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 Taxonomies can grow rapidly and can quickly become outdated or unnecessarily complex unless some kind of rules and processes are in place to help with control and planned growth.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.


SharePoint, SharePoint 2010 taxonomy, SharePoint 2013, taxonomy governance, Uncategorized

Taxonomy Governance for SharePoint guide now available!

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Taxonomy Governance CoverThis nearly 100-page, hands-on guide to taxonomy governance in SharePoint 2010 / 2013 is now available in our Store. Also includes links to 15+ videos that show the ideas in action.

Designed for anyone responsible for maintaining a taxonomy in the SharePoint Term Store, this guide will get you started on governance and help keep your taxonomy up to date and useful once it’s launched.

Don’t let your SharePoint taxonomy investment go to waste! Use industry standards, policies and procedures and best practices for taxonomies.

advice, best practice, SharePoint 2010 taxonomy, taxonomy maintenance

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, enterprise content management, SharePoint 2010 taxonomy, taxonomy construction

Creating and Managing Taxonomies in SharePoint 2010: User Questions, Part II

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This is the second of two posts addressing common, and important, questions concerning the development and implementation of a taxonomy in SharePoint 2010. (Here’s the previous post).

Sure, we know SharePoint 2013 is just around the corner (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. And don’t worry, many of these questions, and answers, will apply to SP 2013.


Q: What’s the difference between a Term Group, a Term Set and a Term?
A: A Term Group is meant to organize Term Sets, which contain Terms. Most of the work in the Term Store Management Tool is with Terms and Term Sets.

Q: Do terms have to be in a Term Set?
A: Yes, all terms need to have a parent Term Set created first. Note that Term Sets can be deleted without first deleting all the terms, which can be different than other taxonomy tools.

Q: Is it best to build the first version of the taxonomy term set in the Excel CSV file and then import it, or build it in the Term Store directly?
A: It’s usually easier to build it in the CSV file first and then import it

Q: Can a term in a Term Set be reused?
A: It depends. A term cannot be reused within the same Term Set, but it can be reused in another, different Term Set.

Q: Is it possible to rearrange the order of the terms in a Term Set such that they’re not alphabetical?
A: Yes, using the Custom Sort order in the Term Set Properties allows terms to be sorted by user needs.

Q: Does the Term Store allow a term to have one or more synonyms?
A: Yes, a term can have multiple synonyms. This is helpful, for example, when using an acronym for a popular term. The label can be the acronym, and the synonym can be the full term.


Q: Can terms from the Term Store taxonomies be used for Document Libraries?
A: Yes, terms can be used in Document Libraries for default metadata.

Q: Can Term Sets be created and used on a local site collection rather than just across the entire SharePoint 2010 implementation?
A: Yes, Term Sets can be created for local site collections only. The local Term Set can also reuse terms from the Global Term Set if desired.

Q: Where do user-generated tags appear?
A: These terms, also known as Enterprise Keywords, appear within the System Term Group folder in the Keywords Term Set.

Q: Can Enterprise (user-generated) Keywords be moved into another Term Set?
A: Yes, these terms can be moved from the System Term Set into the desired Term Set.

Q: What are the ways that terms can be used in a Content Type?
A: Terms can be added to a content type using a custom Managed Metadata Column.


Q: Does the Term Store allow for taxonomies to be exported to Excel?
A: No. By default, you cannot export taxonomies out of the Term Store. Out of the box, the Term Store only allows for importing Term Sets.

Q: Can terms be assigned “owners” who can control how the term is used?
A: Yes, terms can have owners assigned to control how the term is used. It can also have users assigned to be “informed” of proposed changes to the term.

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.

enterprise content management, folksonomy, SharePoint 2010 taxonomy, tagging, taxonomy construction

Information Management: 5 Taxonomy Must Haves for Your Organization

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The art and science of organizing terms and terminology – taxonomy — has recently gained a lot of buzz in corporate tech circles, so much so that taxonomy consultants like me no longer have to explain that we’re not about stuffing recently expired animals to make them appear life-like in their natural habitat. No, we don’t have to do that any longer.

And even though taxonomy as a concept and a practice is becoming firmly established in even small and midsize companies, information management systems haven’t really responded to the demand. Case in point: SharePoint 2010 is a shining example of how a taxonomy management tool can work within a document management system. And even then, I’d really only give it 3 out of 5 stars. It’s a work in progress, and even Microsoft would probably agree.

Go ahead and look around at the other top CMS systems out there (SharePoint, Documentum, OpenText, Drupal — heck, pick one!) and you’ll see why there are numerous taxonomy management software vendors out there in the market making a killing helping companies to manage taxonomies outside of their core content/document/asset management systems already paid for and in place.

It’s just not right.

Granted, taxonomies need technology to become active and provide value. And taxonomies, up to now, haven’t been the sexiest value-add to an information management system product feature list. Information management systems still haven’t caught up to harnessing the power and potential that a robust and well-defined set of taxonomies can provide end-users. That’s why we have taxonomy management software vendors (and I love ‘em all; they keep me busy!).

So, in the meantime, until information management software more thoroughly incorporates powerful taxonomy tools and capabilities into their offerings, what should you do to promote using a taxonomy in your company? Glad you asked.

Five Taxonomy Must Haves for Your Organization

5. A Taxonomy Maintenance Tool

In SharePoint 2010, it’s the Term Store. In other tools, it goes by various names. The point is that managing taxonomies in Microsoft Excel is just wrong. Get it out of Excel and into a managed system, no matter how poor that system may be. It’s at least a start. Once you commit to getting your taxonomies into a management tool, you need to retire the Excel merry-go-round of taxonomy maintenance. You can always modify the taxonomies later when your information management system vendor upgrades their product.

4. Employee Tagging

Even though professionally curated taxonomies are best, users are going to be one of the best sources of local tags. They’re called “system keywords” in SharePoint 2010, and they’re also known as “folksonomies” in other systems, but basically it’s users adding tags to documents, web pages, MySites, etc. that can really make taxonomies even more powerful. One note: I do not recommend tag clouds. I’ve always found them irritating and often hard to use. And most users don’t really know why one or two words are large, and others are small.

3. At Least One Robust Internal Taxonomy

It only takes one group, usually some energetic marketing or sales team, to build a “starter” taxonomy. From there, it’s a matter of using it as a model for other groups/divisions to build one of their own, or work with a taxonomy vendor to help build out more taxonomies across the enterprise. I’ve seen it happen over and over: no one cares about taxonomies until one group cares, then every group has to have one of their own. Get one group to publish their taxonomy and have them evangelize it throughout the company. Momentum will build.

2. Integrated Content Creation

Taxonomies work best when the content being created by the teams within the company is reflective of the terms in the taxonomy. Keyword-rich content is one of the best ways to improve one component of successful search results. It’s also a way for taxonomy software that auto-classifies content to do a better job of applying just the right set of tags to a document or a web page. This is a long-term goal and probably won’t get done right away. But it’s good to include it in a scoping document.

1. Management’s Blessing

Absolutely the most important part of building and maintaining a taxonomy is the ability to get management’s buy-in to financially support it. I know it sounds crazy to have something so political be the number one most important Taxonomy Must Haves for your company, but it’s true. I’ve seen many, many taxonomy projects start with the best of intentions by team leaders or small groups within a company, only to fail just as they were really hitting their stride due to lack of interest/understanding/support of management. Get your boss to invest in taxonomies.