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The dark art of classification


Everywhere I go people are creating classification schemes.

All sorts of people are doing it: programmers, business and data analysts, information and enterprise architects. Mostly they are doing it because they are in the process of building an information system and the system needs an information architecture (in the form of taxonomies and metadata lists).

SharePoint is a typical case in point. The SharePoint information architecture needs teams sites, subsites, libraries, lists, content types, folder structures, lookup sets, and managed metadata for the term store. Each structure in SharePoint is a matrix of classification schemes. It’s a complex model, which is not well understood.

To paraphrase from Patrick Lambe in “Organising Knowledge”:

Different people with different tasks will structure their information to suit the tasks they have to do. But they are not trained in building classification schemes to meet the collective needs of the organisation.

Most information systems fall over (or are replaced) because the classification model does not meet the collective needs of the organisation. These needs include search and retrieval, controlling access, protecting, discovering, valuing, analyzing, reporting, sharing, migrating and disposing of their information assets etc. all in accordance with information governance laws.

There is both art and science in creating classification schemes. The starting point is to build an understanding of the classification needs of your organization and determine which schemes best meet these needs. I’ll endeavor to explain further in the next few posts.

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