8 Steps to Develop a Taxonomy: As the Foundation for All Activities within the Corporation Relating to Documents, a Taxonomy Can Further a Wide Range of Corporate Objectives, Such as Enabling Business Processes, Protecting Intellectual Property, and Building the Foundation for Compliance. Developing a Taxonomy Requires the Guidance of Records Management, IT, Legal, Compliance and the Involvement of Every Business Unit

By Choksy, Carol E. B. | Information Management, November-December 2006 | Go to article overview

8 Steps to Develop a Taxonomy: As the Foundation for All Activities within the Corporation Relating to Documents, a Taxonomy Can Further a Wide Range of Corporate Objectives, Such as Enabling Business Processes, Protecting Intellectual Property, and Building the Foundation for Compliance. Developing a Taxonomy Requires the Guidance of Records Management, IT, Legal, Compliance and the Involvement of Every Business Unit


Choksy, Carol E. B., Information Management


A taxonomy is a high-level, hierarchical classification for documents and records that facilitates the management of recorded information throughout its life cycle. Its focus is on the purpose of information within and how it is used across the organization. Each organization requires a different taxonomy because each has unique processes, organizational configurations, core competencies, and histories.

A taxonomy is a living document that changes as the work within the company changes. It is never final because organizations constantly change their processes and organizational structures, sometimes due to mergers, acquisitions of new business units, or expansion into other countries. A good taxonomy should be flexible enough to handle changes so it never has to be recreated.

As the foundation architecture for managing documents within an enterprise, a taxonomy is the foundation architecture for records management.

Step 1: Select the Taxonomy Team

Information technology (IT), legal, compliance, and records management (RM) must be part of the taxonomy team because of the special knowledge each brings to the project:

* IT knows what the current technology environment can accomplish with regard to documents as well as what the planned future technology environment should accomplish. Part of the process of creating a taxonomy is to discover other technology opportunities or limitations that should be addressed.

* Legal knows about current litigation management problems the corporation is experiencing as well as current and potential statutory and regulatory impacts on specific documents and records series.

* Compliance knows what impacts the current and proposed regulatory environment will have on entire domains of documents and records series.

* Records management knows how end-users actually perform their work and what work-arounds have been created to avoid compliance with records management good business practices as well as gaps within the records management program.

Step 2: Determine Role in Corporate Strategy

As the foundation for all activities within the corporation relating to documents, the taxonomy is both a tool and an opportunity (See Figure 1.) The motivation for the taxonomy can be tactical, as with a departmental content management program, or strategic, as with making proprietary business processes more efficient.

Assign the resources, champions, operational and IT leads, and team members who will be interviewed in the process. At a minimum, a corporate representative from enterprise operations, RM, legal, compliance, and IT should be present. Developing a taxonomy will require that every business unit be surveyed, but the taxonomy cannot be created unit by unit, because each subsequent business unit will change the taxonomy created by the units that preceded it.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Define the Corporate Objectives to Be Addressed

To ensure the success of the taxonomy and subsequent compliance, the taxonomy creation project must be motivated by corporate objectives. The implementation of an enterprise taxonomy can further a wide range of corporate objectives. For example:

* Taxonomies make business processes more efficient, thus making employees more effective. Most business processes involve human interaction with documents, and the right person having the right documents at the right time is one of the foundations for efficient processes.

* Taxonomies protect intellectual property by identifying those information assets that constitute intellectual property and defining where they intersect and interface with business processes.

* Taxonomies enable confidentiality, security, and privacy by identifying the affected documents and their intersection with the business process.

* Taxonomies are the foundation for corporate compliance by creating a document grid for determining what statutes, regulations, standards, and business practices apply to each. …

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8 Steps to Develop a Taxonomy: As the Foundation for All Activities within the Corporation Relating to Documents, a Taxonomy Can Further a Wide Range of Corporate Objectives, Such as Enabling Business Processes, Protecting Intellectual Property, and Building the Foundation for Compliance. Developing a Taxonomy Requires the Guidance of Records Management, IT, Legal, Compliance and the Involvement of Every Business Unit
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