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1 April 2012
Anat Bielsky

What is taxonomy?

The term taxonomy refers to the organization's dictionary; the professional and organizational jargon.

The taxonomy is usually composed from two dictionaries combined: One describes the organization's professional side (e.g. the worlds of software, medicine or cellular); the second one describes the world of organizational terms (unit names, context and connection to the parent organization). Usually, the first category repeats itself in different organizations which deal with similar activities while the second one is unique to the organization. The taxonomy is used (during the construction of the ontology) for creating properties and values and enables:

  • A uniform language between different parties in the organization.

  • Planning orientation in databases and knowledgebases.

Taxonomy includes the organizational language and the manner in which the organization organizes the information. Thus, for example, organizational taxonomy can contain terms related to types of products, types of currency, business fields, geographical fields, departments/teams in the organization, types of clients etc.

What is ontology?

Ontology is linking all the words (the organizational taxonomy) to groups. These groups represent properties and values and the connection between these groups. Therefore, it is the map of connections between the words spoken in the organization i.e. the world of terms and their connections to each other.

The classification process starts from 'families' of terms which contain wide terms which in turn contain narrower terms and these terms' synonyms. For example:

Family: financial assets

Wide term filed under this family: foreign currency; Synonymous to "foreign exchange".

Narrow product filed under the wide term: American dollar

The ontology is actually the module which contains all metadata unrelated to the properties of the knowledge items which are created automatically, such as: writer, date, type of document, automatic serial numbers (these properties are also known as "Flag Values").

What is tagging?

During the tagging process we stick a metadata tag to an information item such as a document, picture, audio/video file etc. The tag assists in describing the information in the item, information not always located inside the file itself. The tag also enables retrieving the information more quickly from search results. This fact is especially useful for picture, video and audio files which do not contain text and are therefore harder to locate in a search.


How is tagging performed?

When feeding in the information item or editing its properties, the user must feed in the relevant tags for said knowledge item. The user can either choose the tag from the organizational taxonomy tree or pick it from the different options suggested by the system when the user begins to type in the tag.

After tagging the information items in the system, the user can filter the document list/library according to the column which contains the relevant term 'family'. In our example, the user can filter the information according to the 'location' column which contains the locations defined as terms under this term family.

Another advantage of using taxonomy in SharePoint 2010 is that using taxonomy in SharePoint enriches the tool's existing social abilities. Tagging these worlds of knowledge to each worker and tagging their expertise and projects assists those searching for information in the organization to reach the organizations knowledge experts.

Where is the taxonomy defined in SharePoint 2010?

The taxonomy in SharePoint 2010 is defined as a Term Store. In order to define the taxonomy, we must enter Central Administration>Manage Service Application>Manage Metadata Service.


In conclusion, the taxonomy helps filter the search results and increase the relevance of the results presented to the users. The use of terms helps synchronize the knowledge items in SharePoint with the organization while the organization is dynamic and changing. Yet when we implement the taxonomy in the system we must remember the two central challenges of using organizational taxonomy:

  1. The users are not interested in tagging documents. You must find ways to encourage them to act on the subject.

  2. Organizations usually do not have an organized taxonomy and much preparatory work is needed in order to create the hierarchical module of the organizational taxonomy.

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