Taxonomy, Topology, Ontology and other ten dollar words

It’s been over ten years ago since I hung up my Enterprise Architecture hat at Microsoft.  During that time I remember having multiple discussions with the various functional executives and application silo directors in I.T. about the need to manage the configuration of the enterprise[BKS1] .

I introduced words such as Taxonomy, Topology, and Ontology into the discussion.  The CIO I was reporting to at the time had a clear understanding of what I was saying.  However, for all the technically precise language I was using I might has well have been speaking Martian and probably I was to this constituency. 

I could understand business executives getting overwhelmed by the language, but it was rather disheartening that my I.T. peers were totally in the dark also.  Two of the people I was working with came up to me after a particularly disastrous meeting and ask: “Brian, what’s with all the ten dollar words?”   The feedback I received from all the development managers was that I was too academic.  Looking back, it’s a semi-fair critique given my presentation style.  However, that didn’t negate the importance of the issues I was bringing to light.

Fast forward to today.  While I’m not the official Enterprise Architect, I have been asked to be the Corporate Visionary and provide thought leadership for the company.  In that role I have been looking at SharePoint, Collaboration and Enterprise Architecture and I see we’ve progressed only moderately from where we were in the mid-90s.  Granted there have been some important changes.  Microsoft now recognizes Enterprise Configuration Management as a key problem space (e.g., System Center) and Content Management beyond document check-in and approval are now a serious topic of discussion.  A quick check of Amazon or Borders Bookshelves and you’ll see topics such as Information Architecture, Web Design, and even Taxonomy is on the shelves.

These unfortunately are being recognized by I.T. groups only and have not been raised as business issues yet. The approach to solve the information aspect of the problem vs. the application and storage technology side is what garners mindshare in enterprises today.  This is not an unusually situation though given the past twenty odd years.  The majority of people when faced with a problem today first look to find a software application to solve it.  Business and I.T. staff have become obsessed with tools which results in the ever famous everything is a nail when all you have is a hammer syndrome.  

The question becomes, who and when will a leader step forward to champion managing information as opposed to information technology?               

 [BKS1].  I had gone to the extent of building various prototypes to illustrate the points (CIO Workbench) 


About briankseitz
I live in PacNW in a small town and work for Microsoft as a Enterprise strategy and architecture SME. I enjoy solving big complex problems, cooking and eating, woodworking and reading. I typically read between 4-8 business and technology books a month.

3 Responses to Taxonomy, Topology, Ontology and other ten dollar words

  1. Sharon Taylor says:

    Brian, I sought out your blog after seeing your PowerPoint presentation from the SharePoint Saturday in February. I did not know about the SharePoint Saturday until after the fact so I could not attend. I am a business analyst with a title of architect at Avanade. I have a long history of working with businesses identifying requirements and designing solutions with a focus on user adoption.
    I would really like to understand more of your approach to defining taxonomy and ontology particularly as they reflect business drivers and how to expose them in a model such as the SharePoint Term Store.

    • Sharon Taylor says:

      Forgot to request notification of follow-up comments via email. so this will do so.

    • briankseitz says:

      Sharon, Sorry for the delay I was out on the speaking circuit this past week. I’m working on the next installment of methodology and expect to present at SharePoint Saturday DC in a couple of months.

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