place.

An Integrated Solution

Staff directories, news feeds, enterprise search and other core content needs to be refactored in order to be stack agnostic and ready for mobile consumption, if it is not already. Existing workflows, CRM systems and collaborative tools should have secure APIs available. All future CRM, Collaboration, WCM, ECM and DAM systems must be evaluated with stack-agnostic access as a core requirement. The same goes for a Business Intelligence suite and even down to your Time and Attendance software.

It may be better to treat your internal architecture much as we have seen APIs develop on the public web. Stable information architecture in social media is one of the reasons that social media analytics sites such as Klout have been able to gain rapid traction and provide such dynamic insights. Without well-constructed and secure APIs from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, FourSquare and so on, Klout would not be able to consume and manipulate such a massive amount of disparate information for so many users. Why should you treat your enterprise systems any differently?

An approach that may help is to make mobility and information architecture part of your intranet roadmap. By plotting areas of your mobility plan that are dependent on milestones in information architecture, you will have continuous visibility of the relationship between the two.


Though the intranet may be dead, dying or evolving into a Digital Workplace, the content, processes and functions that it contains will not being going away anytime soon. Compounding the situation is the exponential increase in demand for mobility. For your organization to be successful in empowering its mobile workers, it must first have a sound information architecture.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading: