A Quick Look at the Importance of Information Architecture

With all the buzz at the Open Group Conference in Newport Beach this year around Big Data I thought I would take a small step back and write a short post that looks at the importance and the linkages of Information Architecture (or in TOGAF terms Data Architecture).

The importance of information architecture cannot be overemphasized. As architects we look at solutions a bit differently than others in IT by focusing on solving problems business first or top down. However, sometimes we get caught in the trap of focusing on the most tangible aspects of our architecture while losing track of the aspects that truly drive our architectural decisions.

Information architecture serves as that vital bridge from the business architecture world to application and technology  architecture.  This is shown below, from both the widely accepted Enterprise Architecture from NIST and from the Open Group’s TOGAF Architecture Development Method (ADM), you will see Information Architecture as the glue between business and solution architecture.

Mike The Architect Blog - NIST and TOGAF 9

As shown above, information and data constitutes the most basic and foundational of all information units employed by a solution. Solutions are created to manage data and to help transform data into information. But data is consumed in different ways by people, process and technologies. While it’s a little dated, I really like how NIST puts this all together in one model.

Having a clearly defined information architecture provides concrete direction to the architecture. It provides a translation layer between the business architecture and all other views. The Information view does this by first identifying the required information that provides clear direction on how the information should be created, manipulated, and analyzed. Through this articulation of information the view will then identify the required technical capabilities and specific technologies required.

A well-built Information Architecture should be able to address how your architecture will provide:

  • Insight into how information will flow
  • Classification of information
  • How the business and applications should use and operate information
  • Map of information entities
  • Pathway for the creation of application definitions


Cloud computing architectures provide a tangible example of why this is so important. To really determine what solutions can / should go to the cloud we must first understand the data aspects. This ranges from functional / non-functional requirements to risk management and compliance. These aspects have the ability to stop you in your tracks, and they are all data centric.