Office 365 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 Office 365, 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 Office 365.

Benefits of Taxonomy Development

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.

Artifacts of Taxonomy Development

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 figures provide some common examples of each of these artifact categories, applicable to companies in various industries.

Global Metadata Example Artifact


Local Metadata Example Artifact


Document Types Example Artifact


Taxonomy Projects With Doculabs

When we work with a client to create a taxonomy for an enterprise migrating to Office 365, 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 project, the typical deliverable is a combination of the above artifacts, brought together into a single taxonomy reference document. The taxonomy reference document contains a list of the metadata to be assigned to the company’s content, for use during and after content migration. We also provide definitions, examples, identify the criticality of each metadata element-- and whether it’s system-generated or added by the end user.

The result of a Doculabs taxonomy consulting engagement is a simple-to-use list that your folks configuring Office 365 can use to building sites in Office 365, going forward—not to mention all the aforementioned business benefits: significantly improved search results, improved manageability, and streamlined rollout of records management.

If you’re among those organizations making the move to Office 365 and you’ve never had real indexing standards or an enterprise taxonomy to organize your content, this is the time to define standards and put them in place in the new system, going forward.

Best Practices for Setting Up Office 365 SharePoint Online

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