Overviews – a shortcut to the archive’s collection

As the two previous articles in the trilogy have described (read part one and part two here), a solid and effective “undercarriage” enables a business or organization to get the most value out of their information resources.

With a proper “undercarriage” in place, it is possible to create overviews, that present facts, information and data in a concise and structured manner. Overviews can serve to ease and experdiate the processses of answering inquiries, retrieve records, and disseminate content. 

Below, I have listed a few examples of overview types.

Milestones and timelines 

An effective way of creating an overview of a company’s or organization’s development is by identifying milestones. Examples of milestones can be product launches, organizational changes, mergers and acquisitions, inauguration of new buildings and factories, marketing campaigns, strategies, economic results, awards, press coverage, and much more. 

Timelines are a great way of displaying milestones. Depending on the amount of content, clutter can be avoided by utilizing color coding or by creating several thematic tracks that run along the same timeline. For an external audience, however, timelines may not be super unique, but added features like interactivity or a clever design may serve to make them more enticing. 

Product trees 

Product trees is a method to create overview of a company’s past and present product portfolio. A product tree can consist of names and significant dates as well as material such as photos, logos, and marketing material. Product trees can be an invaluable source that can structure all manners of important information and facts about products, such as their names (that may have changed over the years or be different depending on the region it is marketed), release dates, inventors, whether the product was bought up or has been divested, etc.

A product tree can be set up as a hieratical diagram, perhaps controlled chronologically or by product type, which can thereby visualize the development of a given product by showing how the product may have “branched out” to other variants, newer versions, or the like.


Besides the visual overviews described above, information and data from the “undercarriage” can also be structured with lists created in Excel. Examples of information that lists can include are patents and trademarks, markets, economic results, executive management, board of directors, subsidiaries, affiliates, buildings and offices, and more. Spending a bit of time designing a layout with columns (that may include filters), colors, and clear headlines, will go a long way towards making lists easier to read and use. 

Depending on the amount of information, however, there is a risk that Excel lists end up being confusing and unmanageable. This tends to occur if the lists are made up of many rows and columns that stretch across multiple screen lengths, if the lists use more than one Excel sheet, or if photos or illustrations have been inserted. It is also important to keep in mind, that the Excel lists should never replace or take the role of archival databases.


It will take some time and effort to create useful overviews. However, once the strucure has been established, the ongoing maintenance will usually not be too demanding, and ultimately, good overviews will save you both time and resources.