This document outlines what currently seem to me to be the requirements for a taxonomist. I have encountered a few people who seem to intuitively understand taxonomies because they have been working with data and classification schemes for a long time and I regularly encounter people who think they understand but do not. It seems that there may be more women than men who have this aptitude.
It is important to understand that there are taxonomies that work and taxonomies that get in the way – there is a lot of skill required to produce a taxonomy that really works – once complete they look deceptively simple and it is not always immediately apparent that a taxonomy will not work – the art and science of the facilitator is a BIG factor here.
This is an area that requires a highly knowledgeable and highly experienced person in the appropriate fields as set out below.
At this stage the following should be taken as guidelines rather than as absolute rules.
Excellent command of English – the development of a taxonomy is fundamentally an advanced English language semantic exercise – I think an A or B Matric Higher Grade may be a minimum requirement with a Bachelor's degree majoring in English perhaps the ideal.
2. Track record with cataloguing
I find that people who do not have significant experience with cataloguing and adding logic to data struggle with taxonomies to the standards we are talking about here and most of them simply cannot get it right.
First prize would be a Bachelor's degree in Information Management (Library Science) and about five years post graduate experience or similar cataloguing qualification.
In the absence of a formal degree I think that at least five years experience or on-the-job in a related field is likely to be required.
3. Business understanding
Solid understanding of the basic principles of business – preferably some sort of business course or a good few years of hands-on business experience. Must be able to determine the essence of the business and how it thrives – strategy. Or, alternatively can only work under a senior taxonomist fleshing out detail.
4. Information system understanding
In order to produce taxonomies that work in an information systems context the aspirant taxonomist must understand how computerized information systems work, the basics of database design, etc so that they can ensure that there are discrete logical entities in each table and can identify when different entities or attribute lists need to be defined.
The taxonomist facilitator must be able to provide thought leadership and guidance to workshop delegates.
5. Practical common sense understanding of the real world
Sadly many personnel from the Information Technology space are out of touch with reality and do not have a solid practical common sense understanding of the real world and the ability to act as interpreters and translators of the inexact language that business people use and convert this language into precise taxonomies.
Careful selection of candidates requires that they have a practical sense of the real world.
6. Strong grounding in logic (mathematics?)
Hierarchical structured taxonomies are intensely logical devices, a Matric pass in Mathematics at least a grade C higher grade may well be necessary otherwise candidates must demonstrate exceptional logical ability.
7. Communication and facilitation skills
The facilitator must have well developed communication and facilitation skills and must be able to lead a group of frequently strong willed delegates down a road of progressive discovery to develop a viable taxonomy.
Time management is a critical skill.
8. Patience and other personal attributes
The facilitator needs to be patient, pay high attention to detail, systematic, methodical, precise. Precision taxonomies are very finicky and require fine attention to detail, logic, etc.
The facilitator must be willing and able to spend hours away from delegate groups cleaning up the results of workshops, adding structure, correcting logic, etc so that they can revert to the delegate groups with a quality working draft.
The above may look like a rather onerous specification, it is, there are very few people who I have met who have real skill when it comes to taxonomies. This is an area where a client cannot afford to cut corners, mediocre taxonomies will undermine the entire investment.
A simple confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement which you can tailor and elaborate on as you see fit and which may vary depending on your legal jurisdiction and your attorney. I recommend that this initial document is kept simple as you want ALL persons attending the initial tender briefings to sign this
You would possibly have a much more comprehensive agreement for your short list bidders and possibly more comprehensive still for your final choice although I personally hold that very detailed documents of this sort tend to be excessive
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