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A Comprehensive Guide to Help You Build a Business Taxonomy

Whether building from scratch or buying prebuilt taxonomies, PoolParty helps enterprises get started with taxonomies regardless of their industry or use case.
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Taxonomies are widely used in a business context because they are an intuitive way to organize vast amounts of data that your machine can also understand. Many enterprises rely on taxonomies to be the core of their knowledge management strategies and systems.

The PoolParty Semantic Suite is regarded as a premium taxonomy and ontology management software by industry publishers such as KMWorld and Gartner. Not only is PoolParty easy-to-use despite its powerful capabilities, it is also a middleware, meaning it is easy to integrate with other taxonomy services such as WAND Inc., a leader in ready-made industry taxonomies.

Business Taxonomy Design: Seven Ways to Start Your Taxonomy Project

There are many ways to build a business taxonomy. However, our nearly 20 years of experience helping enterprises establish their own taxonomies, points us towards the following best practices. 

Building a Business Taxonomy from Scratch

Business taxonomy design naturally requires that staff sit down to decide on the purpose of the taxonomy and the terms that will be used. Using a top-down approach, high level information is gathered from subject matter experts in the form of interviews, focus groups, workshops, etc. In these meetings, ideas and topics are discussed for the broader categories, and the scope is defined:

 

    • What aspect of our business will it be focused on?
    • How specific should it be?
    • How many levels should it have?

 

Once these questions have been answered, the taxonomists and information architects can begin to work on selecting the terms and their categories. Since a taxonomy is designed in a hierarchical structure, it is important to define the main categories (referred to as “Broader” categories in the SKOS framework), followed by the narrower categories on the basis of their relationship to the broad ones.

By also employing a bottom-up approach, the team can begin to fill in the gaps by analyzing their content and noticing patterns in the text that may be useful for the taxonomy. Taxonomists can use these terms to create concepts on the individual level, allowing them to define preferred labels, synonyms, and alternative labels.

Cardsorting

While defining terms often falls on taxonomists or data engineers of the team, one method called Card sorting helps get other subject matter experts and team members involved. As an initial brainstorm of building a business taxonomy, card sorting is the practice of identifying topics by literally putting terms together on cards.

Card sorting is a friendly, interactive way to establish a business glossary of all the important topics and terms. With PoolParty Card Sorting, the same can be done online using virtual cards and an easy drag/drop functionality. The point of this software is to get people from various backgrounds involved in the process of building a glossary so that their crucial knowledge about the topic is not lost. The tool allows collaborators to suggest, confirm or reject new topics in real-time before it is handed over to the information architects to turn it into a working taxonomy.

PoolParty Card Sorting is a collaborative tool that simply mimics the white board activity, with the added benefit of seamlessly integrating the content into the PoolParty Thesaurus Server. Information architects can use all the valuable information from the card sorting activity to organize terms and topics into the hierarchical structure of the taxonomy in PoolParty.

Importing existing Excel taxonomies

Some organizations come to PoolParty with pre-existing taxonomies that simply need to be transformed in a more “usable” format. Typically, these pre-existing taxonomies are in the form of Excel sheets, whose outdated methods make it very difficult to regularly maintain and integrate new information. These methods lack the ability to clearly show hierarchical relationships between terms (which is one of the more powerful features of a taxonomy), and often require that an IT team runs scripts to change legacy data.
Learn how a Consulting Giant switched from Excel to taxonomies!
PoolParty can integrate xml formats into the Thesaurus Server, transforming the previously burdensome Excel taxonomies into taxonomies that work. The taxonomy in PoolParty only requires a brush-up of the content to ensure the hierarchy is correct before it can be used for automated tagging, knowledge graphs, etc. Business taxonomy design in PoolParty does not require that an IT team is always involved, so the taxonomist and knowledge engineers have the liberty of managing their work without depending on others.

PoolParty Corpus Analysis

PoolParty’s Corpus Analysis capabilities give you suggestions about which terms to add to your taxonomy based on the docs or websites that you ask PoolParty to crawl. To conduct a corpus analysis, PoolParty supports the following sources for upload: documents, directly pasted text excerpts, websites, RSS feeds, and DBpedia.
Say, for example, that you are trying to build a Human Resources taxonomy. In the Corpus Analysis tool, you upload your company’s legal documents and paste a URL of a labor statistic website. Through advanced text mining capabilities, the analysis crawls over these sources and extracts thousands of terms to be used as concepts in the taxonomy (to be precise, PoolParty’s algorithms score an extraction of over 1 million terms as healthy). 

The taxonomist can edit the labels within these concepts and approve them before they are added to the hierarchy. A corpus analysis lets you add terms from documents and sources that are already relevant to your enterprise, eliminating the work to think of concepts from scratch.

Harvest Linked Data

PoolParty’s Linked Data Harvester enables the fast and user-friendly creation of base taxonomies that can be generated fully automatically from DBpedia data. DBpedia is one of the most comprehensive publicly available knowledge graphs.
PoolParty takes advantage of both the thematic breadth and depth that DBpedia has with its nearly 40 million nodes. DBpedia is the semantic twin of Wikipedia and serves as a highly structured source for retrieving labels, synonyms, definitions, hierarchical and non-hierarchical relationships, and facts of all kinds about countless fields of knowledge.

Buying ready-to-use Taxonomies

PoolParty has partnered with WAND, Inc. to create a unique opportunity for users to easily kickstart their taxonomy management processes. WAND specializes in providing ready-to-use multilingual taxonomies that span across various industries, business uses, and knowledge domains. 

Altogether, the purchase of one or more of these products ensures that time spent building a business taxonomy is dramatically reduced. Since WAND takes a careful hand in refining the specialized taxonomies, users can feel secure that the terms and their hierarchical relations are ready-to-use, with little need for revision.

PoolParty’s partnership with WAND means these taxonomies are seamlessly integrated into PoolParty Thesaurus Server and can be purchased directly from us. In PoolParty, users can continue to revise or add terms to the existing WAND taxonomy so that it fits their precise business language.

 

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WAND’s taxonomies cut a user’s work in half by allowing them to build on top of pre-existing verified taxonomies instead of building from scratch. PoolParty’s taxonomy management software enables users to customize their taxonomies in an intuitive interface, and apply them to additional semantic knowledge models such as ontologies, automated tagging, and knowledge graphs. 

Reusing Open Available Taxonomies

The PoolParty team has curated a selection of publicly available industry-specific taxonomies that can be downloaded and reused in PoolParty. The Open Taxonomy Hub contains free sources that users can use to begin building their term lists. These publicly available taxonomies typically resemble flatter hierarchies so they are best used as glossaries or input for controlled vocabularies. 
The taxonomies in the Open Taxonomy Hub provides a large amount of terms that can be further used and arranged by the information architect to build a business taxonomy.

Business taxonomy design best practices

To get started with a taxonomy, all these best practices can be used simultaneously. Often, enterprises elect to design taxonomies from a number of sources such as card sorting, purchasing prebuilt taxonomies, and corpus analysis, where others may employ every method altogether. 

When done in a premium taxonomy software like PoolParty Semantic Suite, users have the ability to further develop the taxonomy once it has been created. Additional taxonomies can be purchased from WAND and further concepts can be imported in the taxonomy. The Corpus Analysis, for example, allows the user to continuously extend and improve the taxonomy by adding new terms based on new documents and feeds, and thus closes existing gaps in the vocabulary. PoolParty allows users to build additional knowledge models on top of the taxonomy, so they can benefit from intelligent search engines, recommender systems and rich metadata management, to name a few.

 

 

Read more about taxonomies in our Guide to Business Taxonomies: Taxonomy Management 101. 

Getting Started with Taxonomies.

Want to see more? Data & Knowledge Engineer and author of The Accidental Taxonomist Heather Hedden has the perfect webinar for you. Watch our on-demand webinar to get demos of the PoolParty system and a walkthrough of how to get started with taxonomies.
Webinar Getting Started with Taxonomies (1)

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