Tom’s Taxonomy Technology Tips

Tom Reamy is, to many of us, one of the authorities on taxonomies. He’s talking right now about the varieties of taxonomy/text analystics software available now, and how to choose which is best for your application & organization. tom-reamy.jpg  All the vendors are adding more text analytics. So…step number one is: how are you going to use the technology?  Text mining? business inteligence? cusomter intelligence? tfor facted navigation? keyword indexing? to browse the front end of the portal?

Evaluating Taxonomy Software:

  • new, copy, rename, delee, merge
  • scop notes
  • spell check
  • search
  • names & identifiers
  • versioning
  • ease of use
  • user documentation
  • visualiztion — how does it show things?
  • automatic taxonomy/node generation — Tom says it’s nonsense but can be used at different stages, especially to get suggestions within a node or for entity extraction
  • entity extraction
  • auto-catgorization (training sets, terms, rules, advanced – saved search queries) “near” sentence” “paragraph”
  • boolean search that allows you to search for x near y, and “not”
  • advanced features — sentiment analysis (for customer service to see what people are saying about them); facts, ontologies, semantic web, etc…..

Phew!  If you want taxonomy management only, you are probably in a small company with a specialized taxonomy – and the good news is that this type of software is quite affordable. But do check the upgrade path for this type of tool, just in case you need to grow the application.Advanced application platforms, sich as Attensity’s or Inxight’s, are for those appls that need to integrate search and content management or to integrate policy, procedures and distributed contributions.

Tom’s advice: forget score cards to evaluate & do a pilot project instead  — use yoru content, in your application to see HOW the tool really works— “think big, start small & win”

The “C” level problem — is that someone at the CEO, CFO, COO level has to approve this, & they won’t know a thing about it; all you can do is demonstrate the complexity in their language — tell them stories of the pain they recognize in the organization.

Key ingredient to evaluating:

  • start with your own self knowledge – understand your content as much as you can, the technology already in place, and the business & information behaviours of the people that will be using the applications
  • eliminate the unfit according to the list above — ask experts, look at reputation of vendors, make sure the tool matches your scope & your environment — narrow it to 3-4 vendors, bring them in, have them do demos with your content, have them all in on one day
  • deep pilot — how well does it work with the semantics? this gives you a much better handle on making the decision between your top 2 vendors

So what happens when the organization structures don’t match the collaborative practices?

I’m delighted I’ve finally been able to hear and meet Jon Husband of  Jon is one of the few, very few, people working with organizations to help them evolve their organization structures to support the collaborative technologies and resulting work behaviours.  In most organizations there is this horrible disconnect between the hoopla about “working collaboratively” with “social networking tools” and the management practices, reporting relationships and performance expectations. As Husband says, the fundamentals about how we design work (& I add here, how organizations design themselves) hasn’t changed in 50 years. 50 years. Shesh. Organizations can talk the talk about “collaboration”, but to effectively implement collaborative tools and work behaviours they have to walk the walk of new organization structures, management practices and employment expectations and compensation.The hierarchical structure has been based on the belief that knowledge is arranged vertically. But this is no longer the case — now knowledge flows horizontally and chaotically (he didn’t use that term, but I think that’s an apt term — chaos isn’t necessarily a bad thing, after all — out of chaos can come new thinking.)

Ok, so what does this mean for organizations? Well, it means that they will work “ok” for the time being, but until this issue is really addressed, the true benefits of all these technologies and people working collaboratively will not be realized. Husband says he’s bored with this. Me too. He also says that this issue will be addressed during the next ten years. I agree. He also talked about the fact that organizations have to choose different structures depending on what they need to accomplish. Yep – I agree there too. Kind of a blended structure approach. One structure sure doesn’t fit all.

Husband also pointed to some other sources to explore on this topic, including Gary Hamel’s Future of Management hamel.jpg,, Clay Shirky,  and Canadians Don Tapscott and Dave Pollard. (Jon is also from Canada. Great, eh?)  He
also referred to Malone’s Future of Work  which I’ve used many, many times. But Malone’s work is now 4 years old, and I’m not as travelled as Jon is, but I just don’t see the organizations evolving their structures. So…. the next ten years will be interesting. But if organizations don’t get on with the changes required to their structures and management, then it could be even MORE interesting.  I’m hoping to talk with Jon later today, and one of the issues I want to talk with him about is the impact of this on unionized environments — or maybe, to reframe that — the impact of the unionized environments on this…..