This is a very good question that pops up frequently during my Governance and Taxonomy Planning Workshops. If you've read my earlier blog posts you know that I highly admire the Dewey Decimal System as a benchmark in taxonomy planning. It is:
- Simple -- a grade school child can memorize and understand it.
- Robust -- it provides a framework for virtually all human knowledge.
- Durable -- it has lasted for over 100 years.
- Universal -- it is in use in nearly every library in the world
- Scalable -- it works for libraries of any size
- Deployment Agnostic -- it works in a collection of books as small as a single bookshelf and scales to libraries encompassing multiple buildings.
- Media Agnostic -- it works with books, tapes, disks, parchment...
- Language Agnostic -- it works with any language
- Efficient -- it enables a huge amount of information to be managed by a very small team of specialists
- Self-Governed -- it is governed by the same community that uses it.
- Virtual -- because all the libraries in the world (more or less) use the same logical structure, the entire world is one huge virtual library. If I look for a book at my local library in Champlin Minnesota and don't find it, magical elves driving an Inter-Library Loan van bring me the book from a participating library. This means that my local library is actually a portal into the entire world-wide matrix of books available in the Inter-Library Loan System. This is a miracle of interoperability that has existed for decades. We in the computer realm only dream of this degree of logical unity.
- Policy-based -- some sections of the taxonomy have special policies that invoked by the type of book identified. Examples include the reference section (you can't check out the books), the current periodicals (ditto), and any attached historical archives (only open to scholars).
Extensible -- it has been flexible enough to encompass computer technology, lasers, recombinant DNA and a host of other topics that were not even concepts when it was first introduced, and it didn't break!
The virtues of the Dewey Decimal System go on ad infinitum. So why not use it? To make a long story short, it isn't collaborative. Go to your local library and start writing in the books if you don't believe me. Policy taxonomy buckets vary in the degree to which the information remains stable, how the information is interpreted, and how people interact in creating, managing, publishing and interpreting it.
I advocate grouping policy taxonomy "buckets" into one of several types in order to express these differing levels of stability, interpretation and interaction:
One-to-one: closed-conversation emails, phone calls, conversations, memos.
One-to-many: policies, news items, press releases, newsletters.
Many-to-one: reports, surveys, dashboards, KPIs
Many-to-many: meetings, SharePoint Team Sites, instant messaging, conference calls
The use and management of ad hoc information in an organization requires all four genres be represented in the collaboration environment, and it also requires that specific rules and guidelines exist as well. You don't use the same rules of interpretation when evaluating an off-hand remark in a meeting (the economy stinks) as you would in a formal press release ("the CEO of XYZ company says the economy stinks). One is a formal communication, one-to-many, that speaks with the voice of the organization. The other is an off-hand and informal remark common to group interaction.
The Dewey Decimal System is a miracle of organization, but sadly it is only designed to work with one-to-many communications. It is not designed for conversation (shhh!) and if you are smart you will not go to the library and start **CHANGING** books. It is a repository of one-to-many information.
So you could conceivably organize your document or record management system according to the Dewey Decimal System because these represent static artifacts that speak on behalf of the organization and its processes.
SharePoint is designed to facilitate the use of ad hoc data during daily operations. It connects people, information and things so that teams of people can self-organize and accomplish their tasks more effectively.
So you need a policy taxonomy that can serve as a schematic for the "big bucket" business policies and processes that govern how your organization operates day-to-day. Otherwise there is no way to track and manage those processes according to their policies once they are "in the cloud" of virtualized SharePoint sites, libraries and documents.