“Before [the taxonomy project], the location of digital images, slides, CDs, etc. was stored in my neural network. Now those resources reside in the digital asset management system. They are all digital, and they are all tagged. Access is now open. We can meet requests for specific assets quickly and accurately.”

– Susan Levings, UCSF School of Pharmacy, Associate Dean for Planning and Communications

SERVICES

Taxonomy Strategies provides specialized consulting services to help organizations arrange their information for its most effective use. Our services include:

Taxonomy Workshops

Taxonomy, Topic map, Ontology, Controlled vocabulary, Classification, Categorization, Conceptual indexing, Semantic web, … There is a lot of mumbo-jumbo being thrown around out there. We offer taxonomy workshops to help a group of people understand this topic, and focus on the things they need to know and have in order to satisfy a business need. Workshops are tailored to the needs of each client. They can range from a briefing or lecture to a multi-day project definition exercise. Despite the differences in length and detail, we always emphasize that taxonomies are just tools which are deployed in order to meet some larger purpose. We concentrate on the who, what, where, when, how, and why of taxonomies and metadata.

Project Definition

Many articles in the trade press discuss the importance of taxonomies for organizing information. Unfortunately, very few of them discuss all the practical aspects that must be addressed if a taxonomy project is to provide the desired benefits. One way to think about this at the start of a taxonomy project is to fast forward into the future, and assume that the completed taxonomy has just been delivered on a CD. So what? By itself, a taxonomy is just an intellectual exercise. To make a difference, taxonomies must be integrated with software systems and with work processes. That integration requires answers to questions like:

  • Who will tag the data with the codes from the taxonomy, how will they do it, and how long will it take them to do so?
  • Once the data has been tagged, what software and business process changes will be needed to take advantage of the new metadata?
  • Who will maintain the taxonomy and how will they do it?
  • When the taxonomy is changed, does the old data need to be revisited? If so, who will do it and what will they need to do?
  • What will all of this cost, and will it be justified by the benefits?

While all of our customers recognize the value of taxonomies for systematically organizing their information, very few recognize in advance the changes that will be needed for a taxonomy to make a meaningful difference in their operations.

Our Project Definition services help clients determine whether a taxonomy implementation is justified. We work with clients to clearly define the benefits they wish to achieve, the kinds of metadata, taxonomies, software, and work processes that will be needed to achieve them, and the cost/benefit tradeoffs. Typical deliverables are requirements and specifications for metadata elements, software capabilities, user interfaces, and work processes.

Taxonomy Construction

The core service we perform is constructing taxonomies with our clients. Our method begins with understanding the business problem to be solved with the taxonomy, and designing a metadata specification which defines the information that must be collected to solve the problem.

When creating a taxonomy, our preference is not to cover rooms with little sticky notes and string. To the greatest extent possible, we recommend using existing taxonomies from relevant areas, with only as much customization or new vocabulary development as needed. Another key aspect of our approach is to consider how the taxonomy will be maintained over time, and to put that system in place early. That way, the evolution of the alpha, beta, and production taxonomies can be handled in a systematic way, and the staff that will maintain the taxonomy get on-the-job experience right away.

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User Training

People have an innate tendency to classify things. However, we do not naturally classify things the same way. An important aspect of a taxonomy project is training the staff on how they should classify things with the new taxonomy, so that the results are as uniform as possible. More in-depth training is needed for the staff who must maintain the taxonomies.

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[image above:
Relationships among scientific paradigms. Research & Node Layout: Kevin Boyack and Dick Klavans (mapofscience.com); Data: Thompson ISI; Graphics & Typography: W. Bradford Paley (wbpaley.com/brad/); Commissioned: Katy Borner (scimaps.org) (farm1.static.flickr.com/82
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)]

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