taxonomyfrogTaxonomy can be a nebulous term. It has existed for years, having probably its most common roots in the sciences, but has blossomed to apply its practices to a plethora of other fields.  The wide application of taxonomy shows how useful and effective it is, yet its meaning can be unclear due to its diversity.  We identify with taxonomy in library sciences with the Dewey Decimal System and we identify with taxonomy in the scientific use when we talk about animals (Kingdom: Animalia; Phylum: Chordata; Class: Amphibia; Clade: Salientia; Order: Anura (frog)).  These are familiar uses to us.  We learned of them early on in school.  We’ve seen them around for years—even if we didn’t identify them as taxonomies.  But what is taxonomy when we talk about subjects, like documents and data, that aren’t so tangible?  As a Business Solutions Architect at Fishbowl Solutions, I encounter this question quite a bit when working on Oracle WebCenter Content document management projects with customers.

The historical Greek term taxonomy means “arrangement law.”  Taxonomy is the practice in which things, in this case documents, are arranged and classified to provide order for users.  When it comes to documents, we give this order by identifying field names, field values, and business rules and requirements for tagging documents with these fields.  These fields then describe the document so that we can order the document, know more about it, and do more with it.

Here’s an example:lilypadtax

  • Document Type: Policy
  • Document Status: Active
  • Document Owner: Administrator
  • Lifecycle: Approved
  • Folder: HR
  • Sub-Folder: Employee Policies
  • And so on…

Defining a taxonomy for documents provides a host of business and user benefits for document management, such as:

  • A classification and context for documents. It tells users how a document is classified and where it “fits in” with other documents. It gives the document a name and a place. When a document is named and placed, it enables easier searching and browsing for users to find documents, as well as an understanding of the relationship of one document to another. Users know where it will be and how to get it.
  • A simplified experience. When we have order, we reduce clutter and chaos. No more abandoned or lost documents. Everything has a place. This simplifies and improves the user experience and can reduce frustration as well. Another bonus: document management and cleanup is a simple effort. Documents out of order are easy to identify and can be put in place. Documents that are ordered can be easily retrieved, for instance for an archiving process, and managed.frogelement
  • An arrangement that makes sense for the business. Using taxonomy in a document management system like Oracle’s WebCenter Content allows a company to define its own arrangement for storing and managing documents that resonates with users. Implementing a taxonomy that is familiar to users will make the document management system exponentially more usable and easier to adopt. No more guessing or interpreting arrangement or terminology—users know what to expect, terms are common, they are in their element!
  • A scalable framework. Utilizing a defined and maintained taxonomy will allow users to adopt the common taxonomy as they use the document management system, but will also allow for business growth as new scope (documents, processes, capabilities, etc.) is added. Adding in a new department with new documents? Got it. Your scalable taxonomy can be reused or built upon. Using a comprehensive taxonomy that is scalable allows for an enterprise approach to document management where customizations and one-offs are minimized, allowing for a common experience for users across the business.
  • A fully-enabled document management system. Lastly, defining a taxonomy will allow for full utilization of your OracleWebCenter Content, or other, document management system.   Defining a taxonomy and integrating it with your document management system will enable building out:
    • logical folder structures,
    • effective browse and search capabilities,
    • detailed profiles and filters,
    • advanced security,
    • sophisticated user interfaces and more.

Clearly, a taxonomy is the solution to providing necessary order and classification to documents. It creates a common arrangement and vocabulary to empower your users, and your document management system, to work the best for you.  Now hop to it!

This blog is the first in a series discussing taxonomy topics.  Watch for the next blog entitled “Taxonomy is a Sleeper. The reasons from A to ZZZs that taxonomy hasn’t been a part of your most important projects—but should be!”

Carrie McCollor is a Business Solutions Architect at Fishbowl Solutions. Fishbowl Solutions was founded in 1999. Our areas of expertise include Oracle WebCenter, PTC’s Product Development System (PDS), and enterprise search solutions using the Google Search Appliance. 

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