Creating a Business Taxonomy Content & Knowledge Management System - Part Two

by Guest Blogger, Zach Wahl

Part Two of Three - Zach discusses the Business Taxonomy Workshop methodology, which he has developed to address the challenges posed by business taxonomies to managing information.

As I discussed in a previous entry, business taxonomies can address a number of challenges regarding information capture, management, and findability.  A well-designed and implemented business taxonomy can improve the “findability” of information, improving search and browse within a variety of sites and systems.  A business taxonomy can also help users discover content, vastly cutting down on time wasted re-creating content that already existed.

Though many organizations have gained maturity in their awareness of business taxonomies, their importance, and their strong potential for return on investment, these organizations often still struggle with how to make a business taxonomy project successful.  Indeed, the struggle is understandable.  An effective business taxonomy is one that will span the enterprise of information, users, and potential needs.  This vast scope is often daunting to organizations, especially those that are global in nature and varied in offerings or activities.  

In order to help address this challenge, I developed the Business Taxonomy Workshop methodology.  Often imitated but never replicated, my workshop methodology involves the actual business users in the initial design phases of a taxonomy design effort.  As a result, the methodology has several unique benefits.

First, with actual business stakeholders in the room there is no need to “translate” or infer requirements.  The direct involvement also creates a force of potential change managers.  By including a functionally, geographically, and hierarchically diverse group in the workshop, we create a group that will potentially help their colleagues and cohorts in their own functional areas, locations, and management levels to understand the taxonomy project and prepare to adopt it.  For instance, by involving a member of your Human Resources department in the design of a new taxonomy for your intranet, you not only get the incites and requirements to appropriately tag and categorize H.R. content, you also get a member of the H.R. department grounded in your efforts and prepared to go back to their colleagues and help spread the message.  

These initial workshop participants play another important role as well.  As we know, no taxonomy is ever finished or perfected.  Taxonomy design efforts can span a significant length of time as well.  This initial group of workshop participants easily translates into a Business Taxonomy Working Group that will help see a taxonomy design effort to rollout and then continue to iteratively improve it.

Over the last decade I’ve personally run well over 200 of these workshops on six continents.  Throughout that time I’ve honed the specific exercises but the core concepts remain the same.  Though there are any number of potential variations, the best outcomes are derived from a workshop that runs for one or two days and includes 12-18 participants of a wide variety as I’ve described above.  We facilitate these participants through a series of five core exercises, each of which has a specific product that feeds into the next.



Zach Wahl is the President and CEO of Enterprise Knowledge, LLC.   Zach has more than 15 years of experience leading programs in the knowledge and information management, and will be speaking at the KM Solutions Showcase this month.