Taxonomy Boot Camp is an annual conference for people who work on taxonomies and other knowledge organization systems in companies, government institutions, and large nongovernment organizations (NGOs). The conference takes place in Washington, DC, in the same location and during the same week in early November as four other conferences relevant to the enterprise data and content classification audience: KM World, Text Analytics Forum, Enterprise Search and Discovery, and Office 365 Symposium. The overarching theme of the conferences is “management of enterprise content assets.”

Knowledge management (KM) is the discipline of creating and managing systems and processes to capture and share internal institutional knowledge. Conference attendees included many Thomson Reuters clients and partners in the corporate space, as well as many other participants in the government space. They came from a wide range of backgrounds, including software development, library science, and data science, and with a range of experience, from business leaders, consultants and academics with decades working in the industry, to information managers who were completely new to the KM/knowledge organization space.

The buzzwords at all the conferences this year were knowledge graph, artificial intelligence and analytics. No longer do KM solutions consist only of tools that assist with manual authoring, tagging and organization of data. The norm in KM solutions that were presented, both by vendors and by users, combined human activity and sophisticated automation – for example, machine-learning systems that distributed content to hand-curated taxonomy categories. Rules-based systems in combination with machine-learning were also common. In fact, the subtitle of Taxonomy Boot Camp, “Bridging Human Thinking and Machine Learning,” could have applied to any of the conferences, as all were multi-disciplinary in their presentations of tools and solutions for managing and sharing organizational knowledge.

Artificial intelligence and cognitive computing applications were everywhere, and the sophistication of the tools some vendors presented was eye-opening. If the attendees of these conferences are typical of our customer base, it’s clear that users are racing towards automation of tools to classify and enhance data. Human thought and creativity are clearly still needed, but most organizations are working with too much data, coming at them too quickly, to rely on manual processes to enhance, analyze and distribute the information.

Wherever there is data, there a need to analyze how it is structured, and how and where the data is being used. Moreover, constant connections were being made at the conference between taxonomy and text analytics. Taxonomy managers expressed a need for analytics to learn how their content was being used, and almost all text analytics presenters discussed taxonomy in their presentations.

Other common themes of the conference were the increased importance of visualization tools; advances in chatbots for customer support; and the continually increasing volume of data of many different types, all of which need to be managed in a comprehensive scheme. Repositories of email (for e-discovery), corporate content, technical reports, print content converted via OCR to text, video and audio files, and visual images – art, graphics, scientific data and photographs – each one was the focus of some attendees’ concern. Our customers, and potential customers, need help to get the greatest value from all kinds of data and improve the efficiency of their processes for managing, connecting and sharing it.

I had two major take-aways from the conferences:

  • The corporate and government markets are very broad. Presenters were from companies like the Associated Press, HBO, Indeed (global jobs website), The Knot (wedding planning site), Toyota, the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC, part of the US Department of Defense), pharmaceutical company Genentech, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). From the affiliations of these presenters and the names of organizations on attendees’ badges, I could see why the leaders of our newly refocused Thomson Reuters corporate and government customer segments are excited about the growth potential in these markets.
  • There’s a lot of opportunity for Thomson Reuters to make a difference in the KM space. People need access to their data with shorter turnaround times, and they also want instant connections to related data. Companies and government entities are hungry for ways to combine human knowledge and expertise with the flood of data they are managing – in addition to delivering the latest news and analysis, and expertise in tax, law, and the global regulatory environment. Thomson Reuters experience managing, enhancing and linking data could help us improve our offerings for organizations, enabling them to more effectively connect their content to our data, to gain insight and make critical business decisions.

After four days of conference attendance, I came home with many more connections in the community; two new books (The Accidental Taxonomist, second edition; and Knowledge is Beautiful, by David McCandless); a broader understanding of KM and cognitive tools; and renewed excitement for learning and working with our customers to help build solutions for their information management and delivery challenges.

Joanne Claussen is director of the Content Enrichment program for Risk at Thomson Reuters