TxM 022 Section 2.5 What is a precision taxonomy? Created by James on 6/26/2013 7:43:33 PM
Having defined Taxonomy, Strategic and Engineered we are left to define "Precision". What is a "Precision Taxonomy"?
1. A world of precision -- the screw metaphor
In the previous section reference was made to the organization of screws in a hardware store.
In the event that you require, for example, 30 mm, 8 gauge, countersunk head, slotted, brass plated wood screws in order to fasten hinges to a door you expect to walk into the hardware store and find the screws all neatly ordered in containers organized in terms of ALL the above attributes.
You expect to find the screws corresponding to all those attributes arranged so that ONLY ONE SCREW TYPE is contained in every container.
If you were presented with a large drum and told to tip the contents out because the screws you wanted were "certainly in there" you would turn around and go to another hardware store.
In the information context -- for "large drum" read "large spreadsheet".
A precision taxonomy has discrete information bins for every possible combination of attributes that can possibly occur.
2. Precision language and abbreviations
As discussed in the definition of a Taxonomy, a Taxonomy is a "semantic", that is a "word" structure that describes a particular range of information.
In order to do this we require precision language and, since we cannot always fit a complete language statement into a single description a precision Taxonomy quite frequently requires the use of abbreviations.
Assuming the taxonomy is being developed in English the taxonomist MUST have excellent command of English. If they are developing for another language they must have excellent command of that language. For the purposes of this article I will assume that English is the target language.
"Factory" is NOT the same as "manufacturing" one of the semantic errors that I frequently encounter.
The languaging of the entire hierarchy down to the level of the posting line builds an English phrase that more fully describes the detail of what should be posted to the lowest level in the hierarchy.
The choice of language must be lucid and NOT subject to interpretation. Ten people should interpret the hierarchy the same way.
Where alpha-numeric coding is used codes should, as far as possible, be mnemonic – i.e. the code letters should correspond to the letters of the words in the line of the hierarchy that is being coded.
Knowledge of the difference between vowels and consonants, verbs and nouns is all necessary in selecting the words and code letters to use.
Note also that with precision hierarchies the headings in the hierarchy become the headings on reports, graphs and models thus doing away with the need to manually code such items. Thus the wording must be chosen, not just for the purposes of ease of interpretation by the person posting but also with regard to ease of interpretation for the person querying the data.
3. Precision hierarchies
As noted previously, hierarchies should be structured with ideally between five and nine line items at any level of the hierarchy.
Constructing this language again requires an intimate understanding of the language being used AND the concepts behind the language so that appropriate and practical groupings can be selected.
Frequently the taxonomist will be called on to split lists of more than nine items into two categories or groups and to combine lists with less than five items into one group. Frequently this can require mental semantic and logical gymnastics in order to arrive at sub-lists that make sense to all the people using the Taxonomy.
Once complete all the people reading a Taxonomy should look at it and have an "Aha moment", that is, they should look at the Taxonomy and say "Yes, that is obvious, that is my business" – in all my experience of doing Taxonomies over more than twenty years it has consistently been my experience that what seems obvious at the end was far from obvious at the beginning and has taken FAR MORE time and effort to achieve than seems reasonable to those who were not involved in the semantic and logical manipulation required to arrive at a really high quality taxonomy.
4. Model the real world
Ultimately, as noted above, the Taxonomy must "model the real world", readers should see their organization in the Taxonomy, it should make perfect sense.
Once it does the default reports make perfect sense.
The posting is easy, fast and effortless.
Operators rapidly learn the codes and therefore post directly without invoking drop down lists by directly typing in the code.
Then advanced reports, dashboards and models become easy to develop and maintain and the value delivery of the information system investment, be it ERP, DW or BI explodes literally exponentially as advanced users accustomed to slogging through illogical unstructured data suddenly find that all the techniques they have longed to use become readily applicable.
Executives, managers and supervisors at all levels suddenly find themselves equipped to ask more difficult and deeper questions, to think more critically about the business and to make BETTER DECISIONS and therefore to ADD MORE VALUE.
5. Precision code schemes
In the same way that the hierarchy must be constructed with precision language in order to model the world to the human being the code scheme must be constructed with comparable precision in order to create a logical one to one equivalence of the logic in the English hierarchy to the binary world of 0's and 1's which is ALL the computer understands!
There are a wealth of conventions that are applicable to code scheme design.
The use of gap coding, when to use numeric only, when alpha, when alphanumeric and when mnemonic and when not.
The use of delimiters for ease of reading and ease of remembering.
The use of trailing periods "." or other characters to facilitate reading and MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY to enable query and reporting tools to summarize the data rapidly and accurately with APPARENT knowledge of the hierarchy are vital.
Other devices include forcing "Other" to the end of the list where it is required and coding it either "9" or "z" in order to make sure it stays there and so that simple reports can be written to track the use of "Other" and manage it.
When it comes to major code schemes such as the "Cubic Business Model" in the General Ledger or the Item Master / Product Master / Materials Master the semantics and coding become an order of magnitude more complex and more challenging.
Precision coding is an art in itself.
6. Precision standards and conventions meticulously and consistently applied
So we see a range of precision standards and conventions which must be meticulously and consistently applied if the full benefit of Taxonomies is to be realized.
Notice that only one deviation from standard in the hierarchy or the code scheme can compromise the ease of use of that scheme.
It takes only a small number of careless or ignorant errors to take a Taxonomy from being a Precision Taxonomy to an increasingly unstructured list and all the hard work in developing that Taxonomy can be very rapidly neutralized.
If the Taxonomy is handed over to be implemented or operated by personnel who have not received proper training in SEPT or who do not have strict discipline and performance measures geared to ensuring they maintain standards, the standards will deteriorate rapidly and the expected benefits will be lost.
So SEPT is not just a theory or a convention, it is a culture of disciplined use of systems driven from the CEO downwards. The smallest deviations from standards should be immediately trapped and remediated and the necessary controls or education introduced in order to prevent recurrence.
7. Supported by precision software
It turns out that it is extremely difficult for even someone who is well trained in the principles and disciplines of SEPT to maintain standards in the long term or even to build absolutely consistent hierarchies and code schemes.
To this end JAR&A are currently developing a suite of software to assist with both the construction and maintenance of SEPT solutions.
Precision Taxonomies, as with all other areas of precision in life offer huge benefits and, as with other areas of precision, deviation from standard causes major disruption.
I have absolute certainty that Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies are THE way of the FUTURE in business information systems and I look forward to discussing this vision with you...
The comment feature is locked by administrator.