Information Architecture and Information Resource Management: Taking Stock

Information Architecture and Information Resource Management are concepts that have been around for several years now, yet if you were to ask any two different practitioners how they go about these performing these activities, you will probably get two very different answers. This session features input from a panel of practitioners on their interpretations.

Information Ecology is a concept described in the 1997 book of the same name by Thomas Davenport and Lawrence Prusak. The book proposes an approach that takes a broader understanding of how information is created, distributed, understood, and used in an organization. In addition to architecture, five other aspects of information management are identified: strategy, politics, culture, people and processes. Davenport suggests that a balanced (ecological) approach that takes into account all aspects is required for successful information management. Web sites that have information about Information Ecology are listed at the end of this message.

In this session, the main concepts introduced in the book will be presented, followed by responses from the panel members to a number of questions. The session will then wrap up with general questions from the audience. This event is intended to be a forum for providing a diversity of views on the current state of IRM, rather than a debate. We are not striving for consensus, but for exposure to a number of points of view which will serve as a basis for furthering our understanding of IRM.

The presenter and panel chair will be IRMAC member Brian Detlor. Brian is a doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto. His research interests focus on knowledge management through the use of corporate intranets. Brian has used Davenport’s Information Ecology model in conjunction with related theories on organizational information environments to serve as a theoretical basis for his dissertation. Prior to his studies, Brian held a variety of programming, systems analysis, and data modeling positions in the manufacturing, financial, oil & gas, and telecommunications fields. Currently, Brian is co-authoring a book with Dr. Chun Wei Choo & Don Turnbull tentatively entitled “Information Management & Information Seeking on the WWW” to be published by Kluwer Academic Publishers in first quarter 1999.

The members of the panel are:

  • Arn Copas, data architect for Midland Walwyn, who has responsibilities for enterprise-wide data management and data architecture. His approach to “the data problem” in it’s various forms, recognizes environmental factors (e.g. costs, cultural priorities, training issues), while at the same time, introducing and using enterprise data models. Earlier in his career, Arn spent 7 years as a data modeller and data management consultant working on a variety of assignments for financial services, insurance, utilities and natural resources companies. On a full-time basis, he has experienced success in achieving enterprise-wide data sharing. He is currently working towards a repeat success in a different company with different environmental factors at play.
  • Tom Cullen, founder and principal of Breakthrough Solutions Inc., who has spent 20 years helping businesses think about what they’re doing and why, to become more effective. He envisions such things as the Internet providing virtual reality components that let one “try on” a product, point cast information with selectable level, language, depth, format and duration of material, and an active repository that works. He is a fan of Stephen Covey, Gareth Morgan, Edward deBono and Joel Barker. Tom has said that “the most under-utilized resource in the world today is the human mind”. He is member of the adjunct group of the Enterprise Integration Lab at U of T and a member of the Strategic Leadership Forum, as well as a member and past Board member of IRMAC. He enjoys teaming with clients tackling challenging business issues.
  • Dorothy Russel, a consultant in Information Resource Management, whose practice has focused on applying information architecture principles in a wide range of situations in a variety of industries, including retail, utilities and financial services. In classic assignments, she uses enterprise models to define a portfolio of integrated applications and databases, assess the legacy systems, and define a staged transition to an integrated future. She has provided coaching in principles of information architecture, and specific techniques. Dorothy is currently researching how information engineering and architecture principles form a foundation for the practice of knowledge Management. She has worked with Atkinson, Tremblay & Associates and Chartwell I.R.M., two leading firms in Information Systems Architecture, Planning and IRM.


Brian’s slides are available for download. (Powerpoint 44k)

In preparation for this session, you might like to visit the following Web sites for information about this topic:

The Bigger Picture, book excerpt by Tom Davenport from “Information Ecology”

Information Management: a Broader Approach – Conversation with Tom Davenport

Book Review by Patrick Sue of “Information Ecology”

Designing Intranets for Knowledge Work, by Brian Detlor. Section 2.4.4 is an excellent summary of the Information Ecology model.


Feb 11 1998


8:30 am - 11:30 am


Howard Johnson's Westbury Plaza, 475 Yonge Street (one block north of College)

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