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The Art & Science of Taxonomy Development

Article by Mohit Bhakuni 3 min read

A fter painstakingly collecting market and competitive intelligence (MCI) from both external and internal sources, why is it then difficult to find when we need it?

Because it is not organized properly.

It is not organized properly because, unlike structured data in a database, intelligence (actionable information) is inherently unstructured. It doesn’t follow any shape or form. It is scattered across the internet on different websites and in different folders across the organization.

To find intelligence in the right format at the right time, we need to organize it. We need to put it into some kind of structure. One way to achieve this is through the science of classification known as ‘taxonomy’. Taxonomy is about the naming of things and organizing them into categories. In the context of market intelligence, it is the methodology and principles of systematically organizing information using predefined terms that are arranged in hierarchies of superior and subordinate groups.

Taxonomy helps in storing (indexing), retrieval (searching), and analysis (extracting insights) from the information

The applications of the taxonomy concepts are universal. Unfortunately, the awareness and appreciation of these concepts is equally poor. In general, we don’t think much before naming things. We think it doesn’t matter. For example, what should an organisation address its employees as? Should they call them ‘team members’ or ‘staff-members’? Disney calls their park employees ‘cast members’. What’s wrong with just the simple ‘employees’?

Does it matter? Yes, it does. Ask any three of your colleagues what your organization is selling, and to whom? The differences in their answers will illustrate my point.

I’m Founder and CEO of Contify, a company that has built an AI-enabled market intelligence platform. In this, and subsequent articles in this series, I will deep-dive into the principles of taxonomies. I’ll explain how great taxonomies work, along with the tools and techniques needed to create them. I’ll highlight the common challenges and suggest some practical solutions that have worked for us. In this series, I will cover the following topics:

- How the absence of taxonomy impacts organizations

- Why is it difficult to build a good taxonomy

- How to gather terms for your taxonomy

- Principles for naming taxonomy terms (tags) – the devil is in the details

- How to build your taxonomy — best practices

- Guidelines for taxonomy maintenance

- How to select the right software for your taxonomy implementation

- Benefits of organization-wide taxonomies

- Conclusion and the next steps…

The information that I’ll be sharing is based on our hands-on experience in implementing market and competitive intelligence solutions and taxonomies for thousands of users across different organizations since 2009.

I’ve tried to keep these principles of taxonomy as general as possible, however, given my background, these principles are skewed towards the market and competitive intelligence. Let’s start with understanding How the absence of taxonomy impacts organizations.

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