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Tracking Tools for Taxonomy Change Management

November 13, 2012

In an earlier post I shared my presentation on taxonomy change management, which alludes to software utilities which can be used to track taxonomy change requests.  Since I didn’t specify what those were, and since not all info pros are familiar with applications of this type, I thought I’d dig a little deeper into the topic.

Microsoft Excel

Pity poor Excel.  The true workhorse of the metadata management world, it nonetheless commands only a grudging respect from its user base.  The idea of managing requests manually in an offline document justifiably makes people cringe.  But if you’re working with no budget, a small team and a relatively small request volume, it can be used effectively for request tracking.  At a past consulting gig of mine we used Excel not to track the specifics of each request, but as a tally showing how many terms were being generated in the tagging vocabulary we managed and which consumers were the source of those requests.  Our client loved that Excel sheet, because she could easily see where the growth areas were and demand budget from top consumers to support our efforts.

And of course, you can toss the spreadsheet onto a file share, which gets around the problem of multiple versions of the document being marooned on people’s desktops.  Or can go one step further.

Microsoft SharePoint

Obviously, SharePoint is not the only solution of its kind, and there’s no point in deploying it or a comparable platform  just to support request management.  But if you’re already working in an environment where a SharePoint site is at your disposal, it’s worth taking advantage of the features that offers to support the request management process.

SharePoint, as has been widely observed, is structured as a series of lists.  One such list is a project task list, which allows you to create what amounts to a radically simplified project plan.    Regarding the change management process as a project of indefinite duration, you can successfully leverage a project task list to specify requests, assign priorities, identify resources, and track their progress.

Bear in mind that all of this tracking effort is still manual, so it requires the sustained engagement of everyone on the team to make it useful.  However, it allows for dynamic updating of tasks by multiple distributed users, and avoids doing so within the context of a document, which can be cumbersome.

Issue tracking software

Working in high tech, it’s only natural to repurpose solutions from the software development world to support taxonomy management.  In the past several years, I’ve worked with several different issue tracking platforms in a number of capacities, both commercially available (IBM Rational ClearQuest, HP QualityCenter, Siebel — now Oracle — CRM) and internally developed (Microsoft Product Studio, available externally as Visual Studio Team System).

In addition to sharing the advantages of the project task list, these applications allow for considerably more detail regarding issues.  Keep in mind however, that the level of detail — or the names of the data entry fields — may not have direct application to issues of the type faced by taxonomy managers (e.g., enumerating steps to reproduce an issue, or assigning an issue to a scheduled software build).  Issue trackers also offer greater flexibility in assigning issues for work, including allowing any user to pick up and self-assign an open issue.

Customer relationship management (CRM) applications allow the additional advantage of permitting end users to open issues themselves (usually via email to a given alias) and for managers to correspond directly with the affected users in the context of the application.

Many of these are enterprise-level tools, and require a significant investment in licensing and configuration.  Similar to SharePoint, they may be worth leveraging if your employer already has them under license, but are otherwise likely out of reach.  Two notable exceptions are JIRA and Intervals, each of which is offered as a hosted, cloud-based solutions for a very reasonable licensing fee.

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