With SharePoint 2010, Microsoft released Managed Metadata to enable corporate knowledge managers to define a taxonomy, allowing for better content organization and improved search relevancy. In particular, Managed Metadata uses a central Term Store where admins can build formal hierarchical classifications of terms (or labels) that can be applied across SharePoint sites.
However, taxonomies and the metadata that comprise them have to be built effectively to realize the benefits.
What is a taxonomy?
In SharePoint, a taxonomy is a hierarchical classification of terms that are categorized and applied to the content. They form a structure for metadata that consistently classifies documents. For example, your sales folder in SharePoint may contain standard pitch presentations. You may define a taxonomy that describes the ‘industry’ the pitch is focused towards and the ‘product’ it represents. Within ‘industry’, the taxonomy might limit the available options to ‘finance’, ‘healthcare’ and ‘manufacturing’.
Taxonomies enforce naming standards and categories to add consistency across the platform and support enterprise content management. They enable end-users to locate and discover information quickly, helping solve business problems.
Benefits of building a taxonomy in SharePoint
1. Improve document search relevancy
The biggest advantage of defining a taxonomy is improving search relevancy. If your SharePoint content repository contains hundreds or thousands of documents, users are likely having a difficult time finding specific pieces of content. For example, locating a single PowerPoint presentation, or even a slide within a presentation, may be time-consuming and frustrating. As repositories rapidly grow, documents are often not consistently classified, making it difficult to sort through search results. This can result in significant productivity loss as finding content takes too long and, at times, users may even recreate content.
Applying a taxonomy allows users to search for terms or apply filters to quickly locate specific documents.
2. Maintain uniformity across your organization
Managed Metadata allows SharePoint admins to build a taxonomy that is shared across multiple sites and extended to other applications. Further, terms defined in a SharePoint taxonomy can include synonyms and multilingual variants. This allows all users to apply a consistent classification to documents using a defined set of terms.
As expected, you can control who has the ability to add and modify the defined taxonomy, allowing for flexibility as your content repository grows.
3. Effectively scale with your business
Nested folders are a simple and easy solution when first adding content to SharePoint. However, they can quickly become overwhelming as your data multiplies. Users may struggle to navigate folders to find relevant files, and even if you define an organizational structure, documents will be forced into one folder when they might belong to two or three.
With metadata, folder names can be added as tags to documents, allowing the document to have multiple classifications. This methodology easily scales and enables easier search and retrieval.
Considerations when adding a taxonomy in SharePoint
1. Ensure third-party tools leverage your taxonomy
Many organizations rely on third-party apps to either add, manage or search for content in their SharePoint implementation. When possible, select apps that support and leverage the taxonomy you invested in. This ensures consistency across your entire toolkit, creating a seamless experience for end-users.
For instance, our slide library and search solution, TeamSlide, integrates with SharePoint content repositories, importing the entire taxonomy along with the content. As a result, users can search for slides with a taxonomy already familiar to them (in addition to slide content).
2. Time new taxonomies with a SharePoint migration
SharePoint migrations offer the perfect time to identify and implement a new taxonomy. During migrations, content is often reviewed and cleaned, creating opportunities to test and improve the classification model.