Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New partnership with LevelsBeyond

Taxonomies have undeniable value in helping to organize unstructured information and in enabling more sophisticated search experiences - attribute drill down, results filtering, related searches, synonym searches, and more. However, a big challenge that people often encounter with taxonomies is the question of how to best make use of this information. Basically, once there is a taxonomy, how can business benefits be realized.

The answer lies in the software into which the taxonomy is installed. I've already mentioned that WAND has created Datafacet for implementing and managing taxonomies in Sharepoint 2010, Oracle SES, Oracle UCM, and other enteprise search environments. Now, I'd like to introduce our new partnership with LevelsBeyond, a company that is also based in Denver.

LevelsBeyond has created a technology called Reach Engine which essentially is a middleware bus that can consolidate content from any number of disparate sources, including legacy systems, and bring all the content together into a single normalized environment where it can be tagged, edited, and managed in preparation for consumption by a custom UI, front end, or an external search environment. WAND's taxonomies import directly into ReachEngine where they can be managed and used to tag content.

Here is just one example use case for the retail space. Imagine a general retailer who has a broad catalog of SKUs and had different bits of product data in inventory systems, customer service systems, CRMs, third party print systems, and an existing ecommerce content management system. There is no way to synch all of this data together - changes in one system don't synch with any of the other systems. Adding new products is cumbersome and time consuming. Further, the product catalog is poorly organized. Enter WAND and LevelsBeyond.

The LevelsBeyond reach engine can be deployed to integrate all 5 disparate systems mentioned above to bring all the data into a single interface where it can be centrally managed. Instantly, there is a complete view of the data. And, if the data is changed in ReachEngine, that change will simultaneously publish back to the legacy systems. Categories and attributes from the WAND Product and Service Taxonomy can be loaded into reach engine where teh product data can be tagged to a deep category tree and to relevant product attributes. In the case of Laptop Computers, this could be things like brand, processor speed, hard disk size, screen size, # of USB ports, etc.

The retailer will have transitioned from having poorly organized product data spread across its IT environment to a single location for all of its well tagged product data assets. All of this data can then be easily queried by external systems (like an online store) through the Reach Engine web services and/or using the content library available for a number of programming languages.

This is very powerful stuff. Retailers deploying LevelsBeyond have seen rapid payback periods and first year ROI of well over 100%. By combining this technology with the deep taxonomies from WAND, retailers can see this same type of ROI much more quickly - there will be no need to spend several months creating a taxonomy from scratch.

If you are a retailer struggling to get a handle on your product assets, please let me know. I'd be happy to set up some time to discuss how the WAND Taxonomy combined with LevelsBeyond's Reach Engine can help you do business more efficiently.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Taxonomies in Sharepoint 2010

I came across a report by AIIM about how companies are using Sharepoint 2010. AIIM Sharepoint - Strategies and Experiences can be downloaded for free - registration required. AIIM surveyed 372 companies who are using or implementing Sharepoint 2010 now to get a sense of their priorities and needs. As it relates to taxonomy, here are a few interesting items that I'd like to highlight:

From page 19 of the report:

Which of the following types of add-on package or system are you using/are you planning to use with your SharePoint implementation?

52% responded "Classification/taxonomy management" About 12% are using a third party add-on for Classification/taxonomy management now.

This is consistent with what WAND is seeing in the market as well. The Term Store feature has certainly driven interest and demand in taxonomies for organizing enterprise content. Many companies are looking for a way to more effectively tag documents with meta-data once they are checked-in to Sharepoint. Sharepoint 2010 does not provide any automated tagging capabilities out of the box - although manual tagging is available.  Employees should be paid to create content, not meta-data. I think this AIIM survey question reflects this need.

From Page 18 of the report:

What do you think will be the two biggest issues for you in upgrading to SharePoint 2010?

30% replied: "Standardizing on a taxonomy or metadata template" . This was the number two most chosen answer.

By providing the capability to import a taxonomy or vocabulary with the term store, Microsoft has implicitly raised the question of whether or not a company has an existing vocabulary, and if not, where can one start. Many companies struggle when starting from a blank slate and the projects can get bogged down in committee. The survey result reflects this reality - we see Sharepoint 2010 projects getting delayed for months while companies establish a corporate vocabulary. This is an expensive proposition.

WAND's off the shelf sharepoint taxonomies are a source of foundation taxonomies which can be customized to meet the needs of a specific organization. There is no need to start from scratch - a pre-built taxonomy provides instant ROI because the vocabulary can be placed into Sharepoint 2010 to get started without any delays. The taxonomy can then be customized and fine-tuned over time to continue to improve results.

From Page 17 of the report:

Which of the following information management issues have you experienced with your SharePoint implementation?

24% replied "No way to enforce a classification template/policy for new team sites"

This survey reply merely re-emphasizes the point above that employees should be paid to create content, not meta-data. The reality is that getting knowledge workers in large organizations (or even small and medium organizations) to consistently apply meta-data to documents is a losing battle. One of two things will occur: Either, employees will ignore the requirement and not add any meta-data to their documents, or 2) employees will append meta-data but it will be high level tags that they are familiar with - granular tags will be ignored. Either way, you will lose the benefit of a corporate vocabulary.

Thanks to AIIM for publishing this terrific report.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Check out WAND's new Insurance Taxonomy

In the numerous conversations we've had with customers recently about enterprise search, Sharepoint 2010, Oracle SES and UCM, and other platform, Insurance Taxonomy was a topic that kept coming up. So, we went into our caves and a short while later have emerged with version 1 of our Insurance Industry Taxonomy.

This is a great new taxonomy that has over 1550 preferred terms and several hundred synonyms. We've addressed both sides of the insurance business: 1)Writing policies and 2)investing premiums. The taxonomy covers different types of insurance, coverages, policy terms, regulatory and risk management terminology, investment types, investment strategies, finance and accounting, and important industry ratios.

This taxonomy can be imported into Sharepoint 2010, Oracle UCM, Oracle SES, and any other software package that can accept taxonomies.

Please reach out if you'd like to learn more. I'd be happy to walk anybody who's interested through a demo of the taxonomy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

WAND is now blogging

Welcome to the WAND, Inc. corporate blog. We've launched this blog to keep people up to date on the latest and greatest coming out of WAND.

For those of you who don't know much about WAND, we are a leading provider of pre-built taxonomies which help our customer better organize and search their unstructured and/or semi-structured information. Our library of taxonomies is extensive covering products and service from nearly every industry as well as industry and business specific taxonomies. See a listing of WAND Taxonomies here. All told, we have over 500 taxonomy titles available today and are releasing new ones on a regular basis. WAND has been around since 1994 and is based in Denver, Colorado.

Please check back often to see what new taxonomies we have rolling off our production line, as well as to learn about how you can utilize taxonomies in your business, such as in Sharepoint 2010, Oracle UCM and Secure Enterprise Search, online yellow pages, tagging, and more.

Also, please leave comments on the posts you see or if there is a new taxonomy that you'd like to see developed. We really look forward to interacting with the taxonomy community through this blog.