Episode 101 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with Bram Wessel and Gary Carlson. Bram and Gary founded Factor, an information architecture and experience design consultancy. Our conversation delved into how digital infrastructure projects can help drive alignment by nudging organizations to define the information layer underpinning their digital systems.
The gist: language is how we get things done. And being digital — working on an entirely symbolic plane — reifies terminology. Designing digital systems forces collaborators to acknowledge they may be using the same words to mean different things or different words to mean the same things.
Effective collaboration requires that we nail down language. Implementing a content management system or an enterprise resource planning system are good reasons to get terminology straight. Enter the information layer, which Bram and Gary argue is an important organizational asset. As Bram put it,
What we think has happened now and maybe been accelerated a little bit by the pandemic is that organizations have come to realize that as digital transformation has become even more of a mandate, they really need to tie all of this stuff together. And they don’t just need to tie systems together. They need to tie experiences together. They need to have experiences that are coherent and seamless, and that represent the same notions and concepts and objects and things across a really complex firmament. So the notion of the information layer is that you need to think about that as an independent corporate or organizational asset.
I don’t like saying “corporate” because every organization, whether it’s a business or not, faces this. You need to think of that as an organizational asset and focus on really defining all of those concepts and managing those as assets themselves instead of just as things that live in a system or in a business unit or in an experience.
This was the most IA-centric conversation I’ve had on the podcast in a while. It was refreshing! The ideas we covered here are central to designing digital systems but often go unacknowledged. I hope you get as much value as I did from this conversation.
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