I recently read an article about a debate around the appropriate pieces of what is classified as a sandwich. No, I am not joking.

Jimmy Dean is petitioning the Merriam Webster dictionary to remove bread from the definition of sandwich. This obvious marketing ploy included this response:

”Just as we adapt and introduce new products to meet changing preferences, we felt it was only right to call on the dictionary to reevaluate the definition of a sandwich to ensure it is representative of how people eat today,” said Steve Silzer, marketing director, Jimmy Dean brand. “We believe a sandwich is still a sandwich without bread. In fact, the new Jimmy Dean Delights Egg’wich is the perfect example of a breadless sandwich where two egg frittatas hold together savory, breakfast sausage and cheese.”

You might be wondering how this has anything to do with taxonomy, and I understand that query. However, it raises an interesting question regarding classification and what happens when the taxonomy undergoes changes.

What effect to, say, a sandwich classification, would changing or eliminating one field or facet have on the taxonomy as a whole?

Whether it is a change or just routine maintenance, it is important to keep your taxonomy fresh…like bread. Sorry, it was just too good.

When organizations perceive the need for a taxonomy they have a natural tendency to focus on taxonomy development—the process of creating a taxonomy—as they approach the project. However, taxonomies do not exist in isolation. They exist within the context of multiple overlapping business processes and, like any asset, have a defined life cycle. Thus the need for taxonomy governance.

Successful taxonomy governance establishes long-term ownership and responsibility for taxonomies, responds to feedback from taxonomy users and assures the sustainable evolution of taxonomies in response to changes in user and business needs. Taxonomies are never really finished. Taxonomy governance ensures that growth happens in a managed, predictable way.

The taxonomist is the keeper of knowledge. The one who is responsible for updating and managing the taxonomy. Change control processes are effective for ensuring stability and quality, but they can be a costly use of time and resources. Taxonomists can reap many of the same benefits by adopting an agile approach.

Successful governance works within the context of the organization. Many of the principles and goals of taxonomy governance are shared with the disciplines of information and data governance.

There is value in classification. True taxonomies can help manage big data by providing a solid standards-based taxonomy to index against. The results are comprehensive and consistent search results. Access Innovations is one of a very small number of companies able to help its clients generate ANSI/ISO/W3C-compliant taxonomies because of consistency.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.