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Enterprise Taxonomy Management Process


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1/28/2013 11:32 PM RssIcon

The amount of content that an enterprise collects is tremendous. The sum total of all content represents the accumulated value of the enterprise in the course of its existence. However, content by itself is nothing when it cannot be managed in any meaningful way. By nature content gathered is unstructured, existing in multiple formats, mediums and locations. 

The ultimate goal of most enterprise is to monetize the content by converting it into knowledge and gathering intelligence from it and using that intelligence through better marketing, sales, support and service.

Business is all about processes and procedures that are structured, consistent and controlled. However, the content that an enterprise generates goes against the very grain that makes a business operations successful.

Taxonomy is a tool to bring structure to content so that it can be classified and controlled. It introduces a level of predictability to the content and other relevant content that may be associated with it.

Taxonomy management can be defined as a set of processes and policies that ensure the consistent, controlled and structured implementation of taxonomy in the enterprise.

Herein, we discuss the steps required to create an effective taxonomy management process that can lead towards the building of the most appropriate taxonomy for the enterprise. The process comprises of mainly 5 steps indicated below and explained in detail further down:

  1. SCOPE: Identifying the scope and boundaries of the content and the type of taxonomy structure to use.
  2. OVERSIGHT: Setting up the management to oversee the processes and policies.
  3. CONTROL: Building the core processes and policies.
  4. USAGE: Understanding how the content is to be used.
  5. PLATFORM: Choosing the platform.


Enterprises must begin by identifying the boundaries of the entire content. Whether the taxonomy applies to certain product/service classifications, business operations, technical knowledge, operating procedures or customer information. The boundaries of the content will in turn help in identifying the best methodology to apply to the content. Whether it is a thesauri, heirarchy, oncology or plain controlled vocabulary. Some key questions to ask are:

a). What is the nature of the content to be scoped?

b). How is the content being retrieved and how often?

c). What are the industry standards?

d) How are others doing it?

e) How does the content change? and how often?


This is probably the most important step in the taxonomy management process. This step identifies the key personnel within the enterprise who shall be responsible for the ultimate success of the whole endeavor. In this step, it is important to identify the people who shall be responsible for setting up the policies and procedures to manage the taxonomy as well as to measure and monitor consistent implementation. The key personnel included will usually be a combination of executive management, subject matter experts and representatives of data entry personnel. Some key questions to ask are:

1. What is the mix of the team responsible for the implementation and management?

2. What is the selection criteria and voting methods to implement changes to the taxonomy management process itself?

3. Who has the ultimate authority? The executive management or the subject matter expert?

4. What are the exact processes for the change management?

5. What are the exact approvals required for the change management to be effected?

6. Who and how is the change management implemented?

7. What are the communication channels to broadcast the changes?


The control step requires deep insight into the rules and regulation related to selection of terms and the rationale behind any changes.  This step helps the necessary taxonomy manager to solidify guidelines on inclusion and/or exclusion of terms from the taxonomy. Some of the key questions to ask are:

1. How are terms selected to be added into the taxonomy?

2. How are terms going to be identified as preferred or non-preferred terms based on the selected taxonomy structure?

3. Under what conditions can terms be changed?

4. What rules are to be applied to make changes to the terms?

5. Are terms included based on conceptual relevance or instinctual searches?

6. What are the policies driving recommendations and approvals of terms to be included?


Creating and maintaining a taxonomy is useless when it is not being used for search and retrieval of information. Usage refers to the process of looking up information by the user. This could be a tree-based structure or a simple alphabetical listing like a glossary or a free text search. The effectiveness of a taxonomy implemention is in the accuracy of information retrieval and ease of usage. Some of the key questions to ask are:

1. How do we design the search process?

2. Do we present the user with the taxonomy structure?

3. What is the format of the search results?

4. How is the information to be presented?

5. How are other relevant information to be displayed to allow information discovery?


The final stage of the process is the design and the implementation of a tool for the taxonomy. This is usually a software based tool that may or may not be web-based. When all of the other steps are successfully addressed, this step becomes relatively easy to define and develop. Aspects that are mostly addressed in the above steps that reflect on the system design are:

1. Database structure

2. Access rights and policies

3. Workflow of approvals

4. Indexing methodology

5. User Interface


It is important to understand that taxonomy and its management is not an open loop process. The most effective taxonomy management processes are closed-loop where the above 5 terms are constantly reviewed and adjusted based on need. With the constant evolution of data, there is a need to tweak the management of taxonomy to ensure that it is not rigid as the data that it governs is not going to be so.


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