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advice, best practice, enterprise content management, taxonomy governance

Effective Taxonomy Governance, Part 1: The Taxonomist’s Role

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The key to successfully creating, implementing and maintaining a taxonomy in an organization is having an effective Taxonomy Governance Plan. The governance plan is the road map that coordinates the efforts of everyone involved as they go through the phases of developing a taxonomy that is fully integrated with the organization’s Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system and becomes part of the daily workflow. The goal of this three-part series is to provide an in-depth look at the taxonomy governance road map for each of the three main teams that need to work in tandem to accomplish this goal: the Taxonomist, the IT/System, and the Enterprise.

Let’s start with the taxonomist.


The Taxonomist’s Role

The taxonomy team is charged with the crucial task of creating the taxonomy. An effective taxonomy governance plan clearly sets the parameters of what domains the taxonomy is going to cover and what it is that the overall project is supposed to accomplish. The governance plan also gives the team the credentials and organizational support that they need to conduct user interviews with key stakeholders and perform the content audit. With the guidance of the governance plan, they are able to focus their efforts on gathering key terms and concepts that should be included in the taxonomy, discovering all of the potential document repositories and content types, and understanding what is important to the people who will ultimately be using the taxonomy.

The content audit and stakeholder interviews inform the creation of the draft taxonomy. This draft taxonomy needs to be reviewed by stakeholders and user testing conducted to make sure that it is on the right track. After this critical review process, the taxonomy is put into the ECM system test environment along with some sample content to ensure everything is working before it goes live and becomes part of the daily workflow.

The implementation is just the beginning of the taxonomy governance process. The users will inevitably need to add new terms to the taxonomy to reflect the changing nature of their work. The governance plan needs to address the process for adding new terms to the taxonomy. The taxonomy team will receive requests to add new terms and make the determination of whether to add the requested term or not. There will be pushback from some stakeholders who may not be happy with the taxonomist’s decision, and the governance plan must address how to resolve these conflicts.

Once the taxonomy has been created and has been implemented, there will be reports and metrics to monitor how it is being used. The taxonomy team is on the front line seeing how the users are interacting with the taxonomy and their input is critical in determining the next steps that are necessary to make improvements.

advice, best practice, Posts, SharePoint, SharePoint 2010 taxonomy, SharePoint 2013, taxonomy governance

Friday Afternoon Tips: 5 Key Questions about Taxonomy Governance in SharePoint

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Some clients have said they don’t even know how to ask the right questions about taxonomy governance. Based on the Taxonomy Governance for SharePoint guide (see more in our Store), here are five key things to think about regarding governance and your taxonomy in SharePoint:

1. Why is a taxonomy necessary? A taxonomy (or a collection of taxonomies) provides a foundation for how a company can control and use terms and vocabularies across all of its assets and content/information systems.

2. How long does it take to create a taxonomy? An initial taxonomy can be created in as little time as a month, but most take 2-3 months to establish and many more months to be fully integrated into one or more systems (e.g. SharePoint).

3. Why does a taxonomy need governance? Taxonomies can grow rapidly and can quickly become outdated or unnecessarily complex unless some kind of rules and processes are in place to help with control and planned growth.

4. What kind of governance ‘model’ is best? Of the three main types of governance models (defined below) – centralized, decentralized, autonomous – in most cases the best is a decentralized approach that works best for growing and maintaining a taxonomy.

5. Who’s going to maintain it? For those without the services of a professional taxonomist or trained knowledge manager, maintenance can be accomplished with shared responsibilities within the existing staff. The harder part is how the taxonomy should be maintained and even expanded and improved over time.


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Taxonomy Governance: The Term Update Process

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Term Update Process
Steps in the Term Update Process

The importance of good taxonomy governance was discussed in our last post: Creating a Taxonomy Governance Checklist. With a complete taxonomy in-hand, intelligent governance must be brought to the process of maintaining your taxonomy as new terms are suggested and added. Your organization can design a workflow or policy for term updates by following these simple steps:

  1. Term Suggestion: Users discover and suggest new terms to the taxonomist, which are then queued for review.
  2. Term Submission: Alternatively, users submit new terms directly to Issue Tracker, where the taxonomist then reviews and preps it for team review.
  3. Team Review: All team members convene to review candidate terms, from which they list all proposed terms and discuss their merits when compared to existing terms.
  4. Team Vote: Members of the team then vote, using taxonomy standard NISO Z39 as a guide for term approval and resolving any conflicts that may exist.
  5. Taxonomy Update: Terms are then either added to the taxonomy in SharePoint, or stored for later review in a spreadsheet.
  6. User Update: Finally, users are notified of the status of proposed terms and outcomes are logged.

A more detailed explanation of each of these steps can be found in our Taxonomy Governance Checklist, which lists all of the considerations involved with creation and maintenance of a SharePoint taxonomy.

Taxonomy Governance Checklist PDFDownload/view a PDF of the Taxonomy Governance Checklist.

For more information, contact Mike Doane 

advice, best practice, enterprise content management, taxonomy construction, taxonomy maintenance

Creating a Taxonomy Governance Checklist

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Due to the dynamic nature of human language, good taxonomies must grow and change over time in order to remain relevant to their target users: people trying to find information. The life cycle of a taxonomy includes much more than just the initial taxonomy development, and keeping this entire life cycle in mind from the beginning will ensure the long-term success of your taxonomy initiative. The three main life cycle phases are planning, development, and maintenance.

Following a proven strategy, we provide maintenance protocols created with these four core components of governance in mind:

    1. Organizational structure: Who is responsible and has the power to make changes
    2. Processes and procedures: How things get done
    3. Standards, measures, and practices: What is considered good
    4. Tools and solutions : What helps get the job done

The systematic and intentional management of your taxonomy investment is vital to your organization’s goals. In our process, pertinent steps are organized across two domains:

    1. Stage of development (pre-, during, and post-taxonomy implementation)
    2. Role (executive, taxonomy team)

A successful taxonomy allows individual users to find the information salient to their particular positions based on the stage of the taxonomy’s development and the user’s particular role at the organization.

Our taxonomy governance checklist provides a detailed overview of the process we use to create successful taxonomies. Check it out!

Download/view the PDF.

advice, best practice, enterprise content management, SharePoint 2010 taxonomy, taxonomy construction

Creating and Managing Taxonomies in SharePoint 2010: User Questions

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Sure, SharePoint 2013 is almost here (and already here for some of you), but lots of companies are just now getting up to speed with SharePoint 2010 – and getting their first exposure to the Term Store Management Tool, the tool for creating and managing taxonomies within SharePoint.

This is the first of two posts addressing common, and important, questions concerning the development and implementation of a taxonomy in SharePoint (and yes, many of these will apply to SP 2013 as well).


Q: What value does a taxonomy bring to a SharePoint 2010 implementation?
A: It allows for better management of information and provides users an easier and more efficient way to find information in one or more Site Collections.

Q: Is the SharePoint 2010 Term Store Management tool open to every user?
A: No, access to the Term Store is set up by a SharePoint administrator and should be limited to those people who will be working on the taxonomies.


Q: Who should lead a taxonomy project within a company?
A: Most taxonomy projects can be led by someone like an information manager or corporate librarian, in conjunction with a representative from the IT department.

Q: Is performing a content audit a good idea before starting to build a new taxonomy?
A: It can be, especially if it reveals types of content or key phrases in how users have organized content in a file plan or folder structure. This can provide keywords and phrases that can be built into the taxonomies.

Q: What value does creating a taxonomy roadmap provide?
A: It gives stakeholders and project sponsors the ability to understand the value and timeline of implementing taxonomies in SharePoint 2010, and it can be used to promote taxonomy capabilities to users.


Q: What are two main reasons for creating and implementing taxonomies in SharePoint 2010?
A: Tagging content items with terms from the Term Store can make them easier to find in search, and Content Types can use terms from the Term Store to make them more relevant for creating new content.

Q: Is it a good idea to use existing taxonomies from industry standards organizations or third-party vendors?
A: This depends on the industry, but in many cases the cost of acquiring an existing taxonomy from an industry group or a vendor can save a lot of time doing the research and creating the initial taxonomy from scratch.