What is the true value of a custom taxonomy? Findability, consistency, discoverability, standardization? All of the above?

The most common use case for a taxonomy is findability. In short, making it fast, simple, and intuitive for an end user to find what they’re looking for–either through search, browse or any combination thereof. Taxonomy plays a number of roles from driving site navigation/information architecture, to improving search weighting, to enabling filtering/faceting on search.

If you go beyond findability, discoverability is about making end users aware of information they weren’t necessarily seeking, thereby providing them more complete answers. In other words, they can’t search for something they don’t know exists. Think of your recent Amazon shopping trip. You purchased an item, then Amazon alerted you that other people who searched for that item also searched for these similar items. That happened because of a taxonomy. Those are called push recommendations. With a consistent taxonomy applied as metadata on content, tools can recommend content with similar metadata, helping users to find more than they were initially seeking.

An organization’s website is the primary strategic tool not only for delivering information and promoting its mission, but also for developing and maintaining relationships with and among its users. A unified semantic strategy is the best way of bringing together all elements of that mission and leveraging all of the organization’s intellectual assets in support of these goals.

Assets include content, people and programs. Each asset of the organization helps to support the mission. Traditionally, each of these has been treated separately, through wholly separate platforms and support functions. However, in the current Web 2.0 environment, this separation is no longer valid nor economically supportable.

A well-constructed and systematically applied taxonomy can unify all of these various assets, and in the process can itself become a valuable repository of institutional knowledge and a source of competitive advantage for the organization. It can be the key to illuminating the connections between the content, people, and programs of the organization, enabling the whole to become greater than the sum of its parts.

A well-designed enterprise taxonomy serves as a critical building block for an organization to design ontologies, a key element of Knowledge AI. Organizations that are investing in taxonomies will possess a distinct advantage in designing and establishing enterprise ontologies, opening the path to Knowledge AI and creating greater avenues to integrate their content, data, people and everything else that matters to their business.

Findability works only when a proper taxonomy is in place. Indexing against a strong standards-based taxonomy increases the findability of data. Access Innovations is one of a very small number of companies able to help its clients generate ANSI/ISO/W3C-compliant taxonomies.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Data Harmony, a unit of Access Innovations, the world leader in indexing and making content findable.