posted 12 Jun 2002 in Volume 5 Issue 9
Five minutes with… The Ministry of Defence
Jacquie Bran, project manager for the Knowledge Management events team, spent five minutes talking to Keith Potter, assistant director, research (technology) at the Ministry of Defence. The MoD began developing its taxonomy in 1995, and here Potter shares some of the lessons the organisation has learnt through building and implementing the system.
When and why did you first consider implementing a taxonomy?
The first implementation of our taxonomy was in 1995. We needed it because there was a lack of quantitative information on our research programmes in technology and finance terms.
What have you done to encourage and promote knowledge sharing, and what barriers have you faced?
A number of one-to-one meetings plus several major presentations across numerous sites have helped to bring the value of the taxonomy to people’s attention. Few barriers have been faced apart from the one of requiring additional work by staff to populate the database.
How did you progress to implementing an infrastructure to support a taxonomy system and what changes were necessary to ensure its success?
A clear management structure was needed to ensure that data was entered accurately, and we appointed a full-time database manager to develop the software needed to facilitate population of the database and to analyse queries coming from it.
How did you arrive at a decision with regards to implementing a manual versus automated taxonomy system?
The vast amount of data needed dictated the need to use an automated software-driven taxonomy system.
How useful has your taxonomy been in retrospect?
We now have reliable quantification of approximately 95 per cent of activities, something we could not have achieved without the taxonomy. Answers can now be provided very rapidly to senior staff on the details of our programme.
How have you incorporated a provision for your taxonomy to be updated and maintained on an ongoing basis?
Our taxonomy has been updated every 12 months since it began. Peer reviews have taken place and a formal committee structure has been set up to consider revisions and to rule on those to be implemented.
What are the main lessons you have learnt?
- Take time to think about the structure carefully before launch;
- Ensure that all key stakeholders are involved;
- Undertake a pilot exercise to throw up problems that might not have been foreseen;
- Getting buy-in should be a continuing activity;
- Undertake periodic presentations to spread the use of the taxonomy.
The Ministry of Defence was just one of the organisations that presented at Ark Group’s ‘Knowledge managed with taxonomies’ conference earlier this year. For full details on our next KM and taxonomies event, visit www.kmmagazine.com/events or call Henry Anson on +44 (0) 20 8785 2700