Why governance matters

Back in the early 2000s I worked on a programme of taxonomy development for a UK government department. My job was to help design and build a set of information taxonomies that would be made available for tagging content across many different content management systems. It was a good design job; interesting knowledge domain, plenty of relevant content to test our taxonomy model, and a reasonable amount of resource on the task.

There was a problem though. Although there was resource going into building and launching the taxonomy, this did not extend to continuing maintenance and development of the assets. And, as is the way with public sector projects, political imperatives change, and the focus of funding moves on to other urgent needs. The inevitable result was that the taxonomies stopped being useful. Fewer and fewer people understood the rationale for the design, or how to effectively classify content, and the job of maintaining and developing the taxonomies as the content developed - well, it didn't exist. Responsibility for the taxonomies was passed around from one unwilling party to another. Worse, no-one owned the job of explaining why tagging was valuable. In time, it really wasn't valuable.

So what, you might wonder, does this have to do with governance? Well of course it has everything to do with governance. The simple truth is that business taxonomies are corporate information assets, as important as any other, and just as deserving of care and feeding.

  • If you are going to invest effort (people, time and money) in developing taxonomies, why would you not inject a small additional amount to keep them up to date and quality controlled?
  • If you are planning to use taxonomies to help drive your semantic knowledge network, you are absolutely reliant on those taxonomies being right and fit for purpose.
  • If you want to get your business on board with the value of the above points, you need to actively engage the business in owning those taxonomies.

A good governance framework helps you to address these topics in your organisation. Here are some of the things you might find in a good governance framework.

  • One or more people who have the job of care and feeding.
  • Business champions. The content you are classifying is owned by the business, and your taxonomies should be similarly owned by the business.
  • Information champions. Taxonomies are part of your information architecture, and information scientists, modellers, information architects should be actively engaged in their management.
  • IT involvement in system maintenance and integration.
  • Processes for designing, creating,  developing and ultimately retiring taxonomies.
  • House rules for ensuring that your taxonomies meet your business standards.

At Tellura Semantics we have developed a range of governance development programmes for clients. We would be delighted to do the same for your business. Please get in touch and let's talk about how we can help.