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The Good Type of Tax: SharePoint Taxonomy

Author by Pete Hurth

Death and taxes are not the only certain things in life. Within our human existence is the need to classify the world around us. We are always in a state of classification. In speaking about death, we classify the type of death (ex. death by taxation) and in taxes we classify the type of tax (ex. the death tax). To demonstrate a less morbid example, a document can be classified by the department it was created in, such as “Sales”, and the document type, such as “Proposal”. History While many believe taxonomy is a technological term, it is formally rooted in science with the need to hierarchically categorize species. Carolus Linnaeus, an 18th-century Swedish botanist, created the system of binomial nomenclature used for naming species. This system is often referenced as the institution of modern “taxonomy”. However, as long as we have walked this earth, we have described the world around us. Yet, we forget to describe the organizations we work in. Organizations have been called living structures, organic, and “alive”. It is therefore only logical that we should classify an organization. It is through classification that we are able to properly route, store, and find content within an organization. SharePoint Taxonomy To this end, SharePoint 2010 has implemented the use of taxonomy through the Managed Metadata Service Application (MMSA). Leveraging this service, a taxonomy can be created and maintained via the Term Store. These terms can be globally applied across the enterprise. Sample Term Store SharePoint Term Store Terms can be created manually by defining a Term Set and entering terms one at a time, or by importing terms from a preformatted file. Terms may also be moved from Enterprise (System) keywords. Further flexibility is offered by the use of term synonyms and splitting a taxonomy into logical groupings via same level Term Sets. Example: One Term Set contains a hierarchy of departments, and the second Term Set contains a hierarchy of products. If a product was moved to a different department there will be no need to adjust the taxonomy as the Term Sets are separate and related through the use of tools such as managed metadata columns. In this scenario, when a user creates a document, they will be able to tag the document with the department and product terms. Once properly tagged with metadata, a document can be routed, stored, and later referenced by its terms. This is especially helpful when using SharePoint Search, as multi-faceted search is achieved by allowing users to drill down (filter) by metadata. Given these features, it is easy to see why taking the time to establish an enterprise reflective taxonomy is so critical. This taxonomy should provide initially established terms and allow for flexibility as terms are added/modified/removed. SharePoint Taxonomy accommodates these needs and has security for both the management of the Term Store and if terms should be available for tagging. If Linnaeus had SharePoint would the turtle be classified as an amphibian instead of a reptile? No, a turtle is a reptile, and a taxonomy is only as accurate as the logic behind it. This article was originally written by Kelly Rusk. It is moderated currently by Peter Hurth.

Pete Hurth

Social Collaboration Solution Lead