Ask people what makes May a noteworthy month, and many folks in the northern hemisphere will wax rhapsodic about its being the peak of springtime. Others might mention Mothers' day.  Ask Forrester's IT analysts and they're pretty sure to immediately blurt out "IT Forum!" IT Forum — the conference formerly known as GigaWorld — is our biggest IT conference as it brings together all our IT analysts and about a zillion of our customers in all the IT-based roles for whom we do research. Each major IT role gets a separate track of research — that's 10 tracks this year. It's essentially a week of non-stop analyst-attendee interaction in various forms. It's intense for both analysts and attendees and easily the most stimulating week on my calendar. At least, on my business calendar (wouldn't want you to think I don't have a life!).

This year I’m doing two information architecture sessions and one on the future of EA. The best thing about the sessions is the amount of real-time interaction one can have. For example, in my next-gen EA session, we’ll talk about how EA is moving up the food chain and focusing more on business impact. I want to raise the issue of resources and what will happen to the “old” focus areas, the technology domains that will continue to need care and feeding. I know what I think will happen – some EA teams will grow, but most will have to increase their reliance on their extended virtual network of internal and external subject matter experts to maintain and evolve their technology roadmaps. This will free EAs up to move into business architecture (and, I hope, information architecture – see the next paragraph). I can throw this issue out to the floor and, if someone says this will not be a problem for them, I can ask them to elaborate. You can’t do that with a survey and interview-based research is single-threaded and runs over a period of weeks. At ITF, I can get feedback (as do the attendees) on this and many other questions in the space of an hour – and then move on to the next session.

In one of my information architecture sessions I’m basically out to convince people to get moving on formalizing this discipline. You’ve probably seen my argument in my Topic Overview: Information Architecture piece and a couple other pieces and at least one other blog post. You know that scene from The Graduate where the graduate gets the one-word advice (“plastics”)? If I were remaking that film today I’d have the word be “metadata.”

In my final session of the week I’m exploring an issue I came across when doing the research for the topic overview. I kept running into people who were big on creating data services but whose environment didn’t have a formal information architecture program. I found this mildly disturbing. Sure, it’s not that big a deal for a developer to do some research and find the appropriate data source for their service. But what about the consumers of services? How will they know which service to use in which context? All the information they’d need might be in the service descriptions, of course, but then again it might not. And the whole idea of creating these data services is to use them enterprise-wide. So maybe all these SOA shops can harvest the metadata in their service descriptions and jump-start an information architecture repository in a big way, or maybe they’re creating a bit of a mess. Probably the answer is somewhere in between, and I’ll be discussing the issue with SOA guru Randy Heffner and data management heavy Noel Yuhanna, who will bring his Information-as-a-Service research to bear on this issue and others (the data services issue is just the jumping-off place for the discussion).

I’ll be looking forward to hearing what the attendees in Las Vegas will have to say about all these topics and more. And if you’d like to suggest a question I can put to the attendees in my sessions, now’s your chance. If you’re coming to IT Forum, I’ll see you there; if you’re not, what question would you be asking your neighbor at the coffee breaks?

The Early Bird rate for IT Forum expired April 9. If you haven’t registered already, call our Events Team at 617.613.5905 with discount code ITXBLG, and they’ll extend the $200 discount for you.