Thursday, January 21, 2016

Seven steps to get started with taxonomy in SharePoint

Taxonomy is the underpinning of good information architecture in SharePoint.   If you are using SharePoint for enterprise content management, you need to know about Taxonomy.

Microsoft was one of the first major vendors to showcase the importance of taxonomy when it released the Managed Metadata Service and the term store as major features in SharePoint 2010. This feature has persisted and been improved in SharePoint 2013, SharePoint Online in O365, and upcoming in SharePoint 2016.

For anybody considering taxonomy in SharePoint, here are seven steps to get started

1) Watch Managed Metadata 101: Taxonomy and Tagging in SharePoint.  This is a popular WAND webinar that has been viewed over 30,000 times (across several posted editions) and gives a feature by feature walk through of the SharePoint Term Store.  Don't worry, this is an educational - not a marketing - webinar.

If you want to go a little bit deeper, watch Managed Metadata 201: Advanced Taxonomy in SharePoint which covers topics such as how to set up metadata based search refiners and walks through how to control your SharePoint site navigation using the term store.

2) Download the WAND General Business Taxonomy.  This is a free download that provides a starter taxonomy which you can easily import to the SharePoint term store.  This gives you business relevant content that you can use to begin getting some hands on experience with taxonomy and the term store in your own instance of SharePoint.  You want to become very familiar with how the term store works and the WAND General Business Taxonomy will give you what you need to give it a real test drive.

3) Map out Your SharePoint Information Architecture.  This includes laying out your site navigation, content types, search filters, and metadata strategy.  Begin to determine which bodies of content will be placed where.  You may have a separate site for HR for example.  Begin to sketch out the columns of metadata that you would like to capture across your information architecture.  Once you have this map, you can begin to identify which term sets, or taxonomies, you will need to create to tag various bodies of content.  

Microsoft Technet has a great article that goes into depth with advice on how to plan your Managed Metadata

4) Develop your Term Sets.  Begin to create your term sets in the term store. Term sets should include important business processes, documents, and concepts that your users may want to use to tag and then search for content in SharePoint.  Get input from business users, but don't ask those users to create the taxonomies themselves.  A good practice is to spend 60 minutes with 2-3 stakeholders from each of your content areas (HR, Accounting, Product, etc).  Spend a short period of time explaining the value of creating a taxonomy. This Before and After: The impact of WAND Taxonomy on SharePoint Search document can help illustrate the value.

For the remainder of the session, you want to get as much information from the stakeholders as possible about what types of content they generate, what do people in their department often look for, what terms or concepts are important to their department.   Ask the stakeholders to bring sample documents that you can test the taxonomy against.  Ask to see any existing folder structures in shared drives (or elsewhere) that they may use.  While you don't want to copy a folder structure for your term sets, it will give you some great insight into the way that they have thought to organize their content and the terms they have used.  Once this session is complete, create a first draft of the taxonomy in a spreadsheet and then share it with the stakeholders so they can provide comments and feedback.  This is a great time to make sure you are capturing as many synonyms as possible.

The WAND Taxonomy Library Portal is a great resource for accessing taxonomies covering nearly every industry and business functional area.   This content can be downloaded and customized so that you aren't starting with a blank page when creating your term sets.  If you have pre-built taxonomy, the sessions with your stakeholders can be spent specifically customizing those taxonomies to tune and polish them for your organization instead of building them from scratch.

5) Develop your tagging strategy.  Once your taxonomy has been created, you will need to have a strategy for tagging your content with that taxonomy.  The three major approaches to tagging are manual tagging, default values, and automatic tagging.    Manual Tagging, where users tag documents when checking them in, and default values, generally based on file location, can both be done in SharePoint out of the box.  If you want automatic tagging, you will have to invest in one of several automatic tagging solutions that are available as add-ons for SharePoint.

6) Deploy your term sets.   Often times, it's hard to create a taxonomy for the entire organization and deploy it all at once.  It may be best to develop an initial taxonomy for one division - HR is a great choice - and roll it out to that group's SharePoint site first.  Begin to populate your managed metadata column with tags from the new term set and make sure that you have enabled these values as refiners in SharePoint search so that users will see, first-hand, the value of adding metadata to content.

This first departmental taxonomy will be your showcase for the power of taxonomy and managed metadata across the organization.  An internal showcase in a high profile division is a great way to build momentum for an enterprise wide taxonomy project in SharePoint.

7) Create your taxonomy governance plan. Taxonomy should not be created and then ignored. Taxonomy should be part of your overall SharePoint Governance plan to make sure that the taxonomy continues to grow and evolve as your organization does. Watch  Managed Metadata 301: Term Store Custom Properties and Taxonomy Governance in SharePoint  to learn about some of the fundamentals of taxonomy governance.