All Posts

Making the Case: Explaining Taxonomy to Business People

For many information science professionals, it’s easy to become accustomed to common problems and their attendant solutions as basic or obvious.  This is a natural consequence of working closely with concepts and colleagues.  Taxonomists, on the other hand, must pay careful attention to the way that different people use language and are often reminded that those outside of the field consider much of our work to be hopelessly arcane, confusing and difficult.  Despite the unconscious usage of taxonomy as an organizational model in everyday life, people are suspicious of the T-word, and may be resistant to collaborating with the project team.  Though it may be strange to think of librarians in terms of charisma, a good taxonomist must also be a good salesman.

There are many ways to explain taxonomy to laypeople, but the best method is to connect it to ordinary tasks that your audience has likely performed hundreds or thousands of times.  This method helps in two ways: by phrasing the concepts with simple, familiar terminology and providing examples of organizational schema using concrete objects or real tasks.  Connecting the subject material to common usage will help “take the edge off” the concept of taxonomy and give your audience a working (if basic) understanding.

There are two stories that you can use to “sell” the idea of taxonomy. 

What's in your kitchen?

Ask your audience to name items that could be found in your kitchen, they will respond with things like pots, pans, various appliances and other common kitchenware.  The very high level of accuracy they achieve without ever having set foot in your kitchen is the result of an unconscious ‘Taxonomy of Things that Belong in a Kitchen,” which illustrates that taxonomy is a common mental model that users innately understand.

What's in your closet?

The second story helps to describe the difference between taxonomy and ontology using the common example of their bedroom closet at home.  There are a number of different methods people could use to organize their closet based on physical attributes like size, material, color or type of clothing, which represent what the items are (“is-ness”).  Another way to successfully organize the closet would be based on characteristics like occasion, season or usage; the second method represents what the clothing is for (“about-ness”).

Helping the audience to understand the underlying concepts is one of the biggest challenges that taxonomists face.  Spending time up front to explain the concepts in clear, plain terms will go a long way towards socialization efforts, and successful socialization will drive adoption.  Building a strong taxonomy is an appropriate goal, but building consensus and mutual understanding is just as important.

For a deeper understanding of the importance of taxonomy for businesses read our whitepaper: The Business Value of Taxonomy


Earley Information Science Team
Earley Information Science Team
We're passionate about enterprise data and love discussing industry knowledge, best practices, and insights. We look forward to hearing from you! Comment below to join the conversation.

Recent Posts

Use Customer and Behavior Data To Create Personalized Experiences

The more quickly customers can find the product they are seeking, the more likely they are to complete a transaction and to return to the site in the future. Personalizing offers and making well- targeted recommendations can bring customers and products together faster, and are effective ways to engage customers by creating a more positive customer experience. In order to do this, companies need to capture and use as much relevant information as possible. The more that is known about the customer, the more effectively the recommendation system works. Customers generate many signals through their online behavior, and those signals can also be used to understand their interests, purchasing patterns, and needs. Reading their digital body language accurately and creating a valid customer model is essential to anticipating and fulfilling those needs.

How to Instrument KPIs Throughout the Customer Journey

You're probably using metrics to determine if your marketing programs are effective. But, have you selected the right metric at each stage of the customer journey?  Which ones connect to your strategic goals? In this session Seth Earley and Allison Brown talk about how each stage of the journey can be instrumented to use feedback from course corrections to further improve the process. You'll learn: Types of operational and user experience metrics and KPI’s How to select and collect the right metric for each stage of the customer journey How KPIs can be used for data-driven decisions How to manage conflicting goals and metrics

First Party Data - Managing and Monetizing the "Data Exhaust" From Your MarTech Stack

Understanding, anticipating and responding to the wants, needs and behaviors of your customer is the competitive battlefield of 2022. However, with new limitations and regulations regarding second and third-party data and tracking cookies, marketers, digital leaders and ecommerce executives have to consider their own methods of collecting and acting upon the data they gather about customers. In this webinar Seth Earley will talk with industry experts about how you need to model, collect, normalize, organize, manage, analyze, and act on customer information. The time to do so is now and we’ll discuss practical ways to move the needle on customer data, customer analytics and orchestration of the customer experience.