This final segment in our series on semantic integration specifically addresses SharePoint and Taxonomies.

SharePoint is a popular software and comes free with the Microsoft Server. In fact, I think SharePoint, more than any other thing, has excited interest in taxonomies for people. SharePoint 2010 has a taxonomy module and although it does not have everything that your heart might wish for, it is a significant step forward. A lot of people have been trying to figure out exactly how to best use their taxonomy within the SharePoint offering. This is one option.

SharePoint itself will only show you ten lines of a vocabulary. This particular application, Data Harmony,  shows you a bunch more. In this case again, it’s when you are uploading a document, we want to be able to suggest, from that document, terms that are actually valid in your taxonomy and then post those as keywords in the SharePoint system so that you can search for them using your taxonomy. Since it is very easy to build a SharePoint application, just like it used to be very easy to build a Lotus Notes application, the control of that application gets out of hand quickly. People are looking hard to find ways to implement some kind of vocabulary control using SharePoint, particularly 2010, to a lesser extent 2007 so that they can actually index their documents and get them out easily. They are not going to have to remember what somebody called them. They can make broad use of synonyms and browse categories and generally and get at their information more easily.

Here are a couple other implementations. The last one was Eldercare. This one is on Educational Information. People can browse the terms or they could type ahead and get the appropriate suggestion in the keyword field from the taxonomy. That is very helpful to people in their SharePoint implementations.

Another case is Records Management. People are even using SharePoint for Records Management but in the case here, because of the nature of Records Management, you might have groups of types of records or facets for record types. You could also have content types. The content types could be put into a taxonomic fashion. You might have Human Resources documents and under those Human Resources documents, you might have many different kinds of items, i.e., reviews, résumés’, payroll records, etc. Finance might also have payroll records. So you will want to give them multiple broader terms. Where you have a combination of the record types, the content types, and the creators of those records, you might be able to automate the retention schedule assignments. This is a very heavy load for most organizations these days to try to be able to figure out the retention schedule for the record types, the content types, by creator. How long do you need to keep those things? Do you need to keep them three years for tax? Do you need to keep them seven years for fraud? Do you need to keep them indefinitely for patent research? Do you need at least 17 years? There are a lot of different retention schedules to which you need to pay attention. Having this kind of automation help from the taxonomy might be very useful.


We have covered a lot of different information, but what I would like to leave you with are the ideas that taxonomies and metadata are really the cornerstones of information architecture. They can be used as the basis for content organization and, if they are used that way, then they can build a browsable outline of the content. When you are using subject meta data, especially the taxonomy, you can get 100% recall of relevant information. That is a really big thing for people who really cannot afford to miss any of the information that is in your database corpus. They are the basis for search and for labeling things for storage and very useful in navigation and information architecture. When you recognize those synonyms, you can improve the taxonomy implementation considerably.

Taxonomies are great fun to build because they kind of challenge your intellectual rigor.  Applying them to data is what really makes the work worthwhile. That is where the rubber hits the road. So we have to figure out how to best use those taxonomies. The more ways you can find to use them, the more likelihood they will be supported over your lifetime tenure with the taxonomy. Maintaining them and their applications is going to be what creates a strong knowledge management platform for an organization.

Marjorie M.K. Hlava
President, Access Innovations