Industry Uses for Taxonomies

It’s always interesting to hear about new and different uses of taxonomies. For example, recently I learned that a company would like a taxonomy in a way I had not heard before: to help their RFP team find content more efficiently to put together its responses to RFPs (request of proposals) of prospective clients. Inquiring about my course recently someone wrote: “Typically, I work with creative asset manager… However, I’m fascinated by the use and application of Taxonomies in broader industries.” So, today I will address the use of taxonomies in various industries.

In a broad sense, taxonomies are most often used to support information management and retrieval. With the features of controlled concepts, synonyms, and structure, taxonomies provide better results than full-text search, and they also provide guidance to users.

Taxonomies may be used to support both users within an organization and those who are external, sometimes with the same taxonomy and the same content, but often with different taxonomies and different content, and occasionally with different taxonomies for the same (or subset of the same) content.

The information management use of taxonomies (content lifecycle management, content reuse, data analysis, etc.) is an internal use of taxonomies by employees of an organization with respect to internal content. The information retrieval use of taxonomies pertains to both internal and external users of taxonomies. Internal users who make use of taxonomies for information retrieval do so to better find information within the organization to do their job. External users of taxonomies use them to help find published information or content, products or services, jobs, activities, etc. within a site or online service.

Taxonomies for external users of content and information

Organizations or agencies where information publishing or sharing for external audiences is core to their business or mission have long recognized the importance of thesauri or taxonomies. This began with periodical/journal articles and has since spread to include all kinds of content and data. Examples include the following:

  • News or other online report publishers, library/research database vendors, or other subscription content services.
  • Organization where public or member information is significant, including government agencies with content-rich websites, international organizations, non-profit organizations, and professional and trade associations.
  • E-commerce and marketplaces, including B2C, B2B, and C2C (marketplaces), and product information sharing between manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers.
  • Educational publishers or education technology companies, which provide digital learning.
  • Services selling or distributing digital media, such as movies, music, ebooks, images, animations, video clips, graphics, etc.
  • Job board websites or sites that match consultants/contractors/freelancers to projects.

In addition, with the growth of content marketing, which is the use of web-based content by companies and organizations to attract visitors to their sites, the content of websites has grown immensely, with more pages, blog posts, posted media files, documents to download, etc. To help website visitors find information and content on their sites, taxonomies have now become important for organizations in all kinds of businesses or services.

In all of these cases of publishing content for external users of taxonomies, there continues to be an internal use of taxonomies as well, for managing the content, including content reuse, rights management, retention/lifecycle management, quality management, new content integration, multilingual management, etc.

Taxonomies for internal users of content and information

Over the past decades the amount of internal digital information, and the applications in which they are contained, in organizations has grown exponentially. Taxonomies can aid in the management and retrieval of information and content items in content management systems, document management systems, digital asset management systems, collaboration spaces, intranets, etc. This applies to all industries, although in some sectors the management of internal information or assets is especially critical.

  • Media, entertainment, advertising, marketing, as industries or functions that deal with large volumes digital assets or media (images, videos, audio files) that need to be managed.
  • Highly regulated industries, such as pharmaceuticals, banking and finance, energy, and telecommunications, which need to manage documents, information, and data better to help with regulatory compliance.
  • Manufacturing, technology, engineering, R&D, and related industries which have large volumes of technical documentation, manuals, policies, and procedures that have become digitized.
  • Organizations such as professional service or research-focused firms that have critical content management tasks, such as internally publishing reports, proposals, or presentations which involve a degree of content reuse.

In addition, large companies in any industry now have so much content that taxonomies have become valuable to in helping their employees find the information they need quickly, whether on an intranet or other enterprise content management system. Having content in multiple systems could lead to multiple taxonomies, so a centrally managed taxonomy that is kept in sync with multiple types of content systems is a recommended strategy.

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