Just in time for New Year’s, we have compiled a list of 10 reasons for companies to resolve to create a taxonomy for their business in 2011. Because many businesses are unsure about how a taxonomy could benefit them, we believe offering some actual examples will be useful.

1. Searches on your website or database yield an avalanche of irrelevant returns. If you’re interested in string, a taxonomy associated with indexing software can help you filter out string cheese, string quartets, and string theory. It can also help sort out uses of Java as coffee, software, or an island.

2. Every person or department uses a different term, even though they’re all talking about the same thing. Your coworkers can’t find the company policy for the Fourth (or Fifth, or Sixth) of July, because it’s tagged as Independence Day? An enterprise taxonomy can get all of you searching the same language, if not talking it.

3. You know there’s a perfect search term for what you’re looking for, but you can’t remember it. With a taxonomy, you can browse from a general category to more specific levels. It’s like glancing through a book’s table of contents: “Section 4 looks interesting. So does Chapter 4.3. Aha, I’ve got to read Subchapter 4.3.2!”

4. A coworker just spent 45 minutes trying to locate a document, but didn’t know what search term to use. Taxonomy browsing should work for him or her. And with synonyms, he/she can look for eye doctors or even “optimalogists” and find ophthalmologists.

5. Your masterpiece report remains undiscovered, because it doesn’t fit neatly into any of the usual search topics. When you create a taxonomy, you become aware of terms that beg to be related in some way. They might not be siblings, parents, or children; let’s call them cousins. You can identify them as related terms in a taxonomy. Then people can search on hockey sticks, notice an enticing term to search on, and discover your obscure report on the history of curling equipment. (A taxonomy can also disentangle your report from one on hair curlers).

6.  Six people use six different spellings or punctuations of a term, so none of them can find what they’re looking for. Once again, synonyms to the rescue. Is it Bookkeeping? Or Book keeping? Or Book-keeping? (Or perhaps the new employee misspells it Bookeeping?) You can decide; they’ll all find the information they need. 

7. You have controlled vocabulary terms for left-handed widgets; unfortunately, you need to find the reports on right-handed widgets. When you organize terms using a taxonomy, you can easily see where your content organization scheme might not match your actual content. Then you can add terms for all your specialty widgets.

8. Everything for HR gets called “HR” – all 10,000 documents. Get your indexers, taggers, and searchers browsing down to the more specific terms that a taxonomy can show them. You have HR documents on free pizza as a fringe benefit? Add Fringe benefits as a narrower term, and add Free pizza under Fringe benefits, so people can save some dough.

9. Your website visitors keep searching on “bumbershoots” and “brollies”; forecasts for your umbrella department sales are gloomy. With a taxonomy, you can decide which side of the pond gets the preferred (term) treatment. Add the other term as a synonym. Rainy days will turn sunny for the umbrella department.

10. People ignore your term list because it looks like a shopping list. And you know full well that even when you take your shopping list to the store, there’s a good chance it’ll end up neglected at the bottom of the cart. 

The bottom line is that a good taxonomy can save your staff time, and your organization time and money. In today’s world, no business can afford not to make their website and published content as findable as possible.

Barbara Gilles, Access Innovations Thesaurian
Alice Redmond-Neal, Access Innovations Chief Taxonomist