Search for portal order

Search for portal order

Finding documents is much easier when a portal project team does the hard yards to build a corporate taxonomy.

By Paul Montgomery

One aspect of enterprise portal projects that has not gained due recognition thus far in the industry’s relatively short life has been the importance of building a taxonomy for both new and existing stores of corporate data.

A taxonomy, which is a structure for classifying documents by concept, is a step up from the standard approach of some portal applications, which involves the automated indexing of data for simple search and retrieval functions. Andy Cooper, marketing manager at Computer Associates Australia, said that search engines, by their nature, were relatively crude, because they were not context-based, but that a “big advantage” could be gained through applying a taxonomy.

”You need differing levels of taxonomy, depending on your organisation’s level of maturity. A lot of organisations start with none, or no formal taxonomy, or a rudimentary one based on file structures or department-based groupings. They tend to find shortcomings to that approach: they find inconsistencies. As the volume of data increases, the need to have a more formalised taxonomy becomes apparent. These are things that people often find out after the fact,” he said.

Mr Cooper said that with enterprise portal projects becoming the catalyst for convergence of business units within larger organisations, the need would become apparent for the more technology-focused experts in the implementation team to work together with experts in information management.

”Portal projects start in IT with people who have a networking or IT understanding, not an information management or records management understanding. The people who have traditionally done the latter, like librarians, are the information custodians and they are having a greater role now. People are realising something about information: it’s not just about the storage of it, but it’s about getting access to it,” he said.

Computer Associates, like many other portal providers, has struck an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) deal with a taxonomy specialist to provide their software. In the case of CA and its CleverPath Portal, the third party software is supplied by Autonomy. Mr Cooper said the CleverPath application allowed a choice of three levels of complexity in applying a taxonomy. The first is delivered through the Library content store within the basic Portal package, which he said was “very simple and crude”. The second level involves so-called “channels” of information, which allow customised views of different categories of data on the basis of an employee’s role. Mr Cooper said the implementation of channels was “fairly manual”, and was not context-based, but that it could be automated via the search query.

The third level is the OEM partnership with Autonomy, where the project team can use APIs to integrate the software from the two providers into their own systems. Added functions at this level include a “spidering” ability to automatically categorise search results, and the added feature of being able to integrate content from external sources such as the Web.


John Whitlock, at Computer Associates, said that a corporate taxonomy should be one of those things that the project team thinks about in the planning phase, not during the implementation, because leaving it too late would prove too expensive.

”It’s a common thing you find in the early stages of a technology. You discover after the fact what the issues are. People don’t understand the issues until they have been there. Until you end up with silos and data marts, people don’t understand the value of Meta-Data until that point,” he said.

Mr Whitlock said there was not “one single argument” to convince organisations that a taxonomy was necessary, but that return on investment would come from the increased effectiveness of the business.

”It’s a size issue as well,” he said. “In organisations with large volumes of information, that would be fairly apparent. They would have trouble in the first instance as to how to structure information. Some organisations, if they have been moving towards a portal, would have that structure in place already. They would be in better shape than smaller organisations that might have arrived at it by accident.”

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