I was in a customer presentation the other day and was asked about the importance of a taxonomy to the successful implementation of an ECM solution. Why do you need a taxonomy and what value does it bring to the project? Taxonomy provides the structure to the ECM solution that enables the users to easily find the information that they need to make a business decision. There are two basic components to a good taxonomy, a well defined and intuitive folder structure and a set of content types and associated attributes. I usually break the taxonomy into these two components to best address two distinctly different audiences; the “experts” and the “novices”. The “experts” are the group that uses the system on a daily basis and thus will use the advance features to find information. The “novices” are the group that may only use the system once a month or once a year to find that one critical item they need to make a decision.
For the “novices”, an intuitive navigation of the folder structure is key to finding information quickly. This type of navigation best mirrors the Windows Explorer folder structure and thus the same type of visual navigation that a one would use in locating a document stored on their My Documents Folder. By providing the “novice” with a visual navigation capability, the system will be viewed as easy to use and will not require constant retraining every time the “novice” wants to find a document.
“Experts” will want to search for documents using their specific knowledge about the content of the document, the document type and the associated attributes. ECM solutions provide a search capability that allows the user to enter that’s specific information about the document into search fields for document retrieval. These fields can include full text entry, specification of a document type and values for the document attributes. For example, you are looking for a document that contains the words ‘4th quarter revenue’. You would enter the words ‘4th quarter revenue’ in the full text fields, pick the document type ‘10Q’ for the earnings document’ and the attribute ‘2009’ for the year. This query will return a single document, the 4th quarter, 2009 10Q. This is best way to find the one document that contains the information you are looking for.
As you can see, creating an effective taxonomy is critical to a successful ECM implementation. It helps both the ‘novices’ and the ‘experts’ get the most value out of the information stored in the system.