If you spend any time Googling about taxonomies, you will find that there is healthy debate about the usefulness of taxonomies in actual practice. The problem is that taxonomies can become over structured, confining, and can cripple the information worker's ability to act tactically.
Taxonomies have always referred to nouns. Taxonomies are classification systems that use a hierarchy of increasingly specific nouns to describe, classify, categorize and organize a series of concepts. So we have the plant and animal kingdoms. We have the Periodic Table of the Elements. We have first, middle and last names. We have addresses that go from the general (nation) to the specific (street number).
Here is an important thing to remember as you read my blog--I'm driving the creation of a new kind of taxonomy, one that works in the context of automated information management systems. The taxonomy concepts that I put forth in this blog are (and this is vitally important) VERBS not NOUNS! My mission is to help organizations define a simple but profound taxonomy of verbs/policies/actions/behaviors that govern how information is put into action. There is still a need for a NOUN taxonomy, but its purpose is to identify sites, documents, workflows, teams, individuals, audiences, etc. so that they can invoke one of the VERB taxonomy categories.
I call this VERB taxonomy a POLICY taxonomy for wont of a better term. The marriage of a verb taxonomy with a noun taxonomy describes the organization's culture and business model very neatly. This means that it is a tool that supports strategic planning, and the application of strategic planning, at every level in the organization.
SharePoint has my attention right now because I have wanted to bring about this shift in thinking about documents, workflows and other elements of organizational models, but there has never been a definitive tool until now. SharePoint is still in its adolescence, but it is the closest toolset I have ever found.
I unveiled my methodology for using noun and verb taxonomies to create a framework for software development use-cases during the SharePoint Best Practices Conference this past week. I'll be blogging on the topic next week, if not sooner. All this talk about taxonomy concepts only matters if it actually helps you manage your data more effectively, faster, and more cheaply than ever before. I believe the new concept of verb taxonomies is working well amongst my customers. Now for the biggest stretch of my career.
The framework that I spoke on at the Torrey Pines made use of a noun and verb taxonomy to map out use-case "regions" and approval/workflow boundaries. On the one hand you don't want to lock down approvals and workflows--it is important to grant information workers as much tactical freedom as possible. On the other hand you need to be able structure and manage how workflows and approvals work together to build a coherent knowledge management environment for your organization.
I believe my framework offers just such a tool, and best of all it is very simple to use. It isn't software, it is a simple paper and pen diagram that can be used to frame use-case and workflow definitions.
©Copyright Mark Ragar Schneider, 2009 All Rights Reserved