taxonomy construction

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, 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.