posted 20 Jul 2004 in Volume 7 Issue 10
Mikko Arevuo reviews Taxonomies: Frameworks for Corporate Knowledge by Jan Wyllie, in association with David Skyrme and Simon Lelic.
Taxonomies: Frameworks for Corporate Knowledge is the first report in the Knowledge Insight series published by Ark Group. The aim of the report series is to filter the plethora of material available on knowledge management and bring fresh insight and practical guidance for professionals involved in planning and implementing knowledge-management strategies.
Taxonomies are a critical, but often confusing, element of effective knowledge-management strategy and implementation. With the torrent of information available, we are drowning in the deluge. At the same time we are thirsting for information of real value. It is estimated that approximately 610 billion e-mails are sent annually and that internet traffic doubles every 100 days. We spend most of our time collecting and collating excessive quantities of information just in case it could be useful in helping us with decision making. We therefore spend more time in analysis paralysis than actually making decisions.
Taxonomies, which can be defined as sets of rules and principles to ensure consistent classification of data and information into ordered categories, attempt to address the problem of information overload. A good taxonomy will bring order and cohesiveness to information portals, thereby speeding up relevant information retrieval and improving business efficiency.
The reportís objectives are to explore and analyse the key methods of developing, implementing and maintaining corporate taxonomies. The report draws heavily on the experiences of knowledge-management practitioners and on material from Ark Groupís Real World Taxonomy conferences on the subject.
Taxonomies: Frameworks for Corporate Knowledge clearly defines and outlines the need for taxonomies and the benefits that can be derived by implementing them. The authors have structured the report well, introducing a systematic road map for organisations that may wish to commence taxonomy development as part of their knowledge-management strategy.
The confusion that surrounds taxonomies is often the result of the amount of overly technical material that has been published on the topic, littered with IT jargon and lacking clear definitions. This report solves this by proposing clear definitions in an extensive glossary and illustrating technical aspects using real-world solutions, through case studies from BBC, Ford, Siemens and Unilever, among others, as well as snippets from speakers from various Ark Group conferences. Furthermore, the report provides a good reference list of suppliers and solutions available in the taxonomy marketplace.
Personally, I feel that the greatest danger to any organisationís knowledge-management initiative is being swept away by the tidal wave of technology. All knowledge-management paradigms and processes begin and end with people. The reportís approach to taxonomy development is clear in that technical systems do not create taxonomies; people do, by using e-technologies as tools to create more efficient systems for the management of knowledge. In fact, any taxonomy initiative should start by demystifying the technology hype and focus on understanding knowledge as an organisational core competence that needs to be managed. Any knowledge-management initiative that is not properly planned and implemented in consultation with users, and in an environment that does not encourage and reward knowledge sharing, is bound to fail, regardless of the size of technology investment.
The reader is expected to have a good appreciation of knowledge management as a strategic orientation. I was therefore surprised that Ark Group decided to launch the Knowledge Insight series with this specialised title.
Taxonomy development is a hot topic, but one should not dive into Taxonomies: Frameworks for Corporate Knowledge as an introduction to knowledge management. To do so could well be counterproductive, as the report assumes that the reader is well versed in understanding the role that knowledge plays in todayís competitive environment, and the various strategic knowledge-management orientations available to companies, depending on the type of knowledge content of their products and services. Therefore, the report is a must read for knowledge-articulate senior managers and practitioners who are seeking a better understanding of the interface between business strategy and the role of IT in knowledge-strategy implementation.
Taxonomies: Frameworks for Corporate Knowledge is a well written and well designed text on a very important topic. It greatly demystifies the hype surrounding taxonomy tools and offers the reader a clear, well structured path for taxonomy development. The report draws on an enviable source of insight by bringing together examples of the experiences of key practitioners. The report makes a great contribution to the field of knowledge management by offering well thought-out definitions to complex technical and relational concepts.
Title: Taxonomies: Frameworks for Corporate Knowledge
Authors: Jan Wyllie
Publishers: Ark Group, 2003
Mikko Arevuo, managing director, Delta Strategies & visiting lecturer, London South Bank University