The Business Value of Taxonomy
by Earley Information Science, Inc.
Customers demand the ability to find and access information easily.
Managers need quick access to accurate and reliable information to quickly respond to market changes.
Employees want to spend less time validating information accuracy and recreating ‘lost’ documents. Real-world uses for taxonomy:
- Motorola uses taxonomy to ensure consistent web content delivery across over 50 global sites
- A big box retailer uses taxonomy to map supplier data to its internal item master standards
- Jackson Laboratories uses taxonomy to ensure effective search of its vast technical content
- A manufacturer of silicon chip production machinery uses taxonomy to ensure its field support engineers have the latest updates
- AstraZeneca uses taxonomy to ensure effective reuse and digital rights management of marketing content The Dual Role of Taxonomy How should organizations approach taxonomy?
The value proposition of business taxonomy is realized when its dual roles are developed:
- to structure and manage critical business concepts and vocabularies, and;
- to be a provider of content assets to consuming applications.
Taxonomy is a system for storing and organizing terms that represent an organization’s critical concepts. Business taxonomy consists of term names and labels that are assigned to content assets. Term names are organized into hierarchical and/or associative relationships.
They are represented as a tree-like structure that branches out to reveal sub-categories and items. Taxonomy includes a dictionary of preferred and equivalent (synonym) terms to provide flexibility for naming terms. A developed taxonomy is a valuable authoritative source for the organization. It will improve content organization, accessibility, reuse, and findability. Taxonomy is a provider of content assets to consuming applications and is a resource for end users.
Taxonomy-driven improvements lead to reduced costs for delivering services, developing products and conducting operations. Six Ways to Use Business Taxonomy Resolve differences in terminology.
Many organizations have problems with terminology and vocabulary: Companies inherit different vocabularies through mergers. Different customer groups use different naming conventions. Different business areas use different vocabularies. Taxonomy’s core function is resolving terminology and vocabulary differences. Taxonomy can reconcile terminology differences and provide a standard vocabulary for use across all business functions and customer groups, and structured and unstructured content. Inform navigational structures.
Managing concept and term relationships is another core function of taxonomy. Terms are organized so that more specific (narrower) terms are arranged or linked under more general (broader) terms. Relationships are the 6 Ways to Use Business Taxonomy
- Resolve differences in terminology
- Inform navigational structures
- Populate metadata field values
- Optimize search
- Inform user experience on E-commerce web sites
- Extend Business Intelligence (BI) foundation of navigable structures in SharePoint, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems, Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems, and web sites.
Taxonomy can provide terms to an organization’s global web sites to standardize web content, resulting in a consistent user experience across all web sites. Taxonomy can also relate documents and digital assets to an organization’s subject-based navigational structure, resulting in a consistent user experience.
Populate metadata field values. Tagging documents or digital assets incorrectly is a common problem that impacts findability and retrieval. Tagging accuracy is improved when users use restricted terms (i.e., controlled vocabulary) that are stored in taxonomy. When taxonomy provides terms to the different consuming systems, organizations can maintain term consistency across the enterprise. For example, an organization’s taxonomy populates SharePoint, ECM, and DAM systems with the controlled vocabulary terms for the element ‘Industry’. If a term changes for ‘Industry’ – say “Healthcare” to “Life Science”, the change need only be made to taxonomy and not to the three content systems.
Taxonomy refines search by reducing the number of search results users need to sift through to find the desired content. Search results are more relevant and accurate when search engines ingest taxonomy terms. In addition, users can select taxonomic terms to fine-tune their search queries.
For example, after a call center’s website was organized using taxonomy, representatives—users of the website—reduced their time spent helping customers almost 50%. Inform user experience on E-commerce web sites. Websites use taxonomy to present information in useful ways and to further the user experience. For example, a toy store’s taxonomy can be used to display all game box products on its website. Or it can display all game box accessories, or only those game boxes within a price range. Extend Business Intelligence (BI). Many organizations have term inconsistencies in their structured data. They lack an approach for normalizing terms when an enterprise dictionary doesn’t exist. Consequently, traditional BI can’t provide the ‘full story’ that would enable executives to make fully informed decisions. Taxonomy can extend BI by mapping database values to common concepts, so that BI analysis includes a fuller set of content. For example, a greeting card manufacturer could use its taxonomy to define “glossy” and “coated” as synonyms in order to ensure that its reports aggregate results for cards with both attributes. Business Taxonomy Best Practices
1. Define a clear path to getting value from your taxonomy. Don’t risk creating shelf-ware with abstract or technology-centric approaches.
2. Make sure a project team includes perspectives from the content owner and consumer/end users.
3. Have an approach for tagging content.
Ensure you have an approach to successfully use the metadata to improve the user experience.
Make sure you have a governance process to maintain, update, and sustain the taxonomy.
Conclusion Organizations increasingly need to access, reuse, and locate content across different information systems, business applications, and mobile devices. Their hope is that technology is the key solution. However, information issues are not just an IT problem. Every organizational area and person is part of the issue.
Business groups use different terminology, impacting the ability to share data between business processes. Everyone is a creator of information, resulting in too many sets of inconsistent organizing principles. An enterprise approach to organizing information doesn’t exist. Technology-centric solutions aren’t solving the problem. The root of the issue—the content—is only addressed peripherally.