taxonomy consulting

advice, best practice, enterprise content management, taxonomy governance

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

No Comments

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, enterprise content management, taxonomy governance

Effective Taxonomy Governance, Part 3: The Enterprise’s Role

No Comments

by Brian LeBlanc, Term Management Taxonomist

The key to successfully creating, implementing and maintaining a taxonomy in an organization is having an effective 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.

Previous posts in the series addressed the role of the taxonomist and the role of IT and the system. Let’s now conclude with a look at the role of enterprise.


The Enterprise’s Role

The enterprise team has the crucial role of creating, promoting, and enforcing the taxonomy governance plan itself. The enterprise team includes the taxonomy champion, the project manager, and key leaders who back the project. They are the people who see the big picture of what the taxonomy project is all about and they need to convince everyone in the organization to sign on and contribute to its success.

At the heart of the enterprise team’s work is the convening of the governance committee. This team will create the statement of purpose for the entire project, which will guide the creation of the taxonomy governance document. The governance document should clearly explain the purpose, the timeline, and the expectations of the project.

Once the governance document has been created and is in use, the enterprise team will switch to monitoring the work being performed, promoting the initiative, and making sure it gets the cooperation of key stakeholders.

After the taxonomy and ECM system implementation, governance shifts to focusing on the rules regarding how terms will be added to the taxonomy. The taxonomy team will inevitably get pushback from various stakeholders demanding that their terms be added. If the governance team is not there to referee and enforce the rules, then the taxonomy could be overloaded with too many terms.

Once the taxonomy has been implemented in the ECM system, it is time to look at the results. The enterprise team will monitor the results of the implementation and lead the effort to make the needed improvements to the taxonomy.


While a taxonomy project can be started, it is never completed; rather, it is always evolving to meet the needs of the users or risks falling into disuse. An effective taxonomy governance plan defines what needs to happen to successfully launch the taxonomy, but also how to maintain it and make continuous improvements. A successful taxonomy is one that has an effective governance plan in place to help it grow and evolve along with the organization.

(If you are interested in getting a copy of the entire Taxonomy Governance Plan, please contact us.)

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

Creating a Taxonomy Governance Checklist

No Comments


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.

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

Information Management: 5 Taxonomy Must Haves for Your Organization

No Comments

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.

advice, enterprise content management, Uncategorized

Using Taxonomies to Drive Intranet User Adoption

No Comments

Many companies face the challenge of getting their customers the right product at the right time. And many companies employ a taxonomy to help drive product sales and improve findability on consumer-facing public websites.

Check out or to see some good examples of taxonomies used to improve the overall customer experience.

Taxonomy Development for Employees

However, there are millions of “customers” facing the same issue within companies every day. The customers are employees, who are asking: How do I find the best “product” to help me get my job done faster and with more effectiveness?

Granted, that may not be the exact phrase everyone uses when facing their workstations every morning, but the sentiment is there. Customers can be employees, too, and companies can improve findability for employees by using taxonomies developed with an internal-focus in mind.

Drivers for Intranet Adoption

From our experiences in building more than 100 internally-facing taxonomies for companies over the years, we’ve learned a few things that help to drive use adoption for intranet portals:

  • Use internally-facing taxonomies that focus on “capabilities” rather than on an org chart. Most folks don’t care about the org chart when looking for a document or video that they need to do their job.
  • Use the wisdom of the masses. Let user interviews drive how the taxonomies are built for the company. There is no “one size fits all” for internal company taxonomies. We’ve tried to re-use taxonomies from one company to another, and it’s difficult because each company has its own particular way to use terms and terminology.
  • Start very simple using an enthusiastic group. We’ve seen taxonomy projects wither on the vine because we tried to do too much too soon, rather than keeping it simple and rolling out a series of test areas of a portal that have had the taxonomy applied to documents or web pages to improve findability. And get some enthusiastic, willing participants to test rather than release it to the general population without context (or marketing fanfare!).
  •  Focus on task-oriented terminology. Forget about trying to solve your company’s 50-year-old struggle to define a “contract” and focus on what employees need to get their work done. A good taxonomy can solve that “contract’ problem anyway!
  • Use social media for clues. Oftentimes, employees are posting about issues that include words that can be candidate terms for a taxonomy. Scour those social media channels for ideas about how to solve issues or improve information availability by including terms in a company taxonomy that directly address employee needs!
advice, SharePoint 2010 taxonomy, taxonomy construction, taxonomy maintenance

Taxonomy Champions

No Comments

It’s always good to have someone on staff at a client site when working on the analysis phase of a taxonomy project. It used to be unheard of, but now it’s becoming more the norm to have at least one person in the room from a client’s staff who knows the importance of a taxonomy (or two or three…).

We used to depend on a staff librarian or metadata manager (rare, I know) to be sitting at the table to help us explain what we’re doing on a taxonomy project. Now, guys from the IT department are chiming in on how critical taxonomies are, and how the business teams (marketing, SEO, analytics, HR, etc.) can really benefit from creating and using a taxonomy.

SharePoint 2010 is mostly to “blame” for this trend, but also the marketplace in general is wising up to the competitive advantages taxonomy can bring.

enterprise content management, taxonomy maintenance

Featured Service: Taxonomy Governance Planning

No Comments

Developing and implementing a company-wide taxonomy can represent a significant investment for an organization, and once integrated, the taxonomy must remain current if it is to constantly and consistently deliver value. This requires careful management of the taxonomy. A solid governance plan will help you to keep your taxonomy relevant and up-to-date—and to maximize your investment.

Taxonomy governance doesn’t have to be hugely demanding effort; as long as the right model is chosen and some simple well-constructed policies and procedures are instituted, it can actually be quite easy. Since many companies don’t keep a taxonomist on staff, a sound model can also make governance a team effort that doesn’t place too great a burden on any one group.

Here’s a preview of the steps in our Taxonomy Governance Planning process:

Step 1 – Taxonomy Overview

  • Taxonomy types and models – To understand the short- and long-term requirements for your taxonomy, first know what kinds of taxonomies are relevant for your company and how they improve search, findability, and information organization.
  • Type of governance – After a review of your company’s approach to governing information, develop an appropriate taxonomy governance model that allows you, if necessary, to effectively distribute governance responsibilities

Step 2 – Taxonomy Development

  • Step-by-step development – Detail taxonomy development with instruction on constructing and editing a standardized taxonomy for use in multiple information management systems.
  • Technical implementation – Plan for developing the taxonomy within your company’s asset management system.

Step 3 – Taxonomy Maintenance

  • Teams, roles, and responsibilities – Identify roles involved in the long-term maintenance and strategic growth of the taxonomy within the company.
  • Policies and procedures – Review, select, and build a set of templatized governance policies and procedures.

Step 4 – Taxonomy Growth

  • Short- and long-term planning – Plan how to stabilize the taxonomy after its initial launch and consistently scale it, in the future, across more areas of the company
  • Cross-channel integration – Investigate how multiple business units can take advantage of the taxonomy.

Learn more: download/view our Taxonomy Governance Planning datasheet

enterprise content management, taxonomy construction, taxonomy maintenance

Featured Service: Enterprise Taxonomy Implementation

No Comments

Planning, building, and implementing a taxonomy, which requires understanding users’ needs, can serve a company’s needs for today and tomorrow by helping it to deliver an improved search and navigation experience for everyone.

 A company may have a general idea of what it wants to accomplish with an enterprise taxonomy, but it may not be aware of all the details critical to developing and implementing a taxonomy that will make the most of its investment. There are teams to assemble, technologies to use, timelines to create, and budgets to approve, certainly, but it must also consider how to best govern and grow the taxonomy for the future.

Here’s an outline of how we roadmap an entire enterprise taxonomy implementation

Step 1 – Research and Auditing

  • Interview subject matter experts – SMEs help provide an understanding of the terms that should go into the taxonomy.
  • Audit content – Collect and analyze content to construct a taxonomy with the right mix of terms to use as tags, for manually tagging and autoclassification.
  • Review existing taxonomies – Identify any existing informal taxonomies in the company to help build out the formal enterprise taxonomy

Step 2 – Building and Testing

  • Creating the initial draft – Assemble as many relevant terms as possible for the first draft.
  • Subject matter expert review – SMEs must have chance to review and guide final development of the initial draft.
  • Revisions and testing – First version of the taxonomy is tested in informal technical setting with end users and revised based on its ability to tag and retrieve content.

Step 3 – Technology Integration

  • Import into Technology – After user and systems testing, taxonomy is revised for adaption and integrated into the technology.
  • Testing within search system – Results page may need to be redesigned to take advantage of newly tagged content.

Step 4 – Governance and Growth

  • Policy planning and development – Identify people to work on the taxonomy and create policies to manage it for long-term stability and growth.

Learn more: download/view our Enterprise Taxonomy Implementation datasheet

enterprise content management, taxonomy construction

Featured Service: Taxonomy Services Planning

No Comments

Most information workers understand the need to quickly find and access the information they’re looking for. However, most information systems (like an intranet) aren’t organized as well as they should be to make this happen. Taxonomy services can help a company understand what kinds of information it has and how to organize it into topics and areas with terms and keywords that make sense for users and help everyone find what they need.

Saving users’ time makes a company’s information that much more valuable, and engaging a taxonomist—a relatively low cost—can save a company time and money on both new projects and existing web sites.

Before committing to a complete taxonomy design, a company may want or need a roadmap to determine the extent of its need and help estimate the cost of a taxonomy solution. With our Taxonomy Services Planning offering, we can put such a roadmap into a client’s hands after a three-day initial engagement in which we examine a company’s content, user needs, and how a taxonomy will benefit the client.

Here’s an outline of the process:

Day 1 – Content Audit

  • Sample existing content types – Uncover and list common types of content to help identify key concepts and keywords to be used later in taxonomy construction.
  • Interview key stakeholders – Identify and interview 4-5 key stakeholders who understand users’ information needs and can help prioritize content for classification and search.

Day 2 – Needs Analysis

  • Classify content samples – Organize key content into common types that can be used to establish initial automatic classification.
  • Prioritize user and system needs – Determine user needs and prioritize in conjunction with technical system requirements.

Day 3 – Taxonomy Evaluation

  • Determine taxonomy value – Evaluate how a taxonomy would help organize user content and how a classification would increase its findability.
  • Prioritize next steps – Prepare a prioritized list of steps to take to effectively implement a taxonomy solution.

And afterwards:

Weeks 2-24 – Ongoing maintenance

  • Once an initial taxonomy has been implemented, it must undergo ongoing maintenance. Our maintenance plan includes scheduled meeting with stakeholders, search log analysis, continued end user interviews, and cross-department reviews.

Learn more: download/view our Taxonomy Services Planning datasheet