An architecture to Manage Structured and Unstructured Information

Relating to this post by Column Two, which is more about web content structuring/un-structuring, I'd like to ask you the following questions. But first I'll give you some context.


Product research, development, engineering and manufacturing is an interesting process. To certain extent it is structured and follows agreed upon work flows. On the other hand much is done in an ad hoc and unstructured way.

An important part of product research, development, engineering and manufacturing is information management. To design a product information must be gathered, structured, distributed, searched, etc. Over time a clear description of this product (part) is stored, versioned, communicated, etc. These facets of data, document, information and knowledge management are also sometimes very structured, while in other parts of the process totally unstructured.

Most companies manage structured data, documents and information fairly well (in PLM and ERP systems). Most information architecture/management models therefore focus on this type of data, documents and information. These models are typically “top down” (master data, fixed product structures, etc.).

However, a large part (approx. 80% they say) of the information in an organization is unstructured. This type of information is usually not managed, because it “has to be structured to manage it”. If it is “structured” this is done “bottom up” (tags, folksonomies, light-weight document management, etc.).

Due to the Internet more and more attention is being paid to managing unstructured information. Some even state that information is never “structured”. Structuring information disembodies it.

The structured and unstructured information world seem to be distinct. Models for managing both types of information in a coherent and consistent way do not exist.


Most information architecture models do not incorporate both types of information a company is managing or should manage. It is assumed that most architecture models work best for structured (logical) business and information processes.

Therefore my questions are:

  1. Are there information architecture models that comprises structured and unstructured information management?
  2. Is the term ‘structured’ and ‘unstructured’ concise to distinguish these types of information?
  3. If your answer to question 1 is 'yes', do you have experience with that model?
  4. Does that model have added-value above the other information architecture models.


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