Taxonomies and the Digital Employee Experience (DEX)

Helping employees find information within their organizations is one the uses of taxonomies. Implemented in an ECM, SharePoint, or other Intranet platform, taxonomy terms can link users to desired content more precisely and comprehensively than by search alone. I wrote intranet taxonomies in a recent blog post “Intranet and ECM Taxonomies.” In the meantime I have gained a better appreciate for the efforts to improve the digital workplace after attending a conference on the subject, the IntraTeam Event, held March 2-4, in Copenhagen, Denmark (and also meets in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fall), but on by the company IntraTeam. Now in its 15th year, the conference is in the process of rebranding itself as the European DEX conference. DEX stands for digital employee experience. I’ve participated in a digital experience conference before, but that conference focused more on the customer digital experience than the employee digital experience.

I learned several things about digital employee experience, especially through the excellent keynote presented by James Robertson, consultant of Step Two Designs. James explained that DEX involves content, internal communications, support for corporate culture, collaboration and social tools, and a place for online tasks. He also emphasized that a digital workplace is the sum total of digital interactions within the workplace environment and not merely that between the staff and the organization. I also learned that good digital customer experience depends on good digital employee experience.

IntraTeam Event Copenhagen keynote presented by James Robertson, March 3, 2020.
IntraTeam Event Copenhagen keynote talk, March 3, 2020

I’m not going to summarize the conference, because others have already done that, including Steve Bynghall, who wrote “Six takeaways fromthe IntraTeam 2020 Conference on DEX” and Fredric Landqvist, who wrote “The emerging digital Work Experience,” where he mentioned “One challenge still remains, Findability.”

As for the role of taxonomies, they serve findability and can help employees find not only content but also online spaces where they can perform activities and collaborate. Another way to look at taxonomies in support of DEX is that taxonomies can and should be designed with the users needs and experience in mind. This is what gives taxonomy design for internal users an advantage over designing taxonomies for external users: we have access to the users and can talk to them about what they need and desire, and thus the taxonomy can be suited for the employee user experiences. It is typical in an internal taxonomy project to interview numerous users of the intranet, not merely about the content they create but also about what information they seek and what online tasks they perform. By contrast, externally facing taxonomy creation does not usually involve gathering any information directly from customers or other external visitors of the website. So, when creating an internal taxonomy, I ask employees what topics, document types, and Intranet pages the often look for and what do they most often use the intranet for.

I recently completed a taxonomy project for an organization’s SharePoint intranet and thus presented at this conference (in addition to a pre-conference workshop on taxonomies) on the subject of taxonomies for SharePoint. Questions from the audience afterwards focused on the issues of tagging with the taxonomy. Since a positive digital employee experience is important, I would advice not to make tagging mandatory for everyone, but rather delegate the responsibility to a couple of people within each business unit who have the interest and (with training) the aptitude for tagging. They may also take more of an active role in making suggestion for new terms or other improvements to the taxonomy. 

While I enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen, I also hope to see DEX conferences in the United States. For now, there tend to be conferences on digital experience, but not focused on employees, and conferences on the digital workplace, but not focuses on the experience of the employees.

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