The Magic Taxonomy Consultant

Rant Alert:

Today seems like the umpteenth time this year that I’ve seen a spec for a taxonomy/metadata project that assumes you can just hire a consultant to look at your existing taxonomy/metadata model and critique and refine it, without any provision for analysis of business and user needs. It’s been getting so bad, that we at ISKO Singapore even ran a special workshop on that problem among others.

Then the nice people at Taxonomy Bootcamp wrote me an email suggesting I answer one of three questions to help promote my session there this November. Question 3 was: What’s the secret to getting buy-in and funding for taxonomy projects or to expand their use in the organization?

Here’s my reply:
There is no secret, it should be blindingly obvious, but it is often ignored. Buy-in and funding (and subsequent support and use) flow directly from the taxonomy and metadata work being USEFUL. (1) It needs to be useful to the people who are supposed to be using the taxonomy either directly within a browsing/tagging interface, or indirectly through such tools as search and auto-classification. It needs to help them do their work. (2) It needs to be useful to the host organisation in supporting and furthering its mission and goals.

There is a widespread misconception that taxonomy design is a task for a technical expert who can look at a body of content and design a perfect taxonomy for it, or can critique an existing taxonomy without reference to business and user needs. If you can’t get your feet dirty in the guts of the organisation, you can’t design or refine a taxonomy that will be useful. If you can, then you’ll find you have all the buy-in and adoption you need. If you are scoping a taxonomy project, PLEASE don’t forget to scope in the work required for analysing business and user needs!

//End of rant.

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