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Subject: Re: Define Taxonomy
From: "John J. O'Brien" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 6 Dec 2006 01:07:17 -0500

text/plain (62 lines)

Carol Choksy has provided a great synopsis.  Here's how I introduce
taxomonies (note introduce, not define - as Carol says, that's a book...and
one underway ;-)

* An arrangement of general groupings that is divided into logical sub-groupings

* The arrangement is general to the specific (sound familiar?) to the degree
necessary for a given purpose and operational environment.

* In IM, it is a reflection of a domain, business or function and 
enables a systematic interpretation of that domain, business or function to
support one or more purposes.

The purpose and environment are key, which is why you cannot take a taxonomy
developed for one purpose and apply it to another.  Is your purpose to
support navigation? Is is descriptive? prescriptive? both? 

Further to Laurie's observation, I think it really depends on what one is
trying to achieve.  From an enterprise wide view, taxonomies - better
ontologies - are absolutely what I expect from records managers.  
Further to Carol's observation on KM 10 years back, I'd say that within
organizations KM was more fad than reality (with respect to my colleague
Leif Edvinsson who was the first CKO - I might pay for that remark next week
;-)  Vendors jumped on a marketing bandwagon and some people think KM is
dead, just when its connectino to IC is begining to shift some thinking in
the world. (I prefer the term knowledge resource development as this neatly
marries both information and human resources - technology is an enabler,
IMHO, where it doesn't actively inhibit!)

The RIM world is increasingly complex (as we say, complex does not have to
be complicated).  Taxonomies are a means to represent that world and enable
decision making on everything from common language to codifiable elements
that can add value to business (e.g. compliance needs, IP protection, etc.).
 Our field, however, runs the gamut from simple file systems to highly
structured taxonomies, and more rarely, ontological systems that enable
relationship mapping.  

Very interested in this last idea - but step by step!  As a last comment in
a busy day, I'll stick my neck out and say that while many, many
organizations get good value out of reactive RM shops that successfully
apply traditional concepts to ERM, etc., it is my firm believe that we need
more RM practitioners who are prepared to risk proaction, making real
contributions to bringing RM into the boardroom, and delivering value for

That's my view ;-)


John James O'Brien, BA, CRM, MALT
Partner & Principal Consultant
IRM Strategies 
Hong Kong - Bangkok - Vancouver

Associate Partner, S4K Research, Stockholm

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