The Power of Simple Expertise Taxonomies

Setting up a KM system across an organisation may sometimes appear like an unattainable goal. 
 
Organising knowledge within an organisation systematically calls for information structuring which must cover all that the organisation can potentially touch upon.
 
The same process applies to both documented and undocumented (tacit) knowledge, and it requires extensive meta-knowledge about the organisation.
 
Organisational taxonomies are an excellent approach for helping meet this need for meta-knowledge, but many organisations fail in structuring them because they are basing their process on two "best practice" solutions that don’t work.
 
The Emerge approach 
 
The first solution is called the Emerge approach. This solution advocates letting members choose their own keywords or “folksonomies” and letting them tag the information the way it makes sense to them alone, without any guidelines.
 
Quickly enough, this becomes a complex list of terms that makes it harder to link information. The terms are chosen randomly, information is not commonly understood, and the advice given to fix it is to get involved and provide guidance by collecting tags into categories. This doesn't work because the members are already accustomed to doing what they want. 

 

The Bootcamp process

The second "best practice" solution is promoted in Taxonomy “Boot Camps”, organised to help you create complete top down taxonomies. It seems like a good idea, but in the end, it doesn't help. You will end up with a large taxonomy that people do not use because they hadn't participated in the process of building it and they can not relate to it. Therefore they do not use it and revert to using keywords.

Moreover, it is a difficult objective to accomplish, and most terms, in the beginning, are empty adding to more “noise” in the system. 

At TallyFox, we realised that if we were to offer a solution that actually works, and can address the organisation’s problems, we need to simplify the taxonomy by organising it based on members’ expertise, using terms that are familiar to the organization already.
 
The three-level taxonomy is more than enough to identify the expertise of an individual so the structure itself can be limited in complexity.
 
With this approach, we find that almost anyone in an organization can create a “starter” taxonomy that follows familiar areas of expertise, for example, product lines, service areas, or business processes. 
 

The benefits of simple expertise taxonomies

The new concept of basing taxonomies on individual expertise solves a problem of unstructured keywords while freeing the individual from the top-down dictates. Plus, basing the taxonomy on members' expertise adds context - the connection between problems and expert solutions is immediately shortened, and it becomes authentic, i.e. the term is linked to an actual expert.
 
This also solves a problem for the user.
 
From the very beginning, it is familiar, and they can use it easily, adding new terms for their specific area of expertise within a structure. The result of this is not only for you to use it but within a short period, you have mapped the expertise of your organization or stakeholders, as well as identified the gaps.
 
Many managers don't know who has the expertise needed and where this person is located.
 
Organising your taxonomy around your employees' expertise adds the benefit of mapping it automatically and provides the manager with an accurate overview of the expertise within the organisation.
 
Research has shown that an expertise based taxonomy of a maximum of 150 terms can define most all organizations at a high level. If you start with specific Child terms - or the second level - that you need to address, and categorize them into Parent terms - or the primary level - you will find a maximum of 10-15 Parent terms to start with. A third level may be needed for very specific activities or themes. All client issues or internal questions will then be linked to a person's expertise, and from the very start, you will be able to identify the best experts. 
 
The best approach here is to allow your experts to describe their expertise, with them structuring it in the appropriate Parent terms that are clear because it is based on familiar terms. 
 
Users search for information to accomplish a goal.
 
Search algorithms, regardless of how sophisticated, intelligent and complex they are, will never replace the need for a level of structured tagging i.e. taxonomy. Autotagging algorithms if designed to operate without context are extremely complex. When applies to a simple taxonomy this becomes realistic to provide in mass production knowledge sharing solutions.
 
Most enterprise search is far away from being optimal – too many results, irrelevant results, missing results, etc. As information environments have grown more complex, users expectations have increased, and they are expecting a simpler search.
 
With three-level taxonomy created around your organisation’s expertise, you will avoid having unstructured data and make information easier to find. Tallium can help you with that. 
 

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