Recently we performed a thorough competitive analysis for a large manufacturer, looking to identify opportunities for improvement and competitive advantage in their use of taxonomy. We looked at eight competitors, with all of them supposedly outperforming our customer in at least one critical function. In fact, our customer had so elevated our expectations of these competitors that we prepared ourselves to write a report that disparaged our customer in every way possible.
The results surprised us: Not a single competitor was actually outperforming our client. Although each competitor website clearly had its strengths, with a few demonstrating some real innovation in how they communicated to customers, overall our customer earned the highest score in our heuristic evaluation. They had balanced ALL of their business needs, using taxonomy effectively for browsing and categorization, search query enhancement, search results display and filtering, and content normalization. The competitors had achieved isolated instances of high performance -- a good search interface, some smart data filtering options, clear browse categories, a wizard -- but our customer had built their entire content delivery experience around a centrally organized scheme, and achieved an across-the-board success of their own.
So we saw how companies focused on an interface or built a tool, but then neglected the total user experience. This is where taxonomy really comes in. A tool without quality results, or a good experience with inconsistent data, won't beat your competitors. Taxonomy is the business logic and organizing principles behind findability, process, and governance. We want our customers to think more broadly, to make the smarter choice to focus on information infrastructure. Nifty tools do draw people in, but a strategy for taxonomy and metadata management offers not just findability and discoverability solutions, but also growth and flexibility, accurate reporting, and compliance.