A Case Study in Translating Business Needs Into SharePoint Information Architecture

I got a good comment on my post about the folder-less SharePoint paradigm, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to show how to translate business needs and content analysis into business requirements that can then be translated into an information architecture. I decided to speak with the commenter over the phone, and I asked him some simple questions.

  1. Give me 2–3 examples of business critical documents you want into SharePoint.
  2. Explain to me what the document is, how it’s used, and who is invested in the document.
  3. After getting a description I probed for potential metadata to use in categorizing and grouping the information.

As you can see I’m not going to specify the site/navigation taxonomy. This would take more analysis so I confined the case studies to content types, metadata, and libraries or lists.

Use Case 1: Market Research Study

The first document we spoke about was a market research study the organization used to hone their product development. As we talked I extracted the following useful bits of information to help categorize the information.

  • Large document from outside source (PPT, DOC, XLS, etc).
  • Delivered on DVD.
  • Used in internal presentations to convey business/product case.
    • Used by engineering for product architecture. Sections of the research study are reused/decomposed to develop product requirements.
    • Manufacturing, planning and commercial organization utilize the information to understand demand logistics requirements in the supply chain.
  • The loop is closed by validation activities to consider whether “we accomplished customer goals” (value proposition).

Proposed IA

  • Create a “Market Research Studies” document library underneath (possibly) a marketing or research site.
  • Add a site content type entitled “Market Research Study”.
  • Add the following metadata columns:
    • Process Step (Delivered, Engineering, Manufacturing, Customer Analysis)
    • Product Category (Pharmaceutical, Medical Device, etc)
    • Document Owner
  • Due to the obvious workflow I would look into automating this inside SharePoint.

Use Case 2: Product Complaint

The next is a document submitted back to the organization by field agents concerning complaints on manufactured products. This site needs to be very simple to use with a minimalistic form to supply expedient submission of product complaints in the field.

  • Submitted action report.
  • Photos, text, output report are all included when recording complaints.
  • Receive back product in question then run evaluations.
  • Then get populated to corrective action system (LOB web application).
  • Records management/compliance needed.

Proposed IA

  • Create a “Product Complaints” site underneath (possibly) a manufacturing or production site.
  • Create a list entitled “Submitted Complaints”.
    • To the complaints list add a content type entitled “Product Complaint”.
    • Add the following metadata:
      • Product Category (Pharmaceutical, Medical Device, etc)
      • Complaint ID (from the LOB web application for cross references)
  • Add a “Complaint Photos” library
    • Add a content type entitled “Complaint Photo”
    • Add the following metadata:
      • Complaint ID (from the LOB web application for cross references)
  • Turn on auditing on all document libraries and lists in this site.
  • Possibly create a Data Form Web Part to rollup all data by Complaint ID.
  • This also is a workflow candidate.


This is a very quick attempt at translating content into SharePoint information architecture. Obviously, further content analysis needs to be done, and a supporting site taxonomy is needed for this site collection. You can see how quickly a more robust architecture can help rolling up and tracking data for this organization. If you have any questions on how I translated any of this let me know in the comments.

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