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O365 Migrations: Taxonomy Development Simplified

Many of our clients are making the move to Microsoft Office 365 in the cloud, and, as a result, they’re having to migrate large quantities of content. These migrations often trigger a company to take a step back and re-evaluate the organization and metadata now being used in SharePoint and/or in O365, going forward. In many cases, these same companies never actually defined indexing standards or a taxonomy in the first place, instead letting their SharePoint environments “evolve” organically over time, without much structure.

So with the migration to the new tool for content management, the time is ripe to formally build a taxonomy for the content going into O365.

As a reminder, the primary benefits of developing a taxonomy include:

  • Improved user experience. For most departments, users will assign a single tag and all metadata will be automatically applied.
  • Improved findability. Search results are dramatically improved when by using search filters and facets. Content can also be delivered dynamically, based on the user.
  • Improved manageability. Records and security are improved because every document will have the right tags to remain compliant.
  • Streamlined rollout of records management system. Onboarding will be significantly reduced, because content will have been cleaned up in advance of the migration to the enterprise records management system.

One of the primary tenets of taxonomy development is the creation of global and local metadata, along with a controlled vocabulary for one of the typical global metadata fields (“document type”).

  • Global metadata is used to ensure efficient document management. Tagging documents with global metadata helps ensure proper document security, enables content lifecycle management, and can improve regulatory compliance.
  • Local metadata is specific to each business area. Local tags help users find the documents they need by enabling advanced navigation and search capabilities.
  • Document types are business-friendly names used to describe the documents created, stored, and used during business processes. They allow metadata to be automatically applied when a user uploads a document.

The following figure provides some common examples of each of these categories, applicable to companies in various industries.


When we work with a client to create a taxonomy for an enterprise migrating to O365, the effort typically spans about 60 days, with a team of five to seven internal folks working with the Doculabs consulting team for a total of about 1.5 days a week each. At the end of the effort, the typical deliverable looks something like the graphic below–i.e. a list of the metadata to be assigned to the company’s content, both as it’s migrated and going forward, with definitions, examples, designations of the criticality of each, and whether it’s system-generated or user-applied:

<<taxonomy sample>>

The result of a Doculabs taxonomy consulting engagement is a simple-to-use list that your folks configuring O365 can use to building sites in O365, going forward—not to mention all the aforementioned business benefits: significantly improved search results, improved manageability, and streamlined rollout of records management.

Interested? We’ve worked with organizations in a wide range of industries to develop custom metadata to address their specific needs. Check out our taxonomy white paper.

If you’re among those organizations making the move to O365, and you’ve never had real indexing standards or an enterprise taxonomy to organize your content, this could—and, we would argue, should—be the time to define standards and put them in place in the new system, going forward. (Read more about this particular point–“Don’t Make the Shared Drive Mistake Twice”– here.) In any case, give us a call, and see what we can do to make your move to O365 a success.


James Watson
James Watson
I’m President and co-founder of Doculabs, serving as executive sponsor on consulting engagements for financial services clients.