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  • Kate Iverson

Top Skills for Being a Kick Ass Big Data Taxomonist



We sat down with big data taxonomy pioneer and Vettanna co-owner, John Flaa, for some tips on what makes a great taxonomist — and he surely didn’t disappoint. As John puts it:

"Big data taxonomy is the thoughtful organization and classification of information."

Well-designed taxonomies are intuitive to users, can increase productivity and/or sales, and can be leveraged to drive company initiatives.

Good taxonomies are intuitive to users and help people find what they want quickly.

Bad taxonomies can be confusing and lead to lost sales.

Technology companies need structured taxonomies to drive great user experiences and to get the most productivity out of their own people. Business units and marketing teams are at their best when they can leverage a strong classification of products to highlight specific vendors, to drive sales in a given area, and to reach company goals.

Taxonomies make companies' nimble and able to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Development teams benefit by being better able to design and build software on top of a stable and easily accessible set of data.

Big data taxonomy is a huge boon to companies, developers and the user experience.

The skill set needed for one to be successful in this field is left brain/right brain:

  • Logical intuition

  • Mad research skills

  • A knack for organization

  • A creative, broad-spectrum thought process.

Intuition Counts

A great taxonomist is organized, logical and intuitive.

Since taxonomy essentially helps items and information become more easily discoverable, someone who can expertly identify a bad user experience vs. a good one and communicate why, is a valuable asset.

Natural intuition and being able to think from the perspective of a user or customer in a dimensional way can help create well-rounded taxonomic solutions.

Be a Wordsmith

Understanding language and the importance of terminology is a big part of being a good taxonomist.

Being decisive and detail-oriented when it comes to the concept of word-based categorization is definitely necessary, as is a fundamental relationship with language and how people use it in different instances (such as searching for products online).

Valuable is the ability to naturally forecast what words or phrases any given consumer may use while searching, or how a customer may browse a department store based on merchandising and product wayfinding.

Researchers May Apply

Good taxonomy requires thoughtful, thorough research.

For example, if you had to organize televisions, you’d need to research and identify multiple layers of information to create a rich data set: brands, screen sizes, display tech (LED, LCD, plasma, etc) and more.

A taxonomist should be able to discover the relevant information, break down each characteristic, then group them together accordingly.

"The best taxonomy is backed by high-level research and a detail-oriented outlook."

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