The 451 taxonomy

We’ll occasionally use this blog to discuss our own internal taxonomy work. We ask enough vendors if they eat their own dog food, as it were, so it’s only fair we turn the spotlight on ourselves occasionally.

We here at 451, like all industry analyst companies that publish research have our own issues with categorizing our reports and making them easy to find. We started in an ad-hoc fashion when we launched back in 2000 with eight broad sections and some basic metadata but without any real plan. We gradually added to the categories till we came to a point a few years ago when I realized unless we took a more coordinated approach to a taxonomy and categorizing reports across all our products and services we were heading for trouble.

So, with experience gleaned from talking to numerous vendors and users over the years I embarked on developing a single taxonomy for the whole company. Our IT team built our own taxonomy editor and another tool to sort out reconciliations between old and new taxonomies.

But until Kathleen joined in 2006 however it was still something of a side project, but she used her experience of doing a similar project at Giga to propel the project along and I’m pleased to be able to say we’re now satisfied that we have all the bases covered. However, we know a taxonomy is never finished and we are constantly making small revisions as the industry shifts.

How we use the taxonomy still varies from product to product, however. Our M&A KnowledgeBase has always used a taxonomy as the basis of helping customers find deals, and we have just ported that product over to the new taxonomy, meaning it has gone from 300 or so categories to more than 600 (and I know more is not always better, but you’ll have to trust me on this one, or better still sign up for a trial!). It’s a much more balanced representation of the tech, internet and telecoms industry than before.

This means our Market Insight Service, TechDealmaker and M&A KnowledgeBase are all using the same taxonomy, although only the last of those currently exposes it. We use additional themes to group our research in key areas, such as open source, enterprise security or our work with the European Union. We also use the taxonomy to drive internal tools to help us manage our coverage areas and output.

In future posts I’ll talk about specific elements of the taxonomy and also how we’re planning to roll it out across all our research, improve our search engine and overall make it easier for customers to find the research they need.