Category: Enterprise

A Taxonomy of Enterprise Search: Complete Paper

September 18th, 2011 — 10:50am

The Euro­HCIR orga­niz­ers have pub­lished pro­ceed­ings from this year’s work­shop (which I was unfor­tu­nately unable to attend), which means I can make our paper A Tax­on­omy of Enter­prise Search and Dis­cov­ery directly avail­able.  The com­plete pro­ceed­ings are here, and are also pack­aged as a sin­gle down­load.

Here’s the text of the pub­lished paper, includ­ing ref­er­ences, and adding in a few illus­tra­tions omit­ted to meet page lim­its on papers.  Many thanks go to co-authors Tony Russell-Rose and Mark Bur­rell for putting this paper together.

A Tax­on­omy of Enter­prise Search


Clas­sic IR (infor­ma­tion retrieval) is pred­i­cated on the notion of users search­ing for infor­ma­tion in order to sat­isfy a par­tic­u­lar “infor­ma­tion need”. How­ever, it is now accepted that much of what we rec­og­nize as search behav­iour is often not infor­ma­tional per se. For exam­ple, Broder (2002) has shown that the need under­ly­ing a given web search could in fact be nav­i­ga­tional (e.g. to find a par­tic­u­lar site or known item) or trans­ac­tional (e.g. to find a sites through which the user can trans­act, e.g. through online shop­ping, social media, etc.). Sim­i­larly, Rose & Levin­son (2004) have iden­ti­fied con­sump­tion of online resources as a fur­ther cat­e­gory of search behav­iour and query intent.

In this paper, we extend this work to the enter­prise con­text, exam­in­ing the needs and behav­iours of indi­vid­u­als across a range of search and dis­cov­ery sce­nar­ios within var­i­ous types of enter­prise. We present an ini­tial tax­on­omy of “dis­cov­ery modes”, and dis­cuss some ini­tial impli­ca­tions for the design of more effec­tive search and dis­cov­ery plat­forms and tools.

Cat­e­gories and Sub­ject Descriptors

H.3.3 [Infor­ma­tion Search and Retrieval]: Search process;

H.3.5 [Online Infor­ma­tion Ser­vices]: Web-based services

Gen­eral Terms

Human Fac­tors.


Enter­prise search, infor­ma­tion seek­ing, user behav­iour, knowl­edge work­ers, search modes, infor­ma­tion dis­cov­ery, user expe­ri­ence design.


To design bet­ter search and dis­cov­ery expe­ri­ences we must under­stand the com­plex­i­ties of the human-information seek­ing process. Numer­ous the­o­ret­i­cal frame­works have been pro­posed to char­ac­ter­ize this com­plex process, notably the stan­dard model (Sut­cliffe & Ennis 1998), the cog­ni­tive model (Nor­man 1998) and the dynamic model (Bates, 1989). In addi­tion, oth­ers have inves­ti­gated search as a strate­gic process, exam­in­ing the var­i­ous prob­lem solv­ing strate­gies and tac­tics that infor­ma­tion seek­ers employ over extended peri­ods of time (e.g. Kuhlthau, 1991).

In this paper, we exam­ine the needs and behav­iours of var­ied indi­vid­u­als across a range of search and dis­cov­ery sce­nar­ios within var­i­ous types of enter­prise. These are based on an analy­sis of the sce­nar­ios derived from numer­ous engage­ments involv­ing the devel­op­ment of search and busi­ness intel­li­gence solu­tions uti­liz­ing the Endeca Lat­i­tude soft­ware plat­form. In so doing, we extend the clas­sic IR con­cept of information-seeking to a broader notion of discovery-oriented prob­lem solv­ing, accom­mo­dat­ing the much wider range of behav­iours required to ful­fil the typ­i­cal goals and objec­tives of enter­prise knowl­edge workers.

Our approach to enter­prise dis­cov­ery is an activity-centred model inspired by Don Norman’s Activ­ity Cen­tred Design, which “orga­nizes accord­ing to usage” whereas “…tra­di­tional human cen­tred design orga­nizes accord­ing to topic, in iso­la­tion, out­side the con­text of real, every­day use.” (Nor­man 2006). This approach is an exten­sion of pre­vi­ous activity-centred mod­el­ling efforts which focused on a “captur[ing] a sys­tem­atic and holis­tic view of what users need to accom­plish when under­tak­ing infor­ma­tion retrieval tasks more com­plex than search­ing” (Laman­tia 2006), employ­ing Grounded The­ory to pro­vide method­olog­i­cal struc­ture (Glaser 1967).

In this con­text, we present an alter­na­tive model focused on infor­ma­tion dis­cov­ery rather than infor­ma­tion seek­ing per se, which has at its core an ini­tial tax­on­omy of the “modes of dis­cov­ery” that knowl­edge work­ers employ to sat­isfy their infor­ma­tion search and dis­cov­ery goals. We then dis­cuss some ini­tial impli­ca­tions of this model for the design of more effec­tive search and dis­cov­ery plat­forms and tools.


The clas­sic model of IR assumes an inter­ac­tion cycle con­sist­ing of four main activ­i­ties: the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion an infor­ma­tion need, the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of an appro­pri­ate query, the exam­i­na­tion of retrieval results, and refor­mu­la­tion (where nec­es­sary) of the orig­i­nal query. This cycle is then repeated until a suit­able result set is found (Salton 1989).

In both the above mod­els, the user’s infor­ma­tion need is assumed to be sta­tic. How­ever, it is now acknowl­edged that infor­ma­tion seek­ers’ needs often change as they inter­act with a search sys­tem. In recog­ni­tion of this, alter­na­tive mod­els of infor­ma­tion seek­ing have been pro­posed. For exam­ple, Bates (1989) pro­posed the dynamic “berry-picking” model of infor­ma­tion seek­ing, in which the infor­ma­tion need (and con­se­quently the query) changes through­out the search process This model also recog­nises that infor­ma­tion needs are not sat­is­fied by a sin­gle, final result set, but by the aggre­ga­tion of results, insights and inter­ac­tions along the way.

Bates’ work is par­tic­u­larly inter­est­ing as it explores the con­nec­tions between the dynamic model and the search strate­gies and tac­tics that pro­fes­sional information-seekers employ. In par­tic­u­lar, Bates iden­ti­fies a set of 29 indi­vid­ual tac­tics, organ­ised into four broad cat­e­gories (Bates, 1979). Like­wise, O’Day & Jef­fries (1993) exam­ined the use of infor­ma­tion search results by clients of pro­fes­sional infor­ma­tion inter­me­di­aries and iden­ti­fied three dis­tinct “search modes” or major cat­e­gories of search behav­iour: (1) Mon­i­tor­ing a known topic or set of vari­ables over time; (2) Fol­low­ing a spe­cific plan for infor­ma­tion gath­er­ing; (3) Explor­ing a topic in an undi­rected fashion.

O’Day and Jef­fries also observed that a given search would often evolve over time into a series of inter­con­nected searches, delim­ited by cer­tain trig­gers and stop con­di­tions that indi­cate the tran­si­tions between modes or indi­vid­ual searches exe­cuted as part of an over­all enquiry or sce­nario. More­over, O’Day & Jef­fries also attempted to char­ac­terise the analy­sis tech­niques employed by the clients in inter­pret­ing the search results, iden­ti­fy­ing the fol­low­ing six pri­mary cat­e­gories: (1) Look­ing for trends or cor­re­la­tions; (2) Mak­ing com­par­isons; (3) Exper­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent aggregations/scaling; (4) Iden­ti­fy­ing crit­i­cal sub­sets; (5) Mak­ing assess­ments; (6) Inter­pret­ing data to find meaning.

More recent inves­ti­ga­tions into the rela­tion­ship between infor­ma­tion needs and search activ­i­ties include that of Mar­chion­ini (2005), who iden­ti­fies three major cat­e­gories of search activ­ity, namely “Lookup”, “Learn” and “Investigate”.


The pri­mary source of data in this study is a set of user sce­nar­ios cap­tured dur­ing numer­ous engage­ments involv­ing the devel­op­ment of search and busi­ness intel­li­gence solu­tions uti­liz­ing the Endeca Lat­i­tude soft­ware plat­form. These sce­nar­ios take the form of a sim­ple nar­ra­tive that illus­trates the user’s end goal and the pri­mary task or action they take to com­plete it, fol­lowed by a brief descrip­tion of their job func­tion or role, for example:

I need to under­stand a portfolio’s expo­sures to assess portfolio-level invest­ment mix” (Port­fo­lio Manager)

I need to under­stand the qual­ity per­for­mance of a part and mod­ule set in man­u­fac­tur­ing and the field so that I can deter­mine if I should replace that part” (Engineering)

These sce­nar­ios were man­u­ally ana­lyzed to iden­tify themes or modes that appeared con­sis­tently through­out the set. For exam­ple, in each of the sce­nar­ios above there is an artic­u­la­tion of the need to develop an under­stand­ing or com­pre­hen­sion of some aspect of the data, imply­ing that “com­pre­hend­ing” may con­sti­tute one such dis­cov­ery mode. Inevitably, this analy­sis process was some­what iter­a­tive and sub­jec­tive, echo­ing the obser­va­tions made by Bates (1979) in the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of her search tac­tics: “While our goal over the long term may be a par­si­mo­nious few, highly effec­tive tac­tics, our goal in the short term should be to uncover as many as we can, as being of poten­tial assis­tance. Then we can test the tac­tics and select the good ones. If we go for clo­sure too soon, i.e., seek that par­si­mo­nious few pre­ma­turely, then we may miss some valu­able tac­tics.”

There are how­ever some guid­ing prin­ci­ples that we can apply to facil­i­tate con­ver­gence on a sta­ble set. For exam­ple, an ideal set of modes would exhibit prop­er­ties such as: Con­sis­tency (they rep­re­sent approx­i­mately the same level of abstrac­tion); Orthog­o­nal­ity (they oper­ate inde­pen­dently to each other); and Com­pre­hen­sive­ness (they address the full range of dis­cov­ery scenarios).

The ini­tial set of dis­cov­ery modes to emerge from this analy­sis con­sists of a set of nine, arranged into three top-level cat­e­gories con­sis­tent with those of Mar­chion­ini (2005). The nine modes are as fol­lows, each shown with a brief definition:

1. Lookup

1a. Locat­ing: To find a spe­cific (pos­si­bly known) item;

1b. Ver­i­fy­ing: To con­firm or sub­stan­ti­ate that an item or set of items meets some spe­cific criterion;

1c. Mon­i­tor­ing: To main­tain aware­ness of the sta­tus of an item or data set for pur­poses of man­age­ment or control

2. Learn

2a. Com­par­ing: To exam­ine two or more items to iden­tify sim­i­lar­i­ties & differences;

2b. Com­pre­hend­ing: To gen­er­ate insight by under­stand­ing the nature or mean­ing of an item or data set;

2c. Explor­ing: To proac­tively inves­ti­gate or exam­ine an item or data set for the pur­pose of serendip­i­tous knowl­edge discovery

3. Inves­ti­gate

3a. Ana­lyz­ing: To crit­i­cally exam­ine the detail of an item or data set to iden­tify pat­terns & relationships;

3b. Eval­u­at­ing: To use judg­ment to deter­mine the sig­nif­i­cance or value of an item or data set with respect to a spe­cific bench­mark or model

3c. Syn­the­siz­ing: To gen­er­ate or com­mu­ni­cate insight by inte­grat­ing diverse inputs to cre­ate a novel arte­fact or com­pos­ite view

Evi­dently, the out­put of this process has been opti­mized for the cur­rent data set and in that respect rep­re­sents an ini­tial inter­pre­ta­tion that will need to evolve fur­ther. For exam­ple, “mon­i­tor­ing” may appear to be a lookup activ­ity when con­sid­ered in the con­text of a sim­ple alert mes­sage, but when viewed as a strate­gic activ­ity per­formed by an exec­u­tive in the con­text of an organ­i­sa­tional dash­board, a much greater degree of inter­ac­tion and com­plex­ity is implied. Con­versely, “explor­ing” is a con­cept whose level of abstrac­tion may prove some­what higher than the oth­ers, thus break­ing the con­sis­tency prin­ci­ple sug­gested above.

How­ever, the true value of the modes will be realised not by their con­cep­tual purity or ele­gance but by their util­ity as a design resource. In this respect, they should be judged by the extent to which they facil­i­tate the design process in cap­tur­ing impor­tant char­ac­ter­is­tics com­mon to enter­prise search and dis­cov­ery expe­ri­ences, whilst flex­i­bly accom­mo­dat­ing arbi­trary vari­a­tions in domain, infor­ma­tion resources, etc.


A fur­ther inter­est­ing obser­va­tion aris­ing from the above analy­sis is that the map­ping between sce­nar­ios and modes is not one-to–one. Instead, some sce­nar­ios are seen to involve a num­ber of modes, some­times with a pri­mary or dom­i­nant mode, and often with an implied lin­ear sequence. More­over, cer­tain sequences of modes tend to re-occur more fre­quently than oth­ers, form­ing spe­cific “mode chains” or pat­terns, anal­o­gous to higher-level syn­tac­tic units. These pat­terns pro­vide a frame­work for under­stand­ing the tran­si­tions between modes (echo­ing the trig­gers iden­ti­fied by O’Day & Jef­fries), and allude to the exis­tence of nat­ural seams that can be used be used to pro­vide fur­ther insight into infor­ma­tion enter­prise search and dis­cov­ery behaviour.

These mode chains echo the above-mentioned efforts to cre­ate goal-based infor­ma­tion retrieval mod­els, which yielded modes and a set of broadly applic­a­ble “infor­ma­tion retrieval pat­terns that describe the ways users com­bine and switch modes to meet goals: Each pat­tern is assem­bled from com­bi­na­tions of the same four [ele­men­tal] modes” (Laman­tia 2006).

Mode Net­works

Fig­ure 1. Dis­cov­ery mode network

The five most fre­quent mode pat­terns are listed below. These have been assigned descrip­tive (if some­what infor­mal) labels to aid their char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, along with the sequence of modes they rep­re­sent and an asso­ci­ated exam­ple scenario:

  1. Comparison-driven opti­miza­tion: (Analyze-Compare– Eval­u­ate) e.g. “Replace a prob­lem­atic part with an equiv­a­lent or bet­ter part with­out com­pro­mis­ing qual­ity and cost
  2. Exploration-driven opti­miza­tion: (Explore-Analyze-Evaluate) e.g. “Iden­tify oppor­tu­ni­ties to opti­mize use of tool­ing capac­ity for my commodity/parts
  3. Strate­gic Insight (Analyze-Comprehend-Evaluate) e.g. “Under­stand a lead’s under­ly­ing posi­tions so that I can assess the qual­ity of the invest­ment oppor­tu­nity
  4. Strate­gic Over­sight (Monitor-Analyze-Evaluate) e.g. “Mon­i­tor & assess com­mod­ity sta­tus against strategy/plan/target
  5. Comparison-driven Syn­the­sis (Analyze-Compare-Synthesize) e.g. “Ana­lyze and under­stand consumer-customer-market trends to inform brand strat­egy & com­mu­ni­ca­tions plan

Fur­ther insight may be derived by exam­in­ing how the mode pat­terns com­bine across all the sce­nar­ios to the form of a “mode net­work”, as shown in Fig­ure 1. Evi­dently, some modes act as “ter­mi­nal” nodes, i.e. entry points or exit points to a dis­cov­ery sce­nario. For exam­ple, Mon­i­tor and Explore fea­ture only as entry points at the ini­ti­a­tion of a sce­nario, whilst Syn­the­size and Eval­u­ate fea­ture only as exit points to a scenario.


The modes estab­lish a ‘taskon­omy’ or col­lec­tion of defined dis­cov­ery activ­i­ties which are struc­turally con­sis­tent, domain and scale inde­pen­dent, orthog­o­nal, seman­ti­cally dis­tinct, con­cep­tu­ally con­nected, and flex­i­bly sequence­able. Such a pro­file — anal­o­gous to notes in the musi­cal scale, or the words and phrases we assem­ble into sen­tences — should allow the modes to serve as a lan­guage for the design of vari­able scale activity-centered dis­cov­ery solu­tions through com­mon con­struc­tive mech­a­nisms such as con­cate­na­tion, com­bi­na­tion and nest­ing. And if the modes do act as an ele­men­tary gram­mar for dis­cov­ery, then sus­tained use as a func­tional and inter­ac­tion design lan­guage should result in the cre­ation of larger and more com­plex units of mean­ing which offer cumu­la­tive value.

Pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ence with employ­ing the modes as both an ana­lyt­i­cal frame­work for under­stand­ing dis­cov­ery needs and as a design gram­mar for the def­i­n­i­tion of dis­cov­ery solu­tions sug­gests that both impli­ca­tions are valid. Fur­ther, our obser­va­tions of using the modes sug­gest the exis­tence of rec­og­niz­able pat­terns in the design of dis­cov­ery solu­tions. We will briefly dis­cuss some of the pat­terns observed, doing so at three com­mon lev­els of solu­tion scale: on the level of a sin­gle func­tional or inter­face ele­ment, for whole screens or inter­faces com­posed of mul­ti­ple func­tional ele­ments, and for appli­ca­tions com­pris­ing mul­ti­ple screens.

5.1 Sin­gle ele­ment patterns

5.1.1 Com­par­i­son Views

One of the most com­mon design pat­terns is to sup­port the need for the Com­pare mode by cre­at­ing A/B type com­par­i­son views that present two dis­play panes — each con­tain­ing data dis­play charts or tables; or sin­gle items or groups of items — side by side to empha­size sim­i­lar­i­ties and differences.

5.1.2 Con­tex­tual Views

Another com­mon design pat­tern sup­ports the Analy­sis mode by allow­ing a fore-grounded view of a sin­gle chart, table, item, or list, accom­pa­nied by its con­tex­tual ‘halo’ — the full body of infor­ma­tion avail­able about the ele­ment such as sta­tus, ori­gin, for­mat, rela­tion­ships to other ele­ments; anno­ta­tions; etc.

5.2 Whole screen patterns

5.2.1 Dash­board

One of the most com­mon screen-level design pat­terns is to sup­port the Mon­i­tor­ing and Syn­the­sis modes by pre­sent­ing a col­lec­tion of met­rics which in aggre­gate pro­vide the sta­tus of inde­pen­dent processes, groups, or progress ver­sus goals in a ‘dash­board’ style screen.

Fig­ure: Dash­board Screen

5.2.2 Visual Dis­cov­ery Screen: 4-Dimensions


A sec­ond com­mon screen-level design pat­tern for dis­cov­ery expe­ri­ences is the visual dis­cov­ery screen, which sup­ports modes such Explo­ration, Eval­u­a­tion, and Ver­i­fi­ca­tion by lay­er­ing views that present visu­al­iza­tions of sev­eral dimen­sions of a sin­gle axis of focus such as a core process, orga­ni­za­tional unit, or KPI. When switch­ing between lay­ered views, the axis in focus remains the same, but the data and pre­sen­ta­tion in the dimen­sions adjusts to match the pre­ferred dis­cov­ery mode.

Fig­ure: Visual Analy­sis Screen

5.3 Application-level patterns

5.3.1 Dif­fer­en­ti­ated Application

The ‘Dif­fer­en­ti­ated Appli­ca­tion’ pat­tern assem­bles a col­lec­tion of indi­vid­ual screens whose dis­tinct com­po­si­tions and designs sup­port indi­vid­ual dis­cov­ery modes of Analy­sis, Com­par­i­son, Eval­u­a­tion and Mon­i­tor­ing in aggre­gate to address the ‘Strate­gic Over­sight’ mode sequence. Application-level pat­terns often address a spec­trum of dis­cov­ery needs for a group of users with dif­fer­ing orga­ni­za­tional respon­si­bil­i­ties, such as man­age­ment vs. detailed analysis.

Fig­ure: Dif­fer­en­ti­ated Appli­ca­tion Structure
















The above analy­sis is pred­i­cated on the notion that the user sce­nar­ios pro­vide a unique insight into the infor­ma­tion needs of enter­prise knowl­edge work­ers. How­ever, a num­ber of caveats apply to both the data and the approach.

Firstly, the sce­nar­ios were orig­i­nally gen­er­ated to sup­port the devel­op­ment of a spe­cific imple­men­ta­tion rather than for the analy­sis above. There­fore, the prin­ci­ples gov­ern­ing their cre­ation may not faith­fully reflect the true dis­tri­b­u­tion or pri­or­ity of infor­ma­tion needs among the var­i­ous end user pop­u­la­tions. Sec­ondly, the par­tic­u­lar sam­ple we selected for this study was based on a num­ber of prag­matic fac­tors (includ­ing avail­abil­ity), which may not faith­fully rep­re­sent the true dis­tri­b­u­tion or pri­or­ity among enter­prise orga­ni­za­tions. Thirdly, the data will inevitably con­tain some degree of sub­jec­tiv­ity, par­tic­u­larly in cases where sce­nar­ios were gen­er­ated by proxy rather than with direct end-user con­tact. Fourthly, the data will inevitably con­tain some degree of incon­sis­tency in cases where sce­nar­ios were doc­u­mented by dif­fer­ent individuals.

We should also acknowl­edge a num­ber of caveats con­cern­ing the process itself. In induc­tive work with foun­da­tions in qual­i­ta­tively cen­tered frame­works such as Grounded The­ory, it is expected that a num­ber of iter­a­tions of a “propose-classify-refine” cycle will be required for the process to con­verge on a sta­ble out­put (e.g. Rose & Levin­son, 2004). In addi­tion, those iter­a­tions should involve a vari­ety of crit­i­cal view­points, with the out­put tested and refined using a sep­a­rate, inde­pen­dent sam­ple on each iter­a­tion. Like­wise, the process by which sce­nar­ios are clas­si­fied would ben­e­fit from fur­ther rigour: this is a crit­i­cal part of the process and of course relies on human judge­ment and infer­ence, but that judge­ment needs to go beyond sim­ple word match­ing and be con­sis­tently applied to each sce­nario so that sub­tle dis­tinc­tions in mean­ing and intent can be accu­rately iden­ti­fied and recorded.

That said, some inter­est­ing com­par­isons can already be made with the exist­ing frame­works. For exam­ple, the first and third of the search modes sug­gested by O’Day and Jef­fries have also been iden­ti­fied as dis­tinct dis­cov­ery modes in our own study, and the sec­ond (arguably) maps on to one or more of the mode chains iden­ti­fied above. Like­wise, the search results analy­sis tech­niques that O’Day & Jef­fries iden­ti­fied also present some inter­est­ing parallels.


To design bet­ter search and dis­cov­ery expe­ri­ences we must under­stand the com­plex­i­ties of the human-information seek­ing process. In this paper, we have exam­ined the needs and behav­iours of var­ied indi­vid­u­als across a range of search and dis­cov­ery sce­nar­ios within var­i­ous types of enter­prise. In so doing, we have extended the clas­sic IR con­cept of information-seeking to a broader notion of discovery-oriented prob­lem solv­ing, accom­mo­dat­ing the much wider range of behav­iours required to ful­fil the typ­i­cal goals and objec­tives of enter­prise knowl­edge workers.

In addi­tion, we have pro­posed an alter­na­tive model focused on infor­ma­tion dis­cov­ery rather than infor­ma­tion seek­ing which has at its core a tax­on­omy of “modes of dis­cov­ery” that knowl­edge work­ers employ to sat­isfy their infor­ma­tion search and dis­cov­ery goals. We have also exam­ined some of the ini­tial impli­ca­tions of this model for the design of more effec­tive search and dis­cov­ery plat­forms and tools.

Sug­ges­tions for future work include fur­ther iter­a­tions on the “propose-classify-refine” cycle using inde­pen­dent data. This data should ide­ally be acquired based on a prin­ci­pled sam­pling strat­egy that attempts where pos­si­ble to address any biases intro­duced in the cre­ation of the orig­i­nal sce­nar­ios. In addi­tion, this process should be com­ple­mented by empir­i­cal research and obser­va­tion of knowl­edge work­ers in con­text to val­i­date and refine the dis­cov­ery modes and trig­gers that give rise to the observed pat­terns of usage.


[1] Bates, Mar­cia J. 1979. “Infor­ma­tion Search Tac­tics.” Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety for Infor­ma­tion Sci­ence 30: 205–214

[2] Bates, Mar­cia J. 1989. “The Design of Brows­ing and Berryp­ick­ing Tech­niques for the Online Search Inter­face.” Online Review 13: 407–424.

[3] Broder, A. 2002. A tax­on­omy of web search, ACM SIGIR Forum, v.36 n.2, Fall 2002

[4] Kuhlthau, C. C. 1991. Inside the infor­ma­tion search process: Infor­ma­tion seek­ing from the user’s per­spec­tive. Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety for Infor­ma­tion Sci­ence, 42, 361–371.

[5] Laman­tia, J. 2006. “10 Infor­ma­tion Retrieval Pat­terns”,

[6] Glaser, B. & Strauss, A. 1967. The Dis­cov­ery of Grounded The­ory: Strate­gies for Qual­i­ta­tive Research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

[7] Mar­chion­ini, G. 2006. Exploratory search: from find­ing to under­stand­ing. Com­mun. ACM 49(4): 41–46

[8] Nor­man, Don­ald A. 1988. The psy­chol­ogy of every­day things. New York, NY, US: Basic Books.

[9] Don­ald A. Nor­man. 2006. Logic ver­sus usage: the case for activ­ity cen­tered design. Inter­ac­tions 13, 6

[10] O’Day, V. and Jef­fries, R. 1993. Ori­en­teer­ing in an infor­ma­tion land­scape: how infor­ma­tion seek­ers get from here to there. INTERCHI 1993: 438–445

[11] Rose, D. and Levin­son, D. 2004. Under­stand­ing user goals in web search, Pro­ceed­ings of the 13th inter­na­tional con­fer­ence on World Wide Web, New York, NYUSA

[12] Salton, G. (1989). Auto­matic Text Pro­cess­ing: The Trans­for­ma­tion, Analy­sis, and Retrieval of Infor­ma­tion by Com­puter. Addison-Wesley, Read­ing, MA.

[13] A.G. Sut­cliffe and M. Ennis. Towards a cog­ni­tive the­ory of infor­ma­tion retrieval. Inter­act­ing with Com­put­ers, 10:321–351, 1998.



Comment » | Enterprise, Language of Discovery, User Research

The Architecture of Discovery: Slides from Discover Conference 2011

April 16th, 2011 — 1:11pm

Endeca invites cus­tomers, part­ners and lead­ing mem­bers of the broader search and dis­cov­ery tech­nol­ogy and solu­tions com­mu­ni­ties to meet annu­ally, and show­case the most inter­est­ing and excit­ing work in the field of dis­cov­ery.  As lead for the UX team that designs Endeca’s dis­cov­ery prod­ucts, I shared some of our recent work on pat­terns in the struc­ture of dis­cov­ery appli­ca­tions, as well as best prac­tices in infor­ma­tion design and visu­al­iza­tion that we use to drive prod­uct def­i­n­i­tion and design for Endeca’s Lat­i­tude Dis­cov­ery Framework.

This mate­r­ial is use­ful for pro­gram and project man­agers and busi­ness ana­lysts defin­ing require­ments for dis­cov­ery solu­tions and appli­ca­tions, UX and sys­tem archi­tects craft­ing high-level struc­tures and address­ing long-term growth, inter­ac­tion design­ers and tech­ni­cal devel­op­ers defin­ing and build­ing infor­ma­tion work­spaces at a fine grain, and

There are three major sec­tions: the first presents some of our tools for iden­ti­fy­ing and under­stand­ing people’s needs and goals for dis­cov­ery in terms of activ­ity (the Lan­guage of Dis­cov­ery as we call it), the sec­ond brings together screen-level, appli­ca­tion level, and user sce­nario / use-case level pat­terns we’ve observed in the appli­ca­tions cre­ated to meet those needs, and the final sec­tion shares con­densed best prac­tices and fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples for infor­ma­tion design and visu­al­iza­tion based on aca­d­e­mic research dis­ci­plines such as cog­ni­tive sci­ence and infor­ma­tion retrieval.

It’s no coin­ci­dence that these sec­tions reflect the appli­ca­tion of the core UX dis­ci­plines of user research, infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture, and inter­ac­tion design to the ques­tion of “who will need to encounter infor­ma­tion for some end, and in what kind of expe­ri­ence will they encounter it”.  This flow and order­ing is delib­er­ate; it demon­strates on two lev­els the results of our own efforts apply­ing the UX per­spec­tive to the ques­tions inher­ent in cre­at­ing dis­cov­ery tools, and shares some of the tools, insights, tem­plates, and resources we use to shape the plat­form used to cre­ate dis­cov­ery expe­ri­ences across diverse industries.

Ses­sion outline

  1. Under­stand­ing User Needs
  2. Design Pat­terns for Dis­cov­ery Applications
  3. Design Prin­ci­ples and Gudielines for Infor­ma­tion Inter­ac­tion and Visualization

Ses­sion description

How can you har­ness the power and flex­i­bil­ity of Lat­i­tude to cre­ate use­ful, usable, and com­pelling dis­cov­ery appli­ca­tions for enter­prise dis­cov­ery work­ers? This ses­sion goes beyond the tech­nol­ogy to explore how you can apply fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of infor­ma­tion design and visu­al­iza­tion, ana­lyt­ics best prac­tices and user inter­face design pat­terns to com­pose effec­tive and com­pelling dis­cov­ery appli­ca­tions that opti­mize user dis­cov­ery, suc­cess, engage­ment, & adoption.”

The pat­terns are prod­uct spe­cific in that they show how to com­pose screens and appli­ca­tions using the pre­de­fined com­po­nents in the Dis­cov­ery Frame­work library.  How­ever, many of the product-specific com­po­nents are built to address com­mon or recur­ring needs for inter­ac­tion with infor­ma­tion via well-known mech­a­nisms such as search, fil­ter­ing, nav­i­ga­tion, visu­al­iza­tion, and pre­sen­ta­tion of data.  In other words, even if you’re not using the lit­eral Dis­cov­ery Frame­work com­po­nent library to com­pose your spe­cific infor­ma­tion analy­sis work­space, you’ll find these pat­terns rel­e­vant at work­space and appli­ca­tion lev­els of scale.

The deeper story of these pat­terns is in demon­strat­ing the evo­lu­tion of dis­cov­ery and analy­sis appli­ca­tions over time.  Typ­i­cally, dis­cov­ery appli­ca­tions begin by offer­ing users a general-purpose work­space that sat­is­fies a wide range of inter­ac­tion tasks in an approx­i­mate fash­ion.  Over time, via suc­ces­sive expan­sions in the the scope and vari­ety of data they present, and the dis­cov­ery and analy­sis capa­bil­i­ties they pro­vide, dis­cov­ery appli­ca­tions grow to include sev­eral dif­fer­ent types of work­spaces that indi­vid­u­ally address dis­tinct sets of needs for visu­al­iza­tion and sense mak­ing by using very dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of com­po­nents.  As a com­pos­ite, these func­tional and infor­ma­tion­ally diverse work­spaces span the full range of inter­ac­tion needs for dif­fer­ing types of users.

I hope you find this toolkit and col­lec­tion of pat­terns and infor­ma­tion design prin­ci­ples use­ful.  What are some of the resources you’re using to take on these challenges?

User Expe­ri­ence Archi­tec­ture For Dis­cov­ery Appli­ca­tions from Joe Laman­tia

Comment » | Dashboards & Portals, Enterprise, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Search Me: Designing Information Retrieval Experiences

May 15th, 2009 — 10:50am

I just posted slides from my talk at the recent Enter­prise Search Sum­mit in NY “Search Me: Design­ing Infor­ma­tion Retrieval Experience”

Here’s the abstract from the session:

This case study reviews the meth­ods and insights that emerged from an 18-month effort to coör­di­nate and enhance the scat­tered user expe­ri­ences of a suite of infor­ma­tion retrieval tools sold as ser­vices by a major invest­ment rat­ings agency. The ses­sion will share a method for under­stand­ing audi­ence needs in diverse infor­ma­tion access con­texts; review a col­lec­tion of infor­ma­tion retrieval pat­terns, look at con­cep­tual design meth­ods for user expe­ri­ences, and review a set of longer term pat­terns in cus­tomer behav­ior called life­cy­cles, and con­sider the impact of orga­ni­za­tional and cul­tural fac­tors on design decisions.

This ses­sion will presents reusable expe­ri­ence design tools and find­ings rel­e­vant for con­texts such as enter­prise search and infor­ma­tion access, ser­vice design, and prod­uct and plat­form management.

Thanks to every­one who came by!

Comment » | Enterprise, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Effective Portals Article in Intranets Today

November 2nd, 2008 — 11:17am

Read­ers active in the enter­prise, intranet, por­tal, and syn­di­cated con­tent & func­tion­al­ity spaces might be inter­ested in The Build­ing Blocks of Effec­tive Por­tals that appears in the Novem­ber / Decem­ber issue of Intranets Today.
Intranets is one of the lead­ing pub­li­ca­tions focused on these top­ics, with reg­u­lar con­tri­bu­tions from the likes of Rachel Alexan­der, Jane McConnell, and James Rober­ston.
You will need a log-in to read the com­plete arti­cle on-line, but per­haps you were think­ing of sub­scrib­ing, and this will pull you in.

Comment » | Building Blocks, Enterprise, Information Architecture

User Experience: About To Be Commoditized?

October 2nd, 2008 — 7:02pm

Read­ing about the recent release of Social­Text 3 I was struck by the strong par­al­lels between the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of enter­prise envi­ron­ments in 2003/2004, and the emerg­ing pub­lic Web 2.0 land­scape. The essen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tics of many enter­prise envi­ron­ments are:

  • Syn­di­ca­tion: streams of mod­u­lar con­tent and func­tion­al­ity broad­cast widely to sub­scribers within the fire­wall, such as enter­prise data feeds, ERP, BI capa­bil­i­ties, CRM, cus­tom capa­bil­i­ties shared via SOA
  • Ser­vices (e.g. envi­ron­men­tal, like the bees we used to have for pol­li­na­tion): iden­tity, secu­rity, pub­li­ca­tion, data man­age­ment, cloud stor­age, imap email, etc.
  • Social Struc­tures: tan­gi­ble net­works & com­mu­ni­ties of like-minded peo­ple, ori­ented around a com­mon prac­tice, pur­pose, process, or pain; think of all the matrixed, hor­i­zon­tal org struc­tures and ad-hoc net­works encoded via inter­nal email lists, IM, sprawl­ing intranets, cor­po­rate direc­to­ries, etc.

These same attrib­utes are emerg­ing as the hall­marks of the pub­lic Web 2.0 land­scape. This is how the three S’s man­i­fest for Web 2.0:

  • Syn­di­ca­tion: A lit­eral and fig­u­ra­tive tor­rent of con­tent in the form of blogs, RSS, feeds, streams, APIs, for social objects of all types, as well as cat­a­logs of rentable content
  • Ser­vices: This layer is grow­ing rapidly for the pub­lic inter­net, with OpenID / OAuth, map­ping, visu­al­iza­tion, backup, cal­en­dar­ing — the list is nearly infi­nite, and still expanding
  • Social Struc­tures: The Web (and soon the mobile uni­verse) is pro­foundly social now, and will con­tinue to become ever more so.

I think you can eas­ily see the strong par­al­lels. It’s this sim­i­lar­ity between the older enter­prise envi­ron­ments and the emerg­ing Web 2.0 envi­ron­ment that user expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers, — and espe­cially any­one prac­tic­ing infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture — should note.
Why? As I’ve writ­ten before, mod­u­lar­ity is every­where in this new envi­ron­ment, it’s appar­ent at all lay­ers of the infor­ma­tion world, from util­i­ties like pro­cess­ing power, to ser­vices, to the ele­ments that make up the user expe­ri­ence. The effects of mod­u­lar­ity in syn­di­ca­tion, ser­vices, and social struc­tures on devel­op­ers and IT have been pro­found; prac­tices, processes, orga­ni­za­tional struc­tures, and busi­ness mod­els have all shifted in response.
This wave of change first affected the devel­op­ers who build and work directly with code and sys­tems. But inevitably, dis­ci­plines fur­ther up the stack are feel­ing the impact of this shift, though many of us (and I’m putting user expe­ri­ence in this class) may not know it yet.
How will we feel that impact? One obvi­ous way is in the pres­sure to adopt agile and other mod­u­lar prod­uct con­struc­tion prac­tices cre­ated by and for devel­op­ers as the pre­ferred way to struc­ture user expe­ri­ence and design efforts. This is a mis­take that con­fuses the dif­fer­ent stages of soft­ware / dig­i­tal prod­uct cre­ation (as Alan Cooper explained well at Agile2008). Design is not con­struc­tion, and shouldn’t be treated as if it is. And one size fits all does not work when choos­ing the process and toolkit used for cre­at­ing com­plex dig­i­tal prod­ucts, ser­vices, or expe­ri­ences.
One result of this mod­u­lar­ity rules all approach to user expe­ri­ence is the ero­sion of bounded or well-structured design processes that bal­ance risk effec­tively for the var­i­ous stages of design, and were meant to ensure the qual­ity and rel­e­vance of the result­ing prod­ucts and expe­ri­ences. Ero­sion is vis­i­ble the trends toward com­pres­sion or elim­i­na­tion of rec­og­niz­able design con­cept explo­ration and usabil­ity ver­i­fi­ca­tion activ­i­ties in many design meth­ods.
More imme­di­ately — in fact star­ing us right in the face, though I haven’t seen men­tion of it yet in m/any user expe­ri­ence forums — is the grow­ing num­ber of sit­u­a­tions wherein there’s “No designer required”.
Exam­ples of this abound, but just con­sider this fea­ture list for the Social Text 3 Dash­board:

  • You decide what matters
  • Cre­ate your dash­board in minutes
  • Include 3rd party infor­ma­tion and applications
  • Track & attend to what’s most impor­tant to you
  • Sta­tus updates flow auto­mat­i­cally, as you work

If that’s not spe­cific enough, here’s what comes out of the box, in the form of pre-built widgets:

  • My Con­ver­sa­tions — changes oth­ers have made to any Social­text work­space page you authored, edited, or com­mented on
  • My Col­leagues — recent updates made by peo­ple you are sub­scribed to
  • Work­spaces — work­spaces you have access to and their activ­ity metrics
  • Work­space Page — any page from any of your Social­text workspaces
  • RSS Viewer — results of an RSS feed you configure
  • Work­space Tags — a tag cloud of all tags in a par­tic­u­lar workspace
  • All Peo­ple Tags — a tag cloud of all tags on peo­ple in Social­text People

No archi­tect required for most peo­ple here… and this trend is every­where.
And then there’s the awe­some spec­tre ofcom­modi­ti­za­tion. Lis­ten­ing to a friend describe the con­fus­ing expe­ri­ence of try­ing to select a short list of design firms for inclu­sion in an RFP made the link­age clear to me. I’ll quote Weil’s def­i­n­i­tion of com­modi­ti­za­tion from the paper ref­er­enced above, to make the point explicit.
Please recall that com­modi­ti­za­tion denotes the devel­op­ment of a com­pet­i­tive envi­ron­ment where:

  • Prod­uct dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion is very difficult;
  • Cus­tomer loy­alty and brand val­ues are low;
  • Com­pe­ti­tion is based pri­mar­ily on price; and
  • Sus­tain­able advan­tage comes from cost (and some­times qual­ity) leadership.
  • Com­modi­ti­za­tion is dri­ven by excess capacity.

Please note that I’m not imply­ing user expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers face overnight obso­le­tion.
But I am say­ing that I doubt our cur­rent dis­ci­pli­nary world­view and toolkit ade­quately pre­pare us for the real­i­ties of the new envi­ron­ment emerg­ing so rapidly. Code, by con­trast, is and always will be mod­u­lar. (After all, that is the defin­ing attribute of our alpha­bets.)
But user expe­ri­ence is holis­tic, and has to learn to build in its own way from these smaller pieces like a writer com­bin­ing words and phrases. Even­tu­ally, you can cre­ate works of tremen­dous depth, rich­ness, and sophis­ti­ca­tion; think of Ulysses by James Joyce, or the Mahab­harata. These are richly nuanced expe­ri­ences that are the result of work­ing with mod­u­lar ele­ments.
My sug­ges­tion for one response to the oncom­ing wave of mod­u­lar­ity and com­modi­ti­za­tion is to focus our value propo­si­tion in the cre­ation of tools that other peo­ple use to define their indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. In other words, shift our pro­fes­sional focus to higher lay­ers of abstrac­tion, and get into the busi­ness of defin­ing and design­ing frame­works, net­works, and sys­tems of expe­ri­ence com­po­nents. Prac­ti­cally, this will mean things like observ­ing and defin­ing the most valu­able pat­terns aris­ing in the use of sys­tems of mod­u­lar ele­ments we design, and then advis­ing on their use to solve prob­lems. This is the direc­tion com­mon within enter­prise envi­ron­ments, and in light of the appear­ance of pub­lic pat­tern libraries (Yahoo’s UI), I think I see it hap­pen­ing within parts of the user expe­ri­ence com­mu­nity. I’m not sure it’s hap­pen­ing fast enough, though.
I hoped to com­mu­ni­cate some of these ideas in my talk on why frame­works are the future (at least for any­one prac­tic­ing Expe­ri­ence Archi­tec­ture) for the 2008 EuroIA Sum­mit that just took place here in lovely Ams­ter­dam. I’ll post the slides shortly. In the mean­time, what do you think? Is user expe­ri­ence ready for the mod­u­lar­ized, enterprise-like envi­ron­ment of Web 2.0? How are you respond­ing to these changes? Is com­modi­ti­za­tion even on your radar?

2 comments » | Enterprise, Information Architecture, Tools, User Experience (UX)

IA Summit Slides: Effective IA For Enterprise Portals

April 17th, 2008 — 3:34pm

I’ve posted slides for my recent Effec­tive IA For Enter­prise Por­tals pre­sen­ta­tion at the IA Sum­mit in Miami. Por­tals are not a tra­di­tional space for user expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers, so many thanks to the packed house that turned out, and stayed as we both started late to accom­mo­date the crowd, and then ran long.
These slides include a sub­stan­tial amount of case study and exam­ple mate­r­ial that I didn’t cover directly in the talk. For the repeat ses­sion on Sun­day, I showed addi­tional exam­ples beyond those included here in the start­ing slides.
Stay tuned for a more detailed writeup of both pub­lished and unpub­lished exam­ple mate­r­ial — one that shows the build­ing blocks in action at all lev­els of a multi-year por­tal effort from ini­tial strat­egy through design and into gov­er­nance / evo­lu­tion — in part six of the Build­ing Blocks series run­ning in Boxes and Arrows, due out once the post-summit flurry set­tles down.

Comment » | Building Blocks, Dashboards & Portals, Enterprise, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

New Organizational Architecture & UX Group on Slideshare

April 8th, 2008 — 4:24pm

I’ve just started a new ‘Orga­ni­za­tional Archi­tec­ture’ group on Slideshare, to explore links to user expe­ri­ence, and ques­tions like these:

  • What is orga­ni­za­tional architecture?
  • How does orga­ni­za­tional archi­tec­ture relate to user experience?
  • What can user expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers bor­row from OA to become more effective?

Join now!

Comment » | Enterprise, User Experience (UX)

The Organizational Architecture of Failure

March 23rd, 2008 — 12:42am

The cul­ture, struc­ture, and work­ings of an orga­ni­za­tion often pose greater chal­lenges for User Expe­ri­ence prac­ti­tion­ers than any tech­ni­cal or design ques­tions at hand. If you’d like to know more about the fac­tors behind these sit­u­a­tions, be sure to check out We Tried To Warn You: The Orga­ni­za­tional Archi­tec­ture of Fail­ure, by Peter Jones, just pub­lished by Boxes and Arrows.
Peter is an inde­pen­dent con­sul­tant with deep exper­tise in research, prod­uct design, and strat­egy. His talk for the panel on fail­ure at the 2007 IA Sum­mit was insight­ful and in-depth, and this two-part series offers quite a bit more very use­ful mate­r­ial on the roots and warn­ing signs of orga­ni­za­tional fail­ure (by com­par­i­son, con­sider the very brief post I put up on the same sub­ject a few years ago.)
Peter’s is the sec­ond writ­ten fea­ture to come out of the fail­ure panel (my mis­sive on the par­al­lels between entre­pre­neur­ial and soci­etal fail­ure was the first). I’m look­ing for­ward to part two of We Tried To Warn You, as well as addi­tional fea­tures from the remain­ing two pan­elists, Chris­t­ian Crum­lish and Lorelei Brown!
Here’s a snip­pet, to whet your appetite:
How do we even know when an orga­ni­za­tion fails? What are the dif­fer­ences between a major prod­uct fail­ure (involv­ing func­tion or adop­tion) and a busi­ness fail­ure that threat­ens the orga­ni­za­tion? An organizational-level fail­ure is a rec­og­niz­able event, one which typ­i­cally fol­lows a series of antecedent events or deci­sions that led to the large-scale break­down. My work­ing def­i­n­i­tion: When sig­nif­i­cant ini­tia­tives crit­i­cal to busi­ness strat­egy fail to meet their highest-priority stated goals.”

Comment » | Enterprise

Portal Building Blocks Intro on Boxes and Arrows

July 24th, 2007 — 10:36am

Boxes and Arrows just pub­lished part two of the Por­tal Build­ing Blocks series — Intro­duc­tion to the Build­ing Blocks. This sec­ond install­ment cov­ers the design con­cepts behind the por­tal build­ing blocks sys­tem, and guide­lines on how to flex­i­bly com­bine the blocks into a well-structured user expe­ri­ence.
If you are work­ing on a por­tal, dash­board, wid­get, social media plat­form, web-based desk­top, or any tile-based design, this series should help clar­ify the growth and usabil­ity chal­lenges you will encounter, as well as pro­vide a pos­si­ble solu­tion, in the form of a sim­ple design frame­work that is plat­form and ven­dor neu­tral.
Stay tuned for the third install­ment in the series, due out shortly!

Comment » | Building Blocks, Dashboards & Portals, Enterprise, Information Architecture, User Experience (UX)

Moving Beyond Reactive IT Strategy With User Experience

May 9th, 2007 — 5:16pm

For those in the enter­prise IA / UX space, The next fron­tier in IT strat­egy: A McK­in­sey Sur­vey cen­tered on the idea that “…IT strat­egy is matur­ing from a reac­tive to a proac­tive stance“is worth a look.
This nicely par­al­lels a point made about the reac­tive mind­set com­mon to IT in many large orga­ni­za­tions, in dis­cus­sion on the IAI mail­ing list last month. Lou Rosenfeld’s post Infor­ma­tion archi­tects on com­mu­ni­cat­ing to IT man­agers, sum­ma­rizes the orig­i­nal dis­cus­sion in the IAI thread, and is worth read­ing as a com­pan­ion piece.
Lou’s sum­mary of infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture and user expe­ri­ence voices in the enter­prise arena is note­wor­thy for includ­ing many exam­ples of strong cor­re­spon­dence between McKinsey’s under­stand­ing of how IT strat­egy will mature (a tra­di­tional man­age­ment con­sult­ing view), and the col­lected IA / UX view­points on address­ing IT lead­er­ship — typ­i­cal buy­ers for enter­prise any­thing — and inno­va­tion.
Dialogs that show con­ver­gence of under­stand­ing like this serve as pos­i­tive signs for the future. At present, a large set of deeply rooted cul­tural assump­tions (at their best inac­cu­rate, usu­ally reduc­tive, some­times even dam­ag­ing) about the roles of IT, busi­ness, and design com­bine with the his­tor­i­cal lega­cies of cor­po­rate struc­tures to need­lessly limit what’s pos­si­ble for User Expe­ri­ence and IA in the enter­prise land­scape. In prac­ti­cal terms, I’m think­ing of those lim­i­ta­tions as bar­ri­ers to the strat­egy table; con­strain­ing who can talk to who, and about which impor­tant top­ics, such as how to spend money, and where the busi­ness should go.
Con­sid­er­ing the gulf that sep­a­rated UX and IT view­points ten — or even five — years ago, this kind of emerg­ing com­mon under­stand­ing is a good sign that the cul­tural obsta­cles to a holis­tic view of the mod­ern enter­prise are wan­ing. We know that a holis­tic view will rely on deep under­stand­ing of the user expe­ri­ence aspects of busi­ness at all lev­els to sup­port inno­va­tion in prod­ucts and ser­vices. I’m hop­ing the rest of the play­ers come to under­stand this soon.
Another good sign is that CIO’s have won a seat at the strat­egy table, after con­sis­tent effort:
Fur­ther evi­dence of IT’s col­lab­o­ra­tive role in shap­ing busi­ness strat­egy is the fact that so many CIOs now have a seat at the table with senior man­age­ment. They report to the CEO in 44 per­cent of all cases; an addi­tional 42 per­cent report to either the chief oper­at­ing offi­cer or the chief finan­cial offi­cer.
Look­ing ahead, infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture and user expe­ri­ence view­points and prac­ti­tion­ers should work toward a sim­i­lar growth path. We fill a crit­i­cal and miss­ing strate­gic role that other tra­di­tional view­points are not as well posi­tioned to sup­ply.
Quot­ing McK­in­sey again:
IT strat­egy in most com­pa­nies has not yet reached its full poten­tial, which in our expe­ri­ence involves exploit­ing inno­va­tion to drive con­stant improve­ment in the oper­a­tions of a busi­ness and to give it a real advan­tage over com­peti­tors with new prod­ucts and capa­bil­i­ties. Fewer than two-thirds of the sur­vey respon­dents say that tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion shapes their strat­egy. Only 43 per­cent say they are either very or extremely effec­tive at iden­ti­fy­ing areas where IT can add the most value.
User Expe­ri­ence can and should have a lead­ing voice in set­ting the agenda for inno­va­tion, and shap­ing under­stand­ings of where IT and other groups can add the most value in the enter­prise. To this end, I’ll quote Peter Mer­holz (with apolo­gies for not ask­ing in advance)
”…we’ve reached a point where we’ve max­i­mized effi­ciency until we can’t max­i­mize no more, and that in order to real­ize new top-line value, we need to inno­vate… And right now, inno­va­tions are com­ing from engag­ing with the expe­ri­ences peo­ple want to have and sat­is­fy­ing *that*.“
McK­in­sey isn’t mak­ing the con­nec­tion between strate­gic user expe­ri­ence per­spec­tives and inno­va­tion — at least not yet. That’s most likely a con­se­quence of the fact that man­age­ment con­sult­ing firms base their own ways of think­ing, orga­ni­za­tional mod­els, and prod­uct offer­ings (ser­vices, intel­lec­tual prop­erty, etc.) on address­ing buy­ers who are them­selves deeply entrenched in trad­tional cor­po­rate struc­tures and world­views. And in those worlds, every­thing is far from mis­cel­la­neous, as a glance at the cat­e­gory options avail­able demon­strates; your menu here includes Cor­po­rate Finance, Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, Mar­ket­ing, Oper­a­tions, Strat­egy…
BTW: if you weren’t con­vinced already, this should demon­strate the value of the $40 IAI annual mem­ber­ship fee, or of sim­ply read­ing Bloug, which is free, over pay­ing for sub­scrip­tions to man­age­ment jour­nals :)

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