Frequently Asked Taxonomy Questions

What is a taxonomy?

A taxonomy provides the overall scheme for organizing content to solve a business problem such as improving search, browsing for content enterprise-wide, enabling business users to catalog reports or syndicate content, and otherwise providing the basis for effective and efficient content use and re-use.

How long does a taxonomy project take?

We work with you to identify a project that can be accomplished in 90 days so that you can deliver measurable results as quickly as possible. Sometimes this may be the whole project, and sometimes this may be a demonstration before tackling a more extensive project.

How much does a taxonomy project cost?

Most taxonomy projects range from $50,000 to $90,000, but some are smaller and some are larger.

What is the most frequent cause of a taxonomy project failure?

The number one cause of a taxonomy project failure is to not develop and implement processes for its maintenance. A taxonomy needs to be able to be updated because of changes in the organization, changes in products and services, and changes in markets and customers. Roles and responsibilities, processes and procedures, and communication methods need to be identified and implemented to gather and handle taxonomy change requests, and then to publish and update applications that use the taxonomy.

What types of information are good resources to inform a taxonomy project?

To the greatest extent possible, we recommend using terminologies that already exist within your organization, with only as much customization or new vocabulary development as needed. So the first step is to look around to see what may be available as a starting point such as glossaries, broad topics, keywords, organization charts, file plans, record retention schedules, and any other existing content organization schemes; Google analytics, search logs, and any other quantitative information; as well as qualitative market and end user research such as business analysis, surveys, market studies, personas, focus groups, strategic planning documents, etc. Some of these may be useful resources to inform a taxonomy project.

What backgrounds do consultants at Taxonomy Strategies have?

The common background of our taxonomy consultants is that they have an advanced degree in library and information science. Some of our consultants also have advanced degrees in business administration, law, computer science, and other complementary disciplines. There are no junior consultants. Every consultant has senior-level education and experience.

How can you know that a taxonomy will work?

Taxonomy Strategies has been a pioneer in devising and applying taxonomy validation methods. Typically we use simple methods to gather evidence from task-based usability activities such as card sorting, tree navigation, and content tagging activities.

How do you keep a taxonomy up-to-date?

Taxonomies need to change to reflect changes in your organization, in your content, and in the world in which you operate. But changes should not usually be done as a one-off reaction. There should be a simple process in place to capture and respond to change requests. This is called taxonomy governance. Taxonomy Strategies has developed taxonomy governance and application integration practices that have become industry best practices.

Are there any taxonomy standards?

There are NISO, ISO and W3C standards that are foundational for taxonomies, and Taxonomy Strategies has been involved in the development of these standards, as well as working with the products and tools that use them. NISO Z39.19 and ISO 25964 are the thesaurus standards. Web Ontology Language or OWL is the standard for representing rich and complex relations between things. Taxonomy Strategies’ founders helped inform and review the development of the Simple Knowledge Organization Scheme known as SKOS which is the W3C standard for representing taxonomies as triples in XML. Data Catalog Vocabulary known as DCAT is the W3C standard for cataloging data sets. ISO 15836 is the standard for the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set that is generally used to describe web content. Joseph Busch has been a Director for and advisor to the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative.

Are there any tools that are needed to develop and manage a taxonomy?

There are a number of taxonomy development tools available that range in complexity and price from free open source tools like Web Protege to expensive enterprise platforms like PoolParty and Synaptica. Taxonomy Strategies’ founders developed and implemented the specifications for several taxonomy management systems and automated categorization products including MetaTagger, a commercial product built during the dot com era. MetaTagger included many of the components of the IBM Watson technology stack, 10 years before Watson was launched in 2010.

Explore our Taxonomy Tools Resource Page by clicking here.

What is the relationship between consistent data reporting and taxonomy?

Standardizing terminology for common properties such as locations (for example, "United Kingdom" or “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” or "Britain" or "UK") is important for consistent data reporting, especially when the data is coming from multiple systems.

What is a taxonomy in consulting?

A taxonomy is a standardized terminology list that may have relationships between the terms such as parent/child, equivalent, and related; and may have additional information such as definition, source, and classification. Taxonomies should follow a standard methodology 1) to develop specifically scoped taxonomies; and 2) to establish, accelerate, and operationalize taxonomy management best practices in an organization.

What is UX taxonomy?

A user experience (UX) taxonomy is a set of categories used to organize content presented in an application such as a website or app. User experience taxonomies are focused on the presentation of content rather than the creation and management of content. UX taxonomies are usually broad and shallow, with 6-10 major categories that are 3-5 levels deep. The goal is to optimize content browsing with no more than 5 clicks.

What is a taxonomy process?

Taxonomy development should follow a well-documented process or work breakdown structure that usually includes the following tasks. 1) Discover and document the use cases that the taxonomy is intended to support. 2) Develop a high-level taxonomy, and then build it out to support the agreed use cases. 3) Validate that the taxonomy will fulfill the use cases. 4) Document the editorial and maintenance processes including roles and responsibilities. 5) Prepare the functional specifications to integrate the taxonomy with relevant applications including an implementation roadmap.

A taxonomy process may also be a workflow that is driven by a taxonomy of activity events or transactions. For example, a Sales Funnel is an activity with events in a customer journey such as Awareness, Interest, Decision, and Action. A salesperson will interact differently with a customer depending on where they are in the sales process. An Awareness event would be an introduction that provides an overview of the product. An Interest event would be a discussion of use cases and case studies. A Decision event would be related to benefits and cost-benefit calculation. An Action event would be about pricing and contracts.

What are strategic taxonomies?

Strategic taxonomies usually refers to the use of taxonomy in data management. The broad use case is to be able to map legacy ERP applications (because it is difficult to change them) and more modern data collection capabilities with a unifying taxonomy. Strategic taxonomies are more robust than MDM and reference data because they include specific types of relationships for mapping as well as documentation properties and attributes. SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System) is the core standard used in managing strategic taxonomies. These are the key characteristics of the SKOS schema:

  1. Concepts are represented as URIs to which term strings are related;
  2. Concepts have broader, narrower, and related relations; and
  3. Terms have close, exact, broad, narrow, and related mappings to concepts;
  4. There are basic documentation properties for scope notes, definitions, and editorial notes; and
  5. The schema is designed and expected to be extended by third parties.

(Strategic taxonomy also refers to a proprietary [No Magic, Inc.] modeling tool to describe the relationships between capabilities to be used in the development of high-level use cases and user requirements).

What are the key benefits of taxonomy?

The key taxonomy benefits are

  1. effectiveness to help you make money,
  2. efficiency to help you save money, and
  3. control and compliance.

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Washington, DC 20015

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