Federal agency improved operational efficiency with structured handbooks

Federal agency improved operational efficiency with structured handbooks

About the client

This case study describes use of our Information Mapping Methodology at an agency of the US government. This federal agency has a staff of nearly 10,000 and oversees an annual budget in excess of $40 billion.


The agency housed its program operations policy information in a set of 14 large  manuals known as “handbooks.” Each supported a different program or business process administered by the agency. Total content of the handbooks was several thousand pages. Users were agency personnel at offices throughout the country as well as employees of organizations doing business with the agency. These users often experienced difficulty in finding and understanding the information they needed. The resulting confusion, errors, and delays impacted the efficiency of the agency.

There were several reasons for this situation.

  • Agency policies were revised frequently, but the handbooks were rarely revised or updated. Users could not be sure they were working with current information.
  • The handbooks’ content often directed users to other documents. Users had to search the agency’s Web site as well as other locations to find the information they needed.
  • Each handbook contained information unique to its particular program, but also included general information that applied to all programs. This made for a good deal of redundancy across the document set.
  • Content was densely written, full of confusing “legalese” and difficult to navigate. It often included significant amounts of irrelevant or trivial information.


Information Mapping’s professional services consultants revised the handbooks. These consultants

  • performed a complete content audit, including analysis of existing content and interviews with users and subject matter experts,
  • designed a content hierarchy that supported a logical, easily navigated and process-based structure,
  • developed modularized content that was clear and user-focused, and
  • deployed a custom portal that gave users quick, easy access to the information they needed while facilitating storage and ongoing maintenance of the content.


Information Mapping’s services helped this agency’s employees work more effectively and productively. Users of the handbooks within other organizations experienced fewer problems in doing business with the agency.

  • Users found it much easier to access the information they needed. It was available from a single source.
  • Errors and misunderstandings were reduced due to the clarity of the content.
  • Volume of the content was reduced by 30-40%, due to elimination of redundant, irrelevant or trivial information. This helped reduce search time and minimize confusion.
  • Updating and revision of the handbooks were greatly facilitated, since the portal enabled centralized control of the content. This meant that users were always provided with current information.