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Taxonomies – the most under-rated yet critical component of a Data Strategy?

  |   Blog

Originally posted on Linkedin Pulse.


For many practitioners implementing data strategies there is a long list of priorities to work through before reaching the backlog item named “Optimise taxonomies”. For many it’s not even on the list. Burning platforms tend to be things sponsors and stakeholders can more easily relate to – poor quality data, excessive time spent finding relevant data, an inability to gain insights from data and so on.  Data Modelling and Semantics requirements in general often receive little attention so its unsurprising that highly specific areas such as Taxonomy Management are often neglected.


Taxonomies tend to be associated more with academia and science than profit-seeking organisations and often are an easy target for those wishing to keep the ‘navel gazers’ quiet.  This is somewhat unfair however as most knowledge workers in fact encounter taxonomies a surprising amount in their day to day work.  Even if they are not always called taxonomies.


Whether it’s the Data Management team assigning industrial sectors to the company database or the MIS team generating performance reports using customer groupings and product ranges – taxonomies feature more than you think. It’s a natural way in which the human brain organises complex information. Indeed more frequently than not ineffectively managed taxonomies are also a key source of pain for senior managers and C-suite executives too. How often have you heard your CXO’s grumble that comparing sales, costs, margins and risk data across divisions is next to impossible?  A large part of this is down to data quality and definition issues arising from poor taxonomy management.


Fortunately optimising your organisation’s taxonomies and leveraging them in rich analysis, search and reporting is actually easier than many would think. It doesn’t have to be a long-term, intensive upfront modelling endeavour consuming lots of resources and involving woolly conversations about what a product or customer is. Using the latest metadata discovery, profiling and taxonomy management tools such as our partner Poolparty it’s surprising how rapidly your taxonomies can be turned from an inconvenience into an asset.